Aerial tours of Mount Rushmore could soon be grounded
There is currently a proposal by the National Parks Service and the Federal Trade Aviation Administration seeking public input on whether air tours for Mount Rushmore and the Badlands should be eliminated.
By Juliana Alford
Published: May. 16, 2023
RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) – When visitors come to Mount Rushmore, they have the option of viewing the monument from a helicopter, which soon could be gone.
There is currently a proposal by the National Park Service and the Federal Trade Aviation Administration seeking public input on whether air tours for Mount Rushmore and the Badlands should be eliminated.
“If reductions need to be made then we’re open to reductions, certainly not open to elimination,” said Mark Schlaefli, owner of Black Hills Aerial Adventures.
Black Hills Aerial Adventures has been operating in South Dakota for 30 years and said they would have liked to have been part of the beginning processes.
“Every single day of the week we fly people that have disabilities, too old potentially, age becomes an issue, and mobility becomes an issue, and the very young. All of those become passengers of ours, that we can then provide that personal experience too,” said Schlaefli.
Currently, Black Hills Aerial Adventures and one other company in Spearfish are allowed to fly within five thousand flights per year in the boundaries of Mount Rushmore, and as of right now, there are few restrictions when flying over the national parks in South Dakota.
However, the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks, says there should be restrictions on flights over the National Parks.
“When there is a conflict between uses and protecting those resources, natural quiet, decent solitude, etc., then conservation is supposed to be predominant. So, they’re supposed to air on the side of limiting uses in order to protect visitor experience opportunities and resources,” said Mike Murray, The Coalition to Protect Americas National Parks.
Right now, the National Park Service and the FAA are seeking public input to draft an air tour management plan for Mount Rushmore.
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