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Citation for publication number 912:
McKenna, Megan F., Lignell, Brent, Rapoza, Amanda, Lee, Cynthia, Ward, Vicki, Rocchio, Judy. (2016). A Framework to Assess the Effects of Commercial Air Tour Noise on Wilderness. Journal of Forestry. 114(3), 365-372.
Leopold Publication Number 912
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     Human-made noise in wilderness degrades the quality of wilderness by interfering with natural sounds—a key attribute of wilderness. Commercial air tour overflights are a noise source of particular concern to the US National Park Service. To characterize noise from air tours in wilderness, we developed an assessment framework to guide the decisionmaking process for maintaining or improving the soundscape conditions in wilderness. Decision points in the framework were based on management policy and best available science. The result is a “tier” designation for a wilderness area that defines the current soundscape conditions based on known air tour activity. To demonstrate the utility of the framework, we applied the method to Haleakalā Wilderness in Haleakalā National Park, Hawai’i. Whereas the framework presented specifically addresses air tour noise in wilderness and the concerns associated with impacts on wilderness character, the framework may be applicable to managing other noise sources in and near wilderness or other human activities that degrade wilderness qualities. Management and Policy Implications: Federal agencies are mandated to protect wilderness areas to preserve wilderness character. However, preservation of wilderness is challenged by vague definitions and the diversity of qualities that define wilderness. To help resource managers incorporate the preservation of natural acoustic conditions, one of the many attributes of wilderness, into wilderness management or planning documents, we developed and demonstrated an assessment framework. Our example is specific to the effects of noise from commercial air tour overflights on the visitor’s ability to experience natural sounds and is intended for National Park Service air tour management and other planning processes. The framework presented takes advantage of reporting data from air tour operators, an existing noise model, and the best available science on the effects of noise on visitor experience to understand the soundscape conditions over an entire wilderness area. The framework provides a systematic method that can be applied to any park with air tours and wilderness; the results characterize current conditions and guide the decisionmaking process for maintaining or improving the soundscape conditions in wilderness. Ideas on how to adapt the framework to explore the effects of alternative scenarios in air tour overflights (e.g., number of flights or quieter aircraft), to address other noise sources in and near wilderness, or to evaluate other indicators of wilderness character conditions are offered.