Backroom politics threat to quiet of Grand Canyon

Thanks to a last-minute addition to the recent transportation funding bill, your next visit to Grand Canyon National Park could be noisier and less enjoyable. A provision secretly added during negotiations has stopped the Park Service from protecting the natural quiet of our premier national park. Half of Grand Canyon National Park will now hear unlimited aircraft noise, while the rest of the park will hear air tour noise 25 percent of the time throughout the day. 

And with the path cleared for air tours to increase into the future, the noise will only get worse. 

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Sadly, this provision comes just as the National Park Service was expected to start restoring the quiet of the park to increase visitor enjoyment, a plan that incorporated input from almost 30,000 public comments and information gathered during years of agency noise studies. 

The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Park Service were on the cusp of making real progress toward increasing the safety of commercial air tours and enhancing the enjoyment of park visitors, but unfortunately some members of Congress stepped in and undermined the agencies’ efforts, derailing a two-decade long process, negating public input and throwing away millions in taxpayer dollars. Similar measures have been supported in the past by Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) and Arizona Sens. John McCain and John Kyl.

This move should not be allowed to slide quietly under the radar. Putting the profits of air tour operators before protection of this national park and the enjoyment of millions of people who visit and use it each year jeopardizes the future of one of America’s greatest natural treasures. Former President Teddy Roosevelt set aside this special place to protect its naturalness for future generations; its use should be balanced for the enjoyment of all, not given away to corporate interests. 

From Jim McCarthy, executive committee member of the Sierra Club’s Plateau Group, Flagstaff, Ariz.


Now is time to support the Iron Dome system

It is vital that Congress and the administration come together to fully fund and enter into co-production of the Iron Dome missile system with Israel. Designed in a rush after thousands of Hezbollah and Hamas short-range missiles were fired upon Israeli civilians, Iron Dome is a one-of-a-kind system that fills the need to defend population centers from such attacks.  

For the first time last year, the United States provided $205 million to fund Iron Dome. The system went operational last spring and has achieved an impressive 80 percent success rate at intercepting incoming missiles that would have otherwise impacted in civilian areas. So far, there are only three batteries up and running, though 20 are needed to defend more than 1 million civilians who live within range of missiles from Gaza and southern Lebanon.  

Bipartisan support for Iron Dome has been demonstrated in the respective House and Senate defense authorization bills. The 2013 House National Defense Authorization Act, H.R. 4310, also contains language calling for co-production of the system. Additionally, the Iron Dome Support Act has been dropped in both chambers as H.R. 4229 and S. 2325.  

Should Israel’s civilian population once again be attacked with thousands of missiles, it would quickly exhaust its present stockpiles of missiles and overwhelm the three Iron Dome batteries. 

Only by combining the industrial capacity of America, in combination with Israeli production, can enough batteries and missiles be produced to counter this threat. The time is now to fully fund and enter into co-production of the Iron Dome missile system.

From Randy Jennings, Alexandria, Va.


Give President Obama the credit he deserves

It is unusual in our history as a nation that our president is politically criticized for killing our enemies. Drone attacks and special ops aren’t the values of the opposition party? The people that destroyed the World Trade Center and continue to target America around the world have been systematically decimated with President Obama’s hand firmly on the trigger. Politics and elections seem to trump our nations security in this strange political season. To criticize the president for succeeding where past leaders have not is downright un-American. 

Our former president sent hundreds of thousands of our sons and daughters to do the very same thing with a high cost in lives and injury, as well as money and loss of America’s perception of undefeatable strength. Obama has done more to secure us from attack with virtually no loss of life and no cost in wealth without the benefit of support from politicians that would rather be reelected than admit the success of the opposition. 

No matter what they might believe about all else he does, the least they can do is give him the credit he deserves for doing more with less to keep our nation safe. 

There may be legitimate complaints domestically, but internationally, give the guy his due. 

From Norm Stewart, Aventura, Fla.