Reducing Noise in National Parks

The Natural Sounds and Night Skies Division at the U.S. National Park Service provides scientific support to all the national park units. Its researchers help park administrators understand the current state of their resource conditions and what the effects of pollution are on visitor experience and wildlife, and give them suggestions for how they might reduce pollution and mitigate its consequences.

Kurt Fristrup, Ph.D., of Natural Sounds and Night Skies, said, “Noise and light pollution are interesting because most of the forms of pollution involve matter. The pollution we work on involves energy and has the interesting property that as soon as you do something about the source, the environmental conditions improve immediately.”

Historically the Park Service became interested in noise pollution when the Grand Canyon National Park was enlarged by Congress in 1975. The legislation spoke of natural quiet as a resource and a value to be protected in the park.

Noise interferes with hearing, just as smog interferes with scenic quality. For visitors, the consequences are a sort of degradation of the quality they experience. For wildlife, the consequences are more severe. Subtle sounds of nature often play critical roles in predator-prey interactions, and other literally life-and-death matters.

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