2014 Unmanned Aircraft Regulation
Contact: David Elkowitz, 432-477-1108
Beginning August 20, 2014, Big Bend National Park implemented the prohibition of the launching, landing, or operation of unmanned aircraft from or on lands and waters administered by the National Park Service within the boundaries of Big Bend National Park and the Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River.
Recently, there has been dramatic growth throughout the United States in the use of unmanned aircraft. As unmanned aircraft (commonly called drones) have become more affordable and easy to operate, they have begun to appear in national parks, and in many cases, their use has resulted in noise and nuisance complaints from park visitors, park visitor safety concerns, and disruption of visitor experiences as well as disruption of natural wildlife behaviors.Unmanned aircraft examples include model airplanes, quad copters, and drones that are used for any purpose, including for recreation or commerce.
Except for the limited existing use of model aircraft in some parks, unmanned aircraft are a new park use and affect park resources, staff, and visitors in ways that the National Park Service has yet to identify and analyze. It is National Park Service policy to not allow a new park use until a determination has been made that it will not result in unacceptable impacts on park resources and values and staff and visitor safety.
This prohibition is completed through the use of 36 CFR 1.5 which provides the park superintendent the authority to close all or a portion of a park or otherwise limit an activity to maintain public health and safety, protect environmental or scenic values, protect natural or cultural resources, implement management responsibilities, equitably allocate and use facilities, or avoid conflict among visitor use activities.
Within Big Bend National Park and the Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River the prohibition of the use of unmanned aircraft is necessary for the maintenance of public safety and the protection of environmental and scenic values;view shed;solitude;wilderness values;geological, natural and cultural resources;as well as the avoidance of conflict among visitor use activities and visitor experience.This new prohibition applies only to lands administered by the National Park Service and does not apply to unmanned aircraft that is launched, landed or operated outside the park boundary.The prohibition will remain in effect until further notice.
Did You Know?
Apollo 17 astronauts Gene Cernan and Harrison Schmidt visited Big Bend in 1971 to study the regions geology in preparation for their mission to the moon. This was one of four field trips to Big Bend that Apollo astronauts participated in between 1964 and 1971.