Case 145

Grand Canyon Air Tour Coalition v. Federal Aviation Administration, 154 F.3d 455 (D.C. Cir. 1998).

Plaintiff, the Hualapai Tribe, maintained that defendant, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), issued too soon Special Flight Rules regarding the reduction of aircraft noise from sightseeing tours in the vicinity of Grand Canyon National Park. The tribe asserted that when FAA was developing these rules, it failed to consider whether establishing expanded flight-free zones would push aircraft noise off the park and onto the Hualapai Reservation.

The tribe argued that the consequences of this decision would harm the tribe's traditional cultural properties, sacred sites, ongoing religious and cultural practices, natural resources, and economic development. It further alleged that FAA's failure to consider these possible consequences violated the National Historic Preservation Act, National Environmental Policy Act, Administrative Procedure Act, and the United States' trust obligations to the tribe.

The court held that the tribe's arguments were not ripe because the routes the air tours would take had not been determined, and the court could not assess whether or how much these routes would affect the reservation.

The tribe also contended that the Government had failed to consult with it on a government-to-government basis while developing the Final Rule, but reformulated this position in oral argument, conceding that there had been consultations but they were not meaningful. The court also postponed its review of this assertion, finding that FAA still had time to satisfy any consultative obligations before the final plan was implemented, and these claims would become ripe for the court's consideration.

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