Quiet Area, Bioacoustic Preserve?
A Visionary Proposal for Olympic National Park
by Tim McNulty, Vice President OPA, Fall 2015
Gordon Hempton is an acoustic ecologist, an internationally recognized and Emmy Award-winning natural sounds recorder, and an eloquent advocate for natural quiet. He is well known for his “One Square Inch of Silence,” a place in the heart of Olympic National Park’s Hoh Rain Forest that he has shown to be one of the most quiet places on earth.
Hempton considers Olympic one of the least noise-polluted national parks in the U.S., pointing out that it has the greatest diversity of natural soundscapes with the longest noise-free intervals of any park outside Alaska.
And he has a revolutionary idea for Olympic National Park: designating it a “Quiet Area and Bioacoustic Preserve.” It would be the first such acoustic preserve in the world.
Currently there is a “Quiet Zone” in Muir Woods National Monument where the National Park Service asks visitors to voluntarily keep their voices down, turn off their cell phones, and control children.
But Hempton has something larger in mind. He envisions an extensive ecological preserve free of man-made noise. He believes that federal legislation would be required to create a no-fly zone over the park. Further, he thinks it would be a popular cause among visitors to Olympic, where air traffic has tripled over the past 10 years.
With the threat of a Navy Electronic Warfare Range hanging over the park, this might be the time to give Gordon’s proposal serious consideration.