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Olympic National Park bans drones after national directive, citing risk to visitors, wildlife

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SEATTLE - Following a nationwide directive, Washington state's largest national park has joined the list of those banning drones.

Olympic National Park Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum last week approved rules barring unmanned aircraft within park boundaries. Earlier this summer, National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis directed superintendents to write rules prohibiting drones from launching, landing or operating in the service's 401 parks.

Each park must change its unique set of regulations for a ban to be enforceable.

In their rule change, Olympic National Park officials said drones present "unacceptable risks to visitors," including possible injuries from collisions or contact with spinning propellers or rotors. They also cited the potential impact on wildlife.

There have been no reports of drones annoying or imperiling visitors, Olympic National Park spokeswoman Barb Maynes said. But it's been a different story at other national parks.

In Yellowstone, which covers parts of Wyoming, Idaho and Montana, drones have crashed into lakes and springs and flown too close to bison. At least three visitors have been cited this summer.

At Yosemite in California, enthusiasts flew drones near the park's famous waterfalls to capture close-up shots of climbers on its granite cliffs. In Utah's Zion, officials were prompted to take action after a drone was seen harassing bighorn sheep and separating the young from their herds.

At Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, park rangers last September confiscated an unmanned aircraft after it flew above 1,500 visitors seated in an amphitheatre and then over the heads of the four presidents carved into the mountain.

Some of the parks that have banned drones are Grand Canyon in Arizona; Zion, the Arches and Canyonlands in Utah; and Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico.

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