April 1, 2015

Noise Free America

Geoff Keller
[email protected]

Gary Spencer
[email protected]

Ted Rueter
[email protected]

Chapel Hill: The Nature Conservancy, the world’s largest environmental organization, has won this month’s Noisy Dozen award from Noise Free America for entering into an unsavory corporate partnership with Harley-Davidson. The Nature Conservancy recently announced that it is accepting $550,000 from The Harley-Davidson Foundation “in support of the Nature Conservancy’s global Plant a Billion Trees program.” In exchange for cash, The Nature Conservancy is riding along with Harley-Davidson’s effort to “greenwash” its image.

Gary Spencer, a Noise Free America member in Maryland, states that he is “really appalled by news of this partnership. The Nature Conservancy should know better than to partner with such a disgraceful company. On the one hand, Harley riders plant trees and deliver toys–but then turn around and inflict society with illegal and disrespectful noise. Is The Nature Conservancy so easily duped into believing the sincerity of Harley-Davidson, or is it simply looking for a handout and does not care about the company it keeps? Has The Nature Conservancy not read the studies regarding the damage that noise pollution is causing to nature? What good are trees when nature and the forests are drowning in noise? The Nature Conservancy should tell Harley-Davidson to keep their money.”

Noise Free America’s president, Geoff Keller, also wrote to The Nature Conservancy. He asked if the representatives from Harley-Davidson told The Nature Conservancy the following:


  • “Although their motorcycles are required by law to meet EPA regulations for noise emissions, the majority of Harley-Davidson customers will have illegally removed the factory-installed exhaust.
    These illegal exhausts produce noise from two to five times that allowed by federal law.


  • A large percentage of these illegal modifications of the factory-installed exhaust will result in an exhaust system stripped of its required noise reduction equipment. This type of illegal exhaust is referred to as ‘straight pipes.’ Straight pipes are not designed, nor were they ever intended for, use on public roads.


  • Many Harley-Davidson owners routinely remove the federally approved mufflers from their motorcycles. In addition, a large percentage of them will also remove the factory-installed catalytic converter in the process. This usually happens when the entire factory-installed exhaust system is removed. Without the catalytic converter in place, a motorcycle produces far more air pollution.


  • Harley-Davidson is aware that their customers routinely remove the factory-installed exhaust, yet they make no credible attempt to stop it. Rather, they try to capitalize on this propensity. Harley-Davidson has their own line of after-market exhaust–their ‘Screamin’ Eagle exhaust.’ These exhausts lower the frequency of the sound, and are thus more acoustically invasive, yet technically they meet federal regulations. Harley-Davidson’s Screamin’ Eagle exhaust is marketed with these slogans: ‘Make your statement before they see you coming,’ ‘Offers a rich, deep exhaust note that lets everyone know you’re around,’ and ‘tuned to deliver a rich, aggressive exhaust note.'”


Keller noted that “the overwhelming majority of the participants in the charity rides such as the ‘Renew the Ride’ being promoted by inclusion in The Nature Conservancy’s publication will have an exhaust system in violation of federal noise laws. The purpose of these so-called charity rides is to cloak hedonistic noisemaking and pollution in flags, yellow ribbons, and other symbols. Harley-Davidson now wants to co-opt The Nature Conservancy and purport to be ‘green.’”

Noise pollution is damaging to wildlife and the environment. Noise pollution has the potential to adversely affect the biodiversity of the planet. There are numerous credible scientific studies establishing these impacts.

This corporate partnership between the Harley-Davidson Motor Company, a company which is arguably the most acoustically irresponsible corporation in the United States, represents a conflict of interest for The Nature Conservancy. We suspect that the spin-doctors from Harley-Davidson concealed their company’s close ties to their acoustically lawless customers and fans. We hope this was case and that The Nature Conservancy did not make a decision to endorse the acoustically lawless.

Geoff Keller stated, “We accept that The Nature Conservancy relies on donations and can benefit from partnerships with environmentally-responsible businesses. But Harley-Davidson is not a business which can make that claim until it disavows acoustical lawlessness. Harley-Davidson is engaging in greenwashing. The Nature Conservancy should not diminish its reputation by accepting a ride from Harley-Davidson.”

He concluded, “In the light of the facts we have presented, we expect that The Nature Conservancy will terminate this unsavory corporate relationship at the earliest opportunity.”

Mario D’Amico, chief marketing officer with The Nature Conservancy, responded that “we sincerely appreciate your concerns about noise levels and engine-powered vehicles of all kinds. We believe that everyone should have an opportunity to enjoy nature, and to make that experience authentic and personal. We also hope that visitors to natural areas will be respectful of the local communities, plants, and animals that rely upon them for survival. In terms of how individual owners choose to retrofit their bikes, we are not supportive of any illegal activity in any situation. And while we cannot, as an organization, police or regulate these individual behaviors, like you, we can only voice our opinion.”

Ted Rueter, Noise Free America’s director, noted that “the response of The Nature Conservancy is truly lame. Their spokesman refers to the actions of ‘individual owners’–as if Harley-Davidson has nothing to do with these illegal, noisy exhausts. Harley-Davidson caters to their customers’ propensity to install noisy exhaust systems, and does everything to accomodate them. If Harley-Davidson were truly serious about wanting to address this pandemic problem, they would start by denouncing the concept of all charity rides unless every motorcycle in the event was in compliance with federal noise compliance, and with the catalytic converter intact.”

Rueter continued, “The Nature Conservancy spokesman says they can only ‘voice our opinion.’ There is no evidence whatsoever that The Nature Conservancy has voiced its opinion regarding Harley-Davidson’s close association with the acoustically lawless. The Nature Conservancy should be ashamed of itself for accepting this dirty corporate money.”

Noise Free America is a national citizens’ organization opposed to noise pollution. Past “winners” of the Noisy Dozen award include Washington, DC; the United States Congress; and the EPA.