Mon, Dec 15, 2003
Future Of Rural Airstrips At Stake
Pressure from key
members of Congress and AOPA's Washington staff has forced the US
Forest Service back to the table to discuss the future of
backcountry airstrips in central Idaho.
The Forest Service had wanted to close four airstrips, Dewy
Moore, Mile-Hi, Simonds and Vines, located in the Frank
Church-River of No Return Wilderness but is required by law to
obtain the approval of Idaho's Division of Aeronautics before any
such closure. The state denied approval. So instead, the Forest
Service planned to restrict access at the four strips to "emergency
The Idaho Division of Aeronautics contacted AOPA for assistance.
In written comments to Wilderness coordinators, AOPA told the
Forest Service that restricting access to the airstrips violated
the intent of Congress when it passed the Central Idaho Wilderness
Act (public law 96-312).
AOPA then learned that, despite having received several hundred
written comments that favored by a margin of almost 4-1 keeping the
airstrips open, the Forest Service was still planning on closing
the airstrips for all but emergency use.
At that point, AOPA turned to Idaho's members of Congress
including Senator Larry Craig (R-Idaho), Senator Michael Crapo
(R-Idaho), and Congressman C.L. "Butch" Otter (R-Idaho) to help
convince the Forest Service of the need to preserve the backcountry
As a result of this pressure, the regional Forest Service Office
has approached the Idaho Division of Aeronautics to discuss
possible alternatives for the airstrips.
"Without AOPA's assistance to take this issue to the highest
levels in Washington, I doubt we would have made it this far," said
Idaho Aeronautics Director Bob Martin. "AOPA's commitment to
backcountry airstrips really came through for us."
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