RAF Creates Collaborative Environment with USFS and BLM

New documents strike to improve backcountry access.



Recreational Aircraft Foundation

After several years' hard work advocating for the continued and improved use of aviation in the backcountry, the Recreational Aircraft Foundation (RAF) has made great strides in Washington toward opening access to backcountry airstrips.

RAF president John McKenna and public lands director Mark Spencer have established Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) documents with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) that will help backcountry aviators continue to enjoy their recreational endeavors.

As we reported in February, the RAF secured a rule directive allowing for aviation use on 193,000,000 acres of National Forest land. The new MOU with the USFS creates a cooperative environment with the RAF that, among other things, is designed to support the operation, rehabilitation, maintenance, and public use of existing backcountry airstrips; assist in collecting and sharing information about backcountry airstrip recreation opportunities; and enhance recreation opportunities on public lands that are under the management of the USFS.

RAF's MOU with the BLM is the first document to recognize aviation and how it relates to the 245,000,000 acres of BLM land. The MOU states "both parties agree to collaborate in identifying opportunities and possible locations throughout the country for the RAF to pursue its missions."

But this is not the end road for the RAF. Most recently, McKenna and Spencer testified before the U.S. House Department of Interior Appropriations Committee to request the allocation of funds for the USFS and BLM for the maintenance of backcountry airstrips on public lands.

"We told Congress we are happy to do our share and more, but suggested that airstrips be recognized as places that — like trails and campgrounds — would benefit from greater interest by the public agencies who own them," Spencer said.

"Accomplishing a budget item will be a marathon effort," McKenna said. "But we'll provide the energy to keep this initiative moving forward to preserve these airstrips."

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