Congressmen Denny Rehberg (MT-AL), Allen Boyd (FL-02), Vernon Ehlers (MI-03), Mike Simpson (ID-02) and Walt Minnick (ID-01) have jointly introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives supporting recreational aviation and backcountry airstrips on America's public lands.
"With 147,000 square miles, there are plenty of places in Montana that you just can't get to by road," said Congressman Rehberg, a member of the House General Aviation Caucus. "That's why aviation is as important to modern Montana as the horse was for frontier Montana. During a time when our lands are under threat from drought, insect infestation and wildfire, and when our economy continues to struggle, backcountry airstrips serve a valuable role for land managers and visitors alike."
"As a pilot, I know that many of us combine flying with other recreational activities, such as hunting, fishing and camping," said Congressman Boyd, co-chair of the House General Aviation Caucus. "This legislation recognizes the important role rural backcountry airstrips are to general aviation enthusiasts and tourists across the country, and I am proud to be a co-sponsor of this resolution."
"The Recreational Aviation Foundation has done a great service by pointing out the potential loss of a number of backcountry airstrips," said Congressman Ehlers. These airstrips allow citizens to land near wilderness areas, and be able to hike, camp, and explore these beautiful parts of our country. These strips provide great access, and should be preserved wherever possible so that generations ahead can continue to enjoy the wilderness areas of our nation."
"Backcountry airstrips ensure that Idahoans and visitors to our state have access to beautiful and wild places for recreation, work, and management of land and wildlife, and I am pleased to have the opportunity to work with my colleagues to make sure that they continue to be able to use them," said Congressman Mike Simpson, Ranking Member of the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, which funds the U.S. Forest Service.
"For Idahoans who treasure our backcountry, these airstrips not only allow folks a great way to see the out of doors, but they also represent a lifeline for remote sections of the state," Congressman Minnick said. "They are important to our way of life and ought to be maintained."
Backcountry airstrips are often targeted for closure by powerful special interest groups or simply neglected by bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. Yet, they are a part of life for many Americans. In addition to search and rescue, fire management, research, disaster relief and wildlife management, they also provide access to some of the most beautiful, remote federal lands in America--regardless of one's physical ability to otherwise enjoy the backcountry. For pilots, in the event of mechanical problems or inclement weather, they serve as emergency landing sites when larger airports are out of reach. Finally, backcountry airstrips serve as efficient access points for tourists, who in turn contribute to local economies and small businesses.
"Too often, backcountry airstrips receive little if any attention, so they are vulnerable to efforts to close them. This resolution introduced by Reps. Rehberg, Boyd, Ehlers, Minnick and Simpson acknowledges the important role of these air strips and raises their profile, especially among their colleagues on Capitol Hill whose actions are critical to the airstrips' survival," said Craig Fuller, President of Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.
"We are excited that these Representatives are recognizing the value of backcountry aviation in this way," said John McKenna, President of the Recreational Aviation Foundation (RAF). "This Resolution clarifies the status of recreational aviation, its participants, supporters and those who work hard to maintain and preserve it for the future." McKenna lives and works in Bozeman, Montana, the headquarters of the national non-profit organization."