Congressmen Denny Rehberg (MT-AL), Allen Boyd (FL-02), Vernon Ehlers (MI-03), Mike Simpson (ID-02) and Walt Minnick (ID-01) have announced the House passage of their resolution in the House of Representatives supporting recreational aviation and backcountry airstrips on America's public lands.
"Aviation has become as important to the modern West as horses were to the early explorers, trappers and prospectors," said Congressman Rehberg, a member of the House General Aviation Caucus. "There are too many benefits to backcountry strips to list them all. They enable search and rescue, fire management, research, disaster relief and wildlife management. In the event of mechanical problems or inclement weather, they serve as emergency landing sites when larger airports are out of reach. They allow public access to some of the most beautiful, remote federal lands in America--regardless of one's physical ability--and they serve as efficient access points for tourists, who in turn contribute to local economies and small businesses. I'm pleased that we were able to get this done."
"For some people, the only way to get to some of the most beautiful places in Idaho is by plane--in fact, in the summer one of the busiest airports in our state is a backcountry airstrip on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River," said Congressman Simpson, who is Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and the Environment. "I'm pleased that Congress has recognized the value of these backcountry airstrips and the importance of recreational aviation in America."
"Backcountry airstrips are a valued part of Idaho's rugged heritage and provide vital access to the most remote parts of our state," Congressman Minnick said. "I have been fortunate to have flown into many of these airstrips in Idaho's backcountry and I want future generations of Idahoans to enjoy them as well."
"Backcountry airstrips are a big part of life for many Americans, and should be protected," said Congressman Ehlers. "They serve as access to beautiful backcountry wilderness areas that would otherwise be unreachable by other means, allowing people to hike and camp. More importantly, it provides access for firefighters, land managers, and other workers. Some are concerned about noise problems, but backcountry airstrips, and the small planes using them, are much quieter than alternatives such as helicopters and highways in dense wilderness areas."
"As a pilot, I understand the important role backcountry airstrips play to rural communities, aviation enthusiasts and tourists across the country," said Congressman Boyd, co-chair of the House General Aviation Caucus. "I am pleased to have the opportunity to work with my colleagues to honor the role backcountry airstrips play to our national heritage."
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.
"Backcountry airstrips connect vast tracks of wilderness with the rest of the nation. They are vital to emergency rescue, land management, and firefighting operations, and they often provide the only means of access to some of the nation's most beautiful public lands," said Craig Fuller, President of Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. "They deserve our protection, and AOPA is pleased that members of Congress recognize the value of keeping them open to the benefit of all Americans."
"The Recreational Aviation Foundation expresses our deepest appreciation to Congressman Rehberg and his colleagues for their leadership and strong support on this important resolution," said John McKenna, President of the RAF. "This recognition will help protect the airstrips that provide safe havens for pilots in emergency situations, as well as provide public benefits such as a means for search and rescue and firefighting. The Congressman's efforts in protecting recreational airstrips will also ensure increased opportunities for all Americans to access our wild and beautiful country." McKenna lives and works in Bozeman, Montana, the headquarters of the national non-profit organization.