After ten years of communications and cooperation with the National Park Service (NPS), the RAF is pleased to announce that Saline Valley’s “Chicken Strip” in Death Valley National Park was officially authorized on August 19. The Federal Register states that “the Chicken Strip has been in continuous use for decades, pre-dating the management of the Area by the NPS. This rule will formalize its continued operation as a backcountry airstrip.” The ruling takes effect immediately.
“This is about what we do to fulfill our mission,” RAF board chairman John McKenna said. “The major credit for this accomplishment goes to everyone who got involved, wrote letters, and remained engaged to save and preserve an airstrip.”
“It’s official now,” said RAF California Liaison Rick Lach, who organizes the seasonal volunteer work parties at the strip, and took the lead on communicating with the NPS. “The aviation community demonstrated its sincere desire to maintain access at Chicken Strip with volunteer labor and input during the public comment period.” Lach said his experience with Park personnel was amicable, and highly professional throughout the lengthy process.
The NPS assumed the land from the BLM in 1994. Having come under NPS management, the landing strip was technically closed by default. Park staff were not aware that Chicken Strip was not authorized, and did not enforce its closed status.
“The RAF and the NPS have been successfully partnering through a Memorandum of Understanding to make access to Chicken Strip safe and available to the aviation community,” McKenna added. The MOU was renewed in 2017 that allows the RAF to maintain Chicken Strip under NPS supervision at no cost to taxpayers.
“We believe this is a common sense approach that corrects a regulatory technicality,” Death Valley National Park Superintendent Mike Reynolds said.
The Federal Register added, “Retaining use of the airstrip will benefit visitor use and experience for those visitors who seek this type of recreation . . .”
The use of the airstrip is technically demanding and is therefore somewhat self-regulating, according to the NPS, and they do not anticipate that this ruling will lead to increased aircraft use at the Saline Valley Warm Springs Area.
Submitted on August 30, 2019