The Recreational Aviation Foundation (RAF) joined representatives of federal and state agencies, aviation groups, landowners, and other stakeholders at the U.S. Forest Service Regional Headquarters in Albuquerque on November 10 to sign a historic Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) creating a partnership called the New Mexico Airstrip Network (NMAN). The groups will collaborate to preserve, promote, and enhance New Mexico’s growing inventory of recreational airstrips and related airports.

The RAF was represented by President John McKenna, Director Rol Murrow, and RAF State Liaison Larry Filener, who also chairs the New Mexico Pilots Association Backcountry Committee. Filener noted, “This MOU culminates more than four years of work and is the most significant event that has ever happened concerning backcountry and recreational flying in New Mexico.”   

The NMAN began through a team effort involving the Aviation Division of the New Mexico Department of Transportation, New Mexico Pilots Association, and the RAF. State Aviation Director Steve Summers said, “NMAN hopes to replicate the collaboration achieved in Idaho which advanced aviation and produced positive economic impact for rural communities throughout the state.”

New Mexico has a wide range of public and private airstrips, offering excellent recreational opportunities. However, the state has never fully capitalized on these aviation assets for providing access to hunting, fishing, outfitting, hiking, and camping. “New Mexico offers unparalleled scenic and backcountry options combined with a moderate climate and an average of 280 days of sunshine per year,” said Murrow who owns an airstrip in the Northern part of the state.

Initial efforts will include identifying and maintaining existing airstrips, followed by the development of a plan to add new airstrips to the inventory. The MOU establishes a framework for cooperation to implement the NMAN action plan. “MOUs create an understanding of how we can work together and share responsibilities and resources to achieve common goals,” said U.S. Forest Service Southwest Region Recreational Director Francisco Valenzuela.

Joining the RAF at the signing were representatives from the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, New Mexico Dept. of Transportation, New Mexico Tourism Dept., New Mexico Pilots Association, New Mexico Council of Outfitters and Guides, New Mexico Airport Managers Association, New Mexico Aviation Aerospace Association, and United States Pilots Association. A number of other organizations will sign on in the coming days.

McKenna said, “The RAF is proud of all the organizations, their staffs and volunteers who made this possible. The future of recreational flying in New Mexico will certainly be brighter as a result of this partnership. What is learned here can be applied across the nation.”

Photo: 

Seated:  Loren Hatch, Deputy Cabinet Secretary, NMDOT; Amy Leuders, New Mexico State Director; John McKenna, Pres. RAF, BLM, Calvin Joyner USFS Region 3 Regional Forester.

Standing:  Ron Keller, USPA VP – Safety; Steve Summers, New Mexico Aviation Director; Francisco Valenzuela, Director of Recreation, Heritage & Wilderness, USFS Region 3; and Rol Murrow, RAF Board Member.

Submitted on November 10, 2016.

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