The Recreational Aviation Foundation (RAF), through participation in US Forest Service (USFS) public comment sessions and attending meetings of the Federal Advisory Committee as observers, has secured the documenting of aviation within the Final Planning Directive (FSH 1909.12). The document acknowledges recreational aviation in multiple places. These aviation references clarify and solidify aviation as a legitimate mode of access, and one of the three legs of the National Forest Transportation System.

Aircraft access on National Forest lands is critical to the RAF mission of “…preserving, maintaining and creating public use recreational and backcountry airstrips nationwide.” The RAF was founded in 2003 after the closures of some stunningly scenic USFS airstrips in the west. In examining the problem, it was apparent that our public lands planners included travel plans for off-road vehicles, pack animals, bicycles, hikers and boaters, but airplanes were conspicuously missing. The RAF began by building relationships with the USFS, beginning with District Rangers and later with RAF leadership traveling to our nation’s Capital and building trust with policy-makers.

For years, the RAF has persevered. Volunteers attended specific Forest Plan meetings, wrote letters and continued to meet face-to-face from the backcountry of Arizona to marble-walled offices of Washington D.C..  On February 3, their hard work resulted in the formal inclusion of aviation, airstrips and aircraft in the USFS Final Planning Directive.

What does this mean to pilots? With responsible use of the backcountry airstrips on National Forest lands, we can be sure of continued access and enjoyment.

Submitted on February 7, 2015.

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