During his address to the AOPA crowd in Missoula, Montana, Senator Daines announced that he had just delivered a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, requesting he consider re-opening a select number of the original US Forest Service airstrips lying within the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area. Beginning in the 1930s the USFS established and used nine widely dispersed pastoral airstrips to fight fires and re-supply Ranger Stations — saving hours and hours by mule-train — until the 1964 Wilderness Act summarily closed all of them. (Schafer Meadows is Montana’s only remaining Wilderness airstrip. It lies within the Great Bear Wilderness, a few miles from the “Bob”.)

RAF Press Liaison Carmine Mowbray sat down for an interview with Senator Daines. He emphasized the importance of these airstrips to the safety and sensible management of our public forests. “The law is clear that the Secretary of Agriculture has the authority to consider each, and permit access to these established airstrips,” Daines said, paraphrasing the letter. “We know access by air creates very low impact, and it’s also clear that these airstrips are especially valuable in search and rescue and fire fighting,” he added.

The Senator stressed that the RAF and its corps of dedicated volunteers has “proven the viability of public/private partnerships. This arrangement saves taxpayer money on maintenance to keep them in a safe condition,” he said. 

Submitted on June 19, 2018

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