The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) has released “proposed planning directives for public review and comment. These directives are the key set of agency guidance documents that direct implementation of the 2012 planning rule.” This rule will replace the previous one written in the 1980s and will be the planning “bible” for the next 20-25 years. Sadly, the directives do not include any reference to recreational aviation or airstrips; therefore, the Recreational Aviation Foundation (RAF) need your help to correct these critical omissions in the proposed Directives.
Prior to April 29, the RAF is asking you to please submit your comments and ideas concerning the proposed Directives via both email, and the U.S. Postal System mail: USDA/FS Planning Directives Comments, P.O. Box 40088, Portland, OR 97240.
The RAF has offered some key points to build upon when drafting your comments concerning the proposed directives:
- USFS airstrips are an important recreational and operational part of the USFS infrastructure. Please ask the FS to change all instances in the Directives where “trails and roads” are referenced, to read “trails, roads, and airstrips”.
- Some airstrips (built on natural meadows) predate historical trails and roads. Therefore, some existing airstripsmay also be historical sites; however, no mention of this possibility is made in the proposed Directives. Historic trails, roads, and buildings are discussed in detail, but not airfields. Please ask the FS to revise the proposed Directives to direct planners to explore whether any airstrips in their planning area may have historical significance.
- In many places throughout the proposed document, various forms of recreation are listed and discussed. The 2012 Planning Rule mentions aviation as a valid form of recreation. However, the proposed Directives do not mention aviation activities. Please ask the FS to include aviation as a recreational activity in the Directives wherever recreational activities are listed and discussed.
- Many USFS airstrips are maintained through joint efforts of the USFS and volunteer groups, (including the RAF). Please ask the FS to revise the proposed Directives to include guidance for planners on the importance of coordinating with volunteer groups within their planning area, when gathering information on airstrips.
- The Chief of the USFS, the heads of other agencies such as the BLM, and the U.S. Congress, have all published comments on the significance of airstrips as part of an overall balanced public lands transportation system. Unfortunately, not all USFS planners and managers are familiar with the airstrips within their planning area. Please ask the FS to place greater emphasis on their airstrip infrastructure through direct inclusion of airstrip guidance and instructions to planners in the proposed Directives.
- The FS owns the airstrips; it makes little sense for them to be excluded from the Directives. Airstrips need to be an integral part of forest plans. Including them in the Assessment, Land Management, Monitoring, and Wilderness Evaluation Chapters of the Directives puts airstrips on the same planning level as roads, trails, and historical sites when forest plans are being constructed or revised. Please ask the FS to revise Chapters 10, 20, 30, and 70 to place airstrips and recreational aviation on the same planning footing as other listed infrastructure and recreational activities.
- Forrest Planners who may not have detailed knowledge of airstrips within their planning area need to be given instructions on where that information can be found. The proposed Directives clearly outlines sources of information when accessing and planning for roads, trails, historic sites, utility corridors, and etc. Airstrips need the same considerations so planners will fully understand airfield planning requirements and issues. Please ask the FS to include sources of information on airstrips to planners by including sources of information about airfields in the proposed Directives.
- A revolution is coming within the next 10 years involving inexpensive to purchase, operate, and maintain electric powered airplanes. When this happens, recreational aviation pressures on USFS airstrips will increase. The Directives must provide planners the tools to recognize, assess, and adapt to this increasing demand. Adopting the proposed directives in their current form will not accomplish this task. Please ask the FS to revise the proposed directives to include recreational aviation and airstrips in order to encompass potential future demand on airstrips.
Hints to make your comments effective:
- When you write your comments, put them in your own words. Form letters and mass emails that are all the same are usually not counted as individual responses.
- Be courteous and give constructive comments. FS planners have worked hard to make the proposed Directives the best they can. We’re helping them see items they have overlooked.
- Be sure to email your comments ASAP and for certain, no later than April 29, 2013.
To date, the RAF has been very impressed by the collaborative process the USFS/USDA has put together to get this tough job done. There are a lot of dedicated FS folks out there who just don’t think about aviation when planning. They’ve never been required to do so; and, they may be ignorant of the aviation thing we do. Our purpose is to change that situation so every time a plan is built or revised, any airstrips in that area will be included and provided for within that plan. That’s not happening now; but, with your help, we can change that situation.
Thank you for your continued support and participation in the RAF mission. Taking a few minutes now to assure recreational aviation’s inclusion within the USFS Directives is a quick and easy investment for you; but, it will yield long term rewards for your children and grandchildren who may someday wish to enjoy the same aviation privileges you have. Helping now goes a long way towards protecting, preserving, and creating recreational airstrips on USFS lands. Those are the reasons you joined the RAF; so, let’s get this done.