Aviation has been included as a “legitimate mode of access” by the U.S. Forest Service.
Officials with the Recreational Aviation Foundation (RAF) note that their lobbying efforts, through participation in USFS public comment sessions and attending meetings of the Federal Advisory Committee as observers, secured the documenting of aviation within the service’s 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,” RAF officials said.
Aircraft access on National Forest lands is critical to the RAF mission of “preserving, maintaining and creating public use recreational and backcountry airstrips nationwide,” officials noted.
The RAF was founded in 2003 after the closures of some 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,” RAF officials said.
The RAF began by building relationships with the USFS, beginning with district rangers and later with RAF leadership traveling to Washington, D.C., “and building trust with policy-makers.”
“For years, the RAF has persevered,” association officials noted. “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 Feb. 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,” RAF officials said.