Comment Now to Save Backcountry Flying!

By Scott Spangler on May 7th, 2011

Going on a backcountry safari to explore the airstrips long ago hacked out of what became the the Selway-Bitterroot and Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness Areas ranks second on my all-time list of best aviation experiences. (First was flying, with six other airplanes, a Glasair Sportsman 2+2 from Arlington, Washington, up the trench, to Anchorage, Alaska.)

imageThe safari would have ranked first had I held the stick and rudder, but I was there  for a story and the learning experience, not to scare myself, or worse.  This is Soldier Bar. Perched 4,190 feet up the side of a mountain, it’s a 1,600-foot, one-way uphill dirt strip with two bumps and a dog leg. The safari pilots called it “an interesting little strip.”

It’s always been my hope to one day get good enough to visit some of those backcountry strips as pilot in command. To keep the dream alive, I visit often the Recreational Aviation Foundation, which is dedicated to “preserving, maintaining, and creating public-use recreational and backcountry airstrips nationwide.” On my last visit I learned that may not happen unless all pilots so interested comment now!

The US Forest Service is revising its land management rules, something it does regularly. Under the proposed rules, many of which are vague and inconsistent, public recreation in all forms takes the backseat to uses of the land, such as timber. Like the FAA and its proposed regulations, the USFS is accepting public comments on its proposed land management rules until May 16. To add your two cents, start at the RAF website for more details and link to the rule and to comment on it. –Scott Spangler


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16 Responses to “Comment Now to Save Backcountry Flying!”

  1. subrookie Says:

    It might be more helpful if you link to the specific section of the Draft EIS that discusses compatible land uses and why these existing airstrips would be incompatible with the new rule.

    I’m a little fortunate in that I do work as a NEPA contractor with the USFS, know how to read these documents, and have a background in aviation. I’ll read over the draft rule this week and put in a comment.

    Also, to anyone that is planning on commenting during the comment period. If you just write a note that says “this is stupid, keep the runway’s open” it will get tossed. You have to comment on a specific section and say why they didn’t analyze the effect of the proposed rule correctly. If you miss this comment period there will be another when the decision is released, but it’s better to get in now.

  2. patrick winter Says:

    Please, save all our back country flying area privileges.

  3. Don Hudson Says:

    I live in Alaska & this reference to closing remote strips is beyond stupid. This is not the midwest and small planes do not cause any problems. Another sign of big brother being involved in things they should just leave alone. What possible justification could the US Forestery Service use to close these back woods remote strips. Simply mind boggling!

  4. Chris Hayne Says:

    I am a retired air officer from the Intermountian Region of the USFS and used most of the back country strips. To restrict them to public use would deprive us the pleasure of vast amounts of beautiful public lands. The impact of their use during my tenure presented no siginificant problem as well as very positive suport of FS programs.

  5. Donald Wilfong Says:

    Please !!! Leave the backcountry airstrips alone……They are important for a lot of reasons…….They provide a port in the storm as emergency strips, They are used for fire fighting and not the least important they are great for recreation…..they provide access to sensitive areas with very little impact on the forests………and in almost all cases they are maintained by volunteer flyers at very little if any cost to the tax payers.. Just because a group of people in our country think that if you are not in your 20s or 30s with tenny runners and a back pack you have no right to access to our public lands…..that is not a reason to take away a very important asset to our country…..After all we, the entire public, do own and should be able to use and enjoy our back country. Donald Wilfong, Bend, OR 541-389-1456
    P.S.: I now live in Oregon but grew up in Idaho and fly into the Idaho backcountry quite often.

  6. Jack Says:

    What part of “public land” does the USFS not understand? Public, meaning belonging to the people and frankly flying over and using small clearings if need be for landings has the LEAST negative impact of any other human activity I can think of. Has this government gone completely insane?

  7. John Johnson Says:

    There is absolutely no reason for the USFS to close or restrict the use of these back country strips. They provide a safe haven durng bad weather or an inflight mechanical or medical emergency. They can also be used to resupply firefighters during fire season, or used as an emergency medevac strip and many more possible uses for this portion of public use land.
    Time to real in the eco nuts at the Forest Circus make them realize that closing off the access to these valuable assets is not in the best interest of anyone in the public sector especially those who are paying taxes to support these areas and their salaries!

  8. Clyde Fredrickson Says:

    I no longer fly because no medical (80 years old next birthday), but I flew extensively in and out of the Selway Bitteroot and Salmon Wilderness areas, even before they were designated wilderness. Believe me, there is nothing new in this Forest Service crap. Upper management arrives there by way of tenure, not intelligence or knowledge. I have often thought there are elements of payoffs particularly in Congress. Make lots of noise!

  9. Burt Moritz Says:

    The country need to more access not less for the sportsman & women. Closing these back strip means more damage to the land in that more roads will needed to be built.

  10. Paul Weintraub Says:

    Not having seen the proposed rulings, it boggles my mind that yet another constraint is being considered for aviatiors. Per capita I think we submit to more scrutiny, more rules, have more government money spent to control us and have less overall impact on society than virtually any other group. I recently flew a 100 hp two place plane coast to coast VFR and it was very reassuring to know that those “backcountry strips” were there if we needed them, and many we thought to come back to in a different aircraft another time.

  11. BOB WILLIS Says:


  12. Brandon A. Says:

    I fly Helo’s and all we do is back country, i kinda feel like this would ruin the whole frontiersman feel and the adventure of exploratory flying. We run mostly on off airport ops and if they started restricting that like they started doing with all of the BLM for my dirtbike i’d have to say i’d be pretty dam disappointed with all the dudes that are high up in the politics of it . Isnt it our land? i hope they can hear OUR voices!

  13. Tim Weston Says:

    You can call me crazed or over-the-hill or whatever. This move by the Feds to restrict/prohibit access to strips in the U.S Forests is part of “Agenda 21”. If you are not aware of Agenda 21, I recommend you get with it. We at our local 9-12 Project have been following this Agenda 21 and it is real. The Feds will control our lives. The states will follow with restrictions when the Feds get their process flowing smoothly. Well be hit between the eyes and never know what hit us. It’s socialism and it’s the One World Government of the future.
    Iff’n you like back country flying, get off your duffs and get active.

  14. Ron Austin Says:

    I am retired, 71 yrs old and due to back problems can no longer backpack into remote areas. I plan to fly my older 4 place a/c into many of the remote strips. I always fly with great respect for the land below and leave a miniscule noise/physical footprint. We older folks have paid our taxes for many years. It would be unjust and unfair to close remote strips for any reason, let alone to aid some new entity.

  15. Jeff Cain Says:

    I am very dissapointed that this is even a consideration. Backcountry Idaho flying is an experience that I treasure. These are PUBLIC lands and they should remain just that. Any footprint from general aviation is minimal. I have yet to see a logical reason for restricting access to our backcountry airstrips.

  16. larry meints Says:

    Iam sad to hear the sounds of ive got mine and you cant have yours attitude. I have gone to moose creek strip inthe bitterrooots area for numerous years and cherish the memories of the experiences.To deny those experiences from future pilots is not fair or right. If this happens the only flying fishermen will be the political types in the government paid helicopters with friends that fish in black suits w/ties have seen this.

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