February 01, 2005

Delegation Wants Backcountry Airstrips Kept Open

Forest Service Considers Restrictions in Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness

Washington, DC - Idahoâ??s Congressional Delegation today asked the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture to keep four backcountry airstrips in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness open to backcountry pilots. Senators Larry Craig and Mike Crapo and Representatives Mike Simpson and C.L. â??Butchâ?? Otter said access to the strips in critical for safety reasons and restricting access would run contrary to the legislation that authorized the Frank Church Wilderness.â??Dewy Moore, Mile-Hi, Simmonds, and Vines airstrips have been used by aviators for over twenty years. These backcountry airstrips provide citizen access to unique areas of the wilderness and serve a vital purpose in emergency operations,â?? the delegation wrote in the letter to Secretary Ann Veneman.The delegation also cited support for keeping the strips open from the Idaho Legislature and the Idaho Department of Transportation. A copy of the letter to Veneman is enclosed. Larry E. Craig United States Senator 520 Hart Senate Office Bldg. Washington, D.C. 20510 Mike Crapo United States Senator 239 Dirksen Senate Office Bldg. Washington, D.C. 20510 Mike Simpson Member of Congress 1339 Longworth House Office Bldg. Washington, D.C. 20515 C.L. â??Butchâ?? Otter Member of Congress 1711 Longworth House Office Bldg. Washington, D.C. 20515 February 26, 2004The Honorable Ann Veneman, SecretaryUnited States Department of Agriculture14th and Independence Ave., SWWashington, DC 20250Dear Secretary Veneman:We write in support of preserving backcountry airstrips in Idaho. We are concerned by the U.S. Forest Serviceâ??s recent Record of Decision (ROD) that restricts use of four airstrips in the Frank Church - River of No Return (FC-RONR) Wilderness Area.Dewey Moore, Mile-Hi, Simmonds, and Vines airstrips have been used by aviators for over twenty years. These backcountry airstrips provide citizen access to unique areas of the wilderness and serve a vital purpose in emergency operations.Restricting the public use of these airstrips is contrary to the legislation authorizing the FC-RONR. The authorizing statute, PL 96-312, calls for the express written consent of the Idaho state aviation agency prior to closing or rendering unserviceable any airstrip in the Wilderness Area. In this case, the Idaho Director of Aviation is on record, stating the agencyâ??s desire to keep the airstrips open. The appeal of the ROD by the Division of Aviation supports maintaining all airstrips. Additionally, the Idaho State Legislature has passed two resolutions outlining their support for keeping the airstrips open. Our offices are aware of on-going appeals to the recent ROD, including an appeal filed by the Idaho Transportation Department. It is our understanding that corrective action can be taken to ensure that access to these airstrips is maintained. A positive resolution to these appeals should meet the July 2001 written commitment received from the Secretaries of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Interior on access to backcountry airstrips. This agreement stating support for the airstrips was included in the Senate floor debate on the FY2002 Agriculture Appropriations Act on July 12, 2001. We support the airstrips and strongly encourage you to maintain full access for all Idaho pilots. Sincerely, LARRY E. CRAIG United States SenatorMIKE CRAPO United States Senator MIKE SIMPSON Member of CongressC.L. â??BUTCHâ?? OTTER Member of Congress # # #