December 16, 2005

Senate Bill To Protect Backcountry Airstrips

Calls for nationwide policy on federal wilderness landing areas

Washington, DC â??Providing backcountry access, supporting rural economies and recreational activities, and aiding forest management requires a nationwide policy to protect federal backcountry aviation issues, according to a bill introduced today by Idaho Senators Mike Crapo and Larry Craig. The bill directs the Secretaries of Agriculture and Interior to adopt such a policy. The bill was referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.â??With such a vast portion of Idaho designated as federal wilderness, creating a national policy on backcountry landing strips is significant to our state,â?? said Crapo, who is a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. â??Backcountry landing strips allow people to enjoy forests and parks, support state economies through recreational activity, and play a vital role in access to research, management, aerial mapping and disaster relief. This bill will ensure our backcountry airstrips remain in operation, maintained and accessible.â??Craig, chairman of the Energy Committeeâ??s Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests, said "This bill protects the public's right to access the federal lands that their taxpayer dollars pay to maintain. Backcountry airstrips serve an important function to the economy, to aviation safety, and the right of people to enjoy Idaho's recreational opportunities. Our goal is to facilitate a more thorough and cooperative process between federal, State, and private interests to keep established airstrips accessible."Bob Martin, Administrator of Aeronautics at the Idaho Department of Transportation said, "By requiring federal and state officials to be in agreement on proposed federal restrictions involving remote airstrips, this legislation will preserve access to federal lands for those people physically unable to enjoy scenic and recreational opportunities, use in emergencies and disaster support."Under this bill, the federal government would have to undergo several government processes before it could permanently close or restrict any landing strip, which includes the approval by the head of the aviation department in the state where the landing strip is located and a 90-day public comment period.