Forest Service seeks comments on planning rule

March 17, 2011

The U.S. Forest Service is asking for public comments on its proposed forest planning rule that will guide land and resource management throughout the National Forest System.

The proposed rule was released on Feb. 14 following a year of soliciting public input through national and regional roundtables and other public meetings. AOPA participated in the roundtable discussions, as did representatives of backcountry aviation organizations, the Recreational Aviation Foundation, and the Idaho Aviation Association.

"Our purpose was to ensure that aviation was recognized as a legitimate and historical use in the national forests, and that Forest Service planners took aviation into account when creating individual forest plans maintained access to existing backcountry airstrips,” said John Collins, AOPA manager of airport policy.

The proposed rule defines sustainable recreation as “the set of recreational opportunities, uses, and access that, individually and combined, are ecologically, economically and socially sustainable, allowing the responsible official to offer recreation opportunities now and into the future. Recreational opportunities could include non-motorized, motorized, developed, and dispersed recreation on the land, water and in the air.”

Collins said that at first some Forest Service staff in the planning sessions struggled with the idea of including aviation, but that they were eventually persuaded it should be considered a traditional recreational use.

“We were pleased to see the inclusion of aviation in the definition of sustainable recreation, and we look forward to continuing to work with the Forest Service to maintain our access to these public lands,” Collins said.

AOPA encourages pilots who support the use of backcountry airstrips in the National Forests to comment on the proposed rule and accompanying draft environmental impact statement by May 16.

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz | Aviation Writer

Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.