Recreational aviation gets stake in Forest Service planning

February 9, 2012

Recreational aviation and backcountry strips in US Forest Service lands recently received a much-needed lift. Forest Service planners must now consider aviation in their plans, whether it be preserving or maintaining backcountry strips.

The agency released its preferred alternative to the US Forest Service Planning Rule, giving recreational aviation the same opportunities as activities that use on land and water. Forest planners must consider recreational opportunities in their plans. The new definition of recreation opportunities includes “non-motorized, motorized, developed, and dispersed recreation on land, water, and in the air.” The rule provides guidance for every national forest plan and planner in the United States.

“Aviation wasn’t even acknowledged in previous planning rules,” said John Collins, AOPA manager of airports. “We worked with the Recreational Aviation Foundation and Idaho Aviation Association to educate Forest Service officials on the value of aviation and the legitimacy of it as a recreational use of national forest land. Now, it must be considered just as all-terrain vehicles, boats, and other recreational motorized and nonmotorized vehicles.”

Backcountry strips provide access to remote areas of national forest land and serve as emergency landing areas in what otherwise would be unforgiving terrain. They also allow quicker aerial lifts for park users who have been injured.