Pilots urged to save Death Valley's Chicken Strip

July 19, 2012

Pilots now have an opportunity to help the Recreational Aviation Foundation keep a valuable California airstrip open to the public. The National Park Service has begun the process to develop a new management plan for the Saline Valley Warm Springs area of Death Valley National Park. The plan includes the Chicken Strip, an uncharted 1,350-foot dirt strip that provides fly-in access to the warm springs. (The only other access to this remote area is via a rough, 40-mile dirt road that takes three to four hours to navigate, and is only suitable for four-wheel-drive, high-clearance vehicles.)

This planning process will determine whether the Chicken Strip remains open, and pilots now have the opportunity to make their voices heard. The National Park Service is soliciting comments from the public as part of their scoping process—comments that will ultimately be used to decide the future of the Chicken Strip. AOPA submitted comments for the third time in nine years in support of preserving aviation access at the airstrip; the association encourages pilots who value backcountry flying to do the same.

Comments in support of the strip should mention that aircraft have a lower impact on the land than vehicles, that pilot volunteers maintain the airstrip at no cost to the National Park Service, and that aircraft provide access to visitors who cannot make the long road trip to the warm springs. For more information, including additional talking points to use in support of the airstrip, visit the Recreational Aviation Foundation’s website.

The Recreational Aviation Foundation currently has a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Death Valley National Park to maintain the three airstrips within the Park, including the Chicken Strip. But the final management plan could supersede that MOU if the park decides to close the strip. It is imperative that park planners hear from the pilot community and understand that aviators desire continued access to the area by private aircraft. Even if you never intend to use the Chicken Strip, it will help the pilot community to voice your support of the airstrip.

Pilots can submit comments by Aug. 6 online or by mail to: ATTN: Saline Valley Management Plan Superintendent, Death Valley National Park, P.O. Box 579, Death Valley, CA 92328.