Mar. 4, 2004 - AOPA and members of Congress from the western United States are working closely together to make sure millions of acres of wilderness remain accessible by air. For many of these areas, flying is the only way in or out.
The entire Idaho congressional delegation has called on Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman to guarantee public access to four backcountry airstrips in the Frank Church-River of No Return Federal Wilderness Area. The department's U.S. Forest Service has issued a decision closing the Dewey Moore, Mile-Hi, Simonds, and Vines airstrips to all but emergency operations. AOPA has appealed that decision.
In a letter to Veneman, Idaho's Sen. Michael Crapo (R), Sen. Larry Craig (R), Rep. C.L. "Butch" Otter (R), and Rep Mike Simpson (R) note that "restricting the public use of these airstrips is contrary to the legislation authorizing the [wilderness area]."
Under the law creating the wilderness area, the Forest Service is required to obtain the express written consent of Idaho's state aviation agency before closing or rendering unusable the four airstrips. "The Idaho Director of Aviation is on the record, stating the agency's desire to keep the airstrips open," the four members of Congress wrote. "Additionally, the Idaho State Legislature has passed two resolutions outlining their support for keeping the airstrips open."
"Whether it's a downtown airport in a big city, like Albert Whitted Airport in St. Petersburg, Fla., or small airstrips in the wilds of the American West, AOPA believes all of America's landing facilities need to be preserved," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "Working closely with a state's entire congressional delegation, as we've done in Idaho, helps us take that argument to the highest levels of the government."