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Pilot groups defend backcountry aviation

Pilots who value backcountry aviation have an opportunity to support continued access to two airstrips on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) property in Colorado, and advocate for backcountry aviation nationwide, by commenting on a draft resource management plan.

The BLM’s Colorado River Valley field office has drafted a revised Resource Management Plan (RMP) for the bureau’s Colorado River Valley holdings in northwestern Colorado, between Rifle and Vail. Comments will be accepted on the plan until Jan. 17.

Pilots are urged to make an extra effort to comment before the deadline because backcountry aviation and two backcountry airstrips at Roan Cliffs and Tepee Creek were omitted from the draft management plan. That omission prompted pilot organizations including the Recreational Aviation Foundation (RAF) and the Colorado Pilots Association (CPA) to meet with BLM officials to familiarize them with recreational aviation’s traditional presence in the resource management area—something officials were not familiar with when planning the revision started in 2008, the RAF said.

“AOPA supports those organizations’ commitment to keeping backcountry recreational airstrips open and accessible, and will be submitting comments on the draft management plan,” said John Collins, AOPA manager of airport policy. He encouraged any pilot with an interest in backcountry aviation to submit comments on the draft management plan, and emphasize the national significance of the issue.

Because the draft RMP as now revised contains language requiring pilots to request prior permission before landing on land or water within the management area, the RAF and CPA have proposed specific wording changes to several sections of the draft, as well as background on the issue nationwide, said RAF Board Member Chuck Jarecki.

The RAF urged pilots to follow specific letter-writing guidelines, which it provided in a Dec. 27 email sent to its membership.

  • Identify your subject (“CRV draft RMP comments”) so that your letter can be filed properly.
  • Identify yourself as a pilot, and state that you support the RMP language submitted by the Recreational Aviation Foundation.
  • Write the letter in your own words, sticking to a few basic points.<
  • Be specific, and request that the BLM include recreational aviation and airstrips within the final RMP. Please refer to the Roan Cliffs and Tepee Creek airstrips.
  • Mention personal experiences, such as landing at a backcountry airstrip because of bad weather or mechanical problems, or to give a passenger a unique experience.
  • Include any photos of a visit to a backcountry airstrip, or describe any volunteer work you may do maintaining a backcountry airstrip.
  • Write in a respectful tone, and be sure your address appears either at the top of the letter or below your signature.

Comment online at the Resource Management Plan website, or mail your letter to BLM CO Colorado River Valley Field Office, 2300 River Frontage Road, Silt, CO 81652.

Dan Namowitz
Dan Namowitz
Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 35-year AOPA member.

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