RAF Reports Aviation Included in USFS Final Planning Directive

The Recreational Aviation Foundation (RAF), through participation in US Forest Service (USFS) public comment sessions and attending meetings of the Federal Advisory Committee as observers, has secured the documenting of aviation within the Final Planning Directive (FSH 1909.12). The document acknowledges recreational aviation in multiple places. These aviation references clarify and solidify aviation as a legitimate mode of access, and one of the three legs of the National Forest Transportation System.

Aircraft access on National Forest lands is critical to the RAF mission of “… preserving, maintaining and creating public use recreational and backcountry airstrips nationwide.” The RAF was founded in 2003 after the closures of some stunningly scenic USFS airstrips in the west. In examining the problem, it was apparent that our public lands planners included travel plans for off-road vehicles, pack animals, bicycles, hikers and boaters, but airplanes were conspicuously missing. The RAF began by building relationships with the USFS, beginning with District Rangers and later with RAF leadership traveling to our nation’s Capital and building trust with policy-makers.

For years, the RAF has persevered. Volunteers attended specific Forest Plan meetings, wrote letters and continued to meet face-to-face from the backcountry of Arizona to marble-walled offices of Washington D.C. On February 3, their hard work resulted in the formal inclusion of aviation, airstrips and aircraft in the USFS Final Planning Directive.

What does this mean to pilots? With responsible use of the backcountry airstrips on National Forest lands, we can be sure of continued access and enjoyment.

The Recreational Aviation Foundation is a non-profit 501(c)(3) charitable organization headquartered at 1711 W. College Street, Bozeman, MT 59715; 406-582-1723; TheRAF.org

The RAF is very proud of this accomplishment, and want to thank everyone that had a hand in getting it done. RAF volunteers spent too many hours to be counted, attended meetings all over the country, all to make sure that aviation is a viable recreational pursuit on USFS lands and that we have a place in the system.

The proposed directives are a key set of agency guidance documents that direct the implementation of the 2012 Planning Rule.

These directives will help the Forest Service achieve the vision articulated in the 2012 Planning Rule. Thru the multi-year process of coming up with these directives the RAF was there each step of the way. That proved to be successful in that aviation which had in the past been neglected, now occupies prominent space in the future of forest management.