Backcountry pilots push for better access

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John McKenna, a 55-year-old pilot from Bozeman and the president of the Recreational Aviation Foundation, said the Montana airstrip is the first to be approved on any forest in the nation in 40 years, but he's lobbying for more like it.

… In July, then-Forest Service Chief Abigail Kimbell outlined the agency's policy on backcountry airstrips in a memo to regional foresters, calling them "an appropriate use of National Forest System lands."

…Bill Woodland, a recreation specialist in Washington, D.C., said the memo served as a reminder to local forests of the rules regarding backcountry airstrips.

The position hasn't changed since Tom Tidwell replaced Kimbell, Woodland said.
"It was felt we have been so focused on roads and trails that we're kind of losing sight of that third term — airfields," Woodland said.

He estimates the number of airstrips the agency operates in national forests in the Lower 48 at 120. Approximately 157,000 miles of trails are available for other recreational purposes, Woodland said.