Idaho Airstrip Network group takes major step
A group working to position the Idaho Airstrip Network as an important component of the state’s future transportation system while respecting and protecting Idaho’s natural and recreational resources will take a major step toward implementing an action plan.
Members of the Idaho Airstrip Network Steering Committee, including the U.S. Forest Service, Idaho Transportation Department, Outfitters and Guides, Idaho Fish and Game, Idaho Aviation Association, Idaho Aviation Foundation, Recreational Aviation Foundation and the Bureau of Land Management, will sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) at the Oxford Suites in Boise on Thursday. The document will ensure that all participants will cooperate with the implementation of the airstrip network action plan.
“The Idaho Airstrip Network is a transportation asset in which all Idahoans can take pride,” said Mark Young, with ITD’s Aeronautics Division. “This vision for the future reflects the values of and commitment by transportation partners to maintain air access to Idaho’s front and backcountry and to respect Idaho’s wilderness values while promoting stewardship of the state’s outstanding natural and recreational resources.”
The Idaho Airstrip Network will ultimately be composed of more than 100 airstrips statewide, their adjacent or nearby lands and facilities, and the portal communities they serve. All public airstrips are part of the network, but only private airstrips with public access for general aviation are included in the action plan.
Predominate uses of these airstrips include: access to recreation opportunities, fire protection and suppression, emergency services, natural resource management, recreational aviation, and the servicing of remote ranches and other economic enterprises through pick-up and delivery of passengers, mail, food and other supplies.
“This MOU will benefit all parties by increasing communication, sharing of information, participation, cooperation, and coordination in implementing our respective missions to preserve, protect, operate, and maintain Idaho airstrip resources” said Suzanne Rainville, Forest Supervisor for the Payette National Forest.
Connected portal communities vary from rural cities like Salmon, Challis, Grangeville, and Bonners Ferry to resort communities like McCall. The cities of Boise, Lewiston, and Idaho Falls also serve as portals within the network. The network’s airstrips also link to many out-of-state portal communities in Montana, Washington, Oregon and Utah.
Planning for the Idaho Airstrip Network began in 2004 when symposiums around the state produced a range of ideas that were later refined by the Idaho Airstrip Network Steering Committee, a multi-stakeholder group created by ITD’s Division of Aeronautics under the direction of the Idaho Transportation Board. Further refinement and a public comment period followed during 2005 from which the action plan emerged.
To be a part of Idaho’s future transportation vision, the Idaho Airstrip Network must maintain a number of desirable attributes as outlined in an ITD document titled “Idaho’s Transportation Vision.”
Accessibility. Providing and preserving an alternative - and sometimes the only - mode of access to many parts of the state, especially remote areas
Convenience and choices. The network, as conceived by its supporters, serves to keep all existing airstrips open to the public, while at the same time evaluating the need for additional airstrips.
Affordability. Support of the network is linked to those who would benefit from its existence and operation.
Flexibility. The network strives to preserve air corridors, air space and the current system of airstrips for the future, much as road corridors and rights-of-way have been saved for the state’s highway system. Additionally, it will provide backcountry airstrips ranging from basic landing areas to fully functional airstrips, which provide public showers, telephones, courtesy cars, and modern camping facilities.
Safety and security. Regular maintenance is necessary to ensure safe public access and continued viability of the Idaho Airstrip Network.
Predictability. Paramount to nearly all partners developing the action plan was having access to up-to-date information about conditions of an airstrip. Information was not limited to the airstrip itself but included the surrounding landscapes, recreational opportunities, portal communities and available support services.
Connectivity. The network connects trailheads and portal communities to the Idaho highway system, commercial airports and surrounding states, but partners will continue to seek improvements.