New Airstrip Expands Access To Rocky Mountain Forests

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A new grass runway is now being built on land owned by the U.S. Forest Service in Montana, after four years of effort by recreational pilots. The strip, which is expected to be ready for next spring, will be 4,000 feet long, stretching across a meadow at an elevation 6,300 feet, surrounded by plenty of open grassland for approaches and climbouts. The site is close to a popular trout-fishing area and a campground in the Lewis and Clark National Forest. Members of the Montana Pilots Association and the Recreational Aviation Foundation worked with federal officials to create the airstrip. The agreement required four years of planning, including an environmental impact statement and an opportunity for public discussion. Several sites were considered and rejected before the final site made the cut. "This decision is significant because until this location was selected at Russian Flat, there were no public airstrips on Forest Service lands east of the Rocky Mountain Front," said Dan Prill, of the RAF. The runway is under construction now but is not expected to open until the grass surface has time to develop.

The RAF also announced recently that a previously private airstrip just outside Glacier National Park will open this summer for public use, but only with prior permission.