Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Katmais And Cubs: A Desert Adventure

Two superb backcountry aircraft take on the Utah Canyonlands

Recreation Aviation Foundation |
Jumping in and out of these pristine airstrips, the question comes to mind as to who preserves and maintains them. There are, of course, no FBOs, no crew cars, no facilities to speak of, yet these remote strips require work to keep them useable, mapped and accessible. Much of this work lies with the Recreational Aviation Foundation (RAF).

The RAF was started by a group of pilots, sitting around a Montana campfire back in 2003, who recognized that their enjoyment of these remote airstrips couldn't continue without some work. The encroachment of people into rural areas and the ongoing interests of developers were posing a real threat to these beloved backcountry strips and continues to threaten them today. The RAF was created as an all-volunteer organization to preserve these airstrips, and even to establish new airstrips that could be enjoyed by the public. The organization also furthers backcountry safety through education and activities across the country.

The threat against backcountry airstrips is a national concern. Once these resources are gone, there's no bringing them back, and a way of life will have been destroyed. Already, many mountain strips across the American West have been bulldozed in the name of progress and profit. Members of the RAF combat these threats through acquiring private land for development of new airstrips, funding of efforts to recognize backcountry airstrips as useful and legitimate public resources, and providing education to the public and to other pilots about the value of these airstrips.

Scot Warren, who led the CubCrafters Cubs on our Utah desert adventure, is the Texas state liaison for the RAF and has seen firsthand what their efforts can do. "I grew up in rural Colorado," says Warren. "And these airstrips are a way of life for a lot of pilots," he continued. "The RAF is such an important part of preserving them that I wish more people knew about what they do."

Warren, like others in the organization, works within his state to help others recognize how valuable the airstrips are, and that they serve the entire flying public. "We couldn't be flying into these airstrips like we are today without people in the RAF working hard to maintain them," he said.

Of course, the RAF can't succeed alone. They depend completely on the generosity of the public to fund their efforts. There are a million ways to give to the organization, with everything from one-time donations to ongoing, planned giving. More importantly, the RAF wants more pilots to get involved. "Pilots need to know that we're the only organization that tries to preserve backcountry airstrips on a national basis," explains Warren.

The RAF has had some high-profile victories, including the creation of a brand-new backcountry airstrip about 70 miles outside of Great Falls, Mont., called "Russian Flat" (M42), and the preservation of six backcountry strips in the Upper Missouri Breaks National Monument. In 2010, the RAF managed to push through resolution H.R. 1473 through the House of Representatives that recognizes backcountry airstrips as valuable national resources that should be protected. The RAF also became the majority owner in Ryan Field (2MT1), a pristine backcountry airstrip at West Glacier, Mont. Still, there's much work to be done.

"Backcountry strips are being closed all the time," says Warren. "Without the RAF, we would lose a lot more of them." Warren sees protecting and preserving these resources as the responsibility of all pilots and urges them to get involved. "It's not just an important cause, it's part of the legacy we're leaving to the next generation of pilots."


Add Comment