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What do Montana pilots say about the Backcountry Legislation?

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Subject: Montana Pilots’ Association Takes To The Air

To the air-waves that is. Recently representatives from the Montana Pilots’ Association were invited to interviews on two Montana radio stations. The subject was the Back Country Airstrip Protection legislation, H.R.2776, cosponsored by Representative Denny Rehberg of Montana.

In December John McKenna spoke on the Northern News Network in Billings and expressed the views of Montana pilots concerning backcountry airstrips and how this legislation would keep these airstrips from being closed in the future. This invitation came about following the story that ran in a number of newspapers across the state on the same subject.

And on a subzero January morning Dan Lilja and Chuck Jarecki were invited to participate in a one hour long call-in program on KOFI 1180 AM in Kalispell with host Wendy Ostrum Price. Congressman Rehberg also joined in on the discussion via telephone. With Wendy asking questions, the three explained why this legislation was important for backcountry airstrips across the west. The group pointed out that in Idaho today the Forest Service is attempting to skirt an agreement, with both congress and the state of Idaho, to close four airstrips along Big Creek.

MPA members Dan Lilja and Chuck Jarecki along with radio talk show host Wendy Ostrum Price in the KOFI studio.

At present there is a gentlemen’s agreement that federal agencies will not close any airstrips. But an agreement like that is only good as long as there are gentlemen in place on both sides. And so a law with teeth in it is necessary as the Forest Service's recent ploy demonstrates.

Congressman Rehberg is a true friend of backcountry pilots and of aviation as a whole. Denny pointed out that getting the legislation passed has been difficult because many eastern state congressmen don’t appreciate the value of these airstrips or in many cases even know what a backcountry airstrip is and why it would be important to protect them. He felt the legislation would pass the House as it did in the last session, but the Senate will be the problem. He asks for letters-of-support on the legislation. Showing other congressmen that there is indeed a public interest in this subject helps a lot.