Reed Ranch airstrip added to Idaho's backcountry system

Pilots now have a new opportunity to appreciate the beauty of Idaho’s pristine mountains and remote valleys – from the air and from the ground. At the same time, they can touch a colorful piece of Idaho history.

With a few touchdowns and a gala “tailgate” party, the Reed Ranch Airstrip formally became part of Idaho’s backcountry airstrip system Friday (July 30). ITD’s Division of Aeronautics staff joined a throng of pilots, U.S. Forest Service officials and local dignitaries for a ceremonial windsock raising. They also watched as an airplane slowly broke through plastic tape stretched across the airstrip, the symbolic equivalent of a ribbon cutting.

Three Idaho aviation organizations collaborated to make the Reed Ranch Airstrip event a resounding success: The Idaho Aviation Association (IAA), the Idaho Airstrip Network (IAN) and the Recreational Aviation Foundation (RAF).

Guests included JoAn Wood, chairwoman of the State House Transportation Committee; Darrell V Manning, chairman of the Idaho Transportation Board; Suzanne Rainville, Payette National Forest supervisor; Rodger Sorensen, chairman of the Aeronautics Advisory Board; Jim Davies, president of the IAA; Larry Taylor, IAA past president and coordinator of the IAN.

As a result of public opening, the airstrip will receive a new identifier code from the Federal Aviation Administration in the near future, DeThomas explains.

The Payette National Forest (Krassel Ranger District) issued a 20-year special use permit to ITD for management of the Reed Ranch Airstrip on April 16, followed by 45-day public comment period, said JV DeThomas, Division of Aeronautics administrator.

With that special use permit, the Reed Ranch Airstrip becomes the 31st in Idaho’s backcountry system. It is located along the South Fork of the Salmon River, about 18 miles ease of McCall and west of the renowned Johnson Creek backcountry airstrip.

Formerly a private restricted-use airstrip, Reed Ranch Airstrip is open to general aviation. Issuance of the special use permit includes several mitigation and monitoring requirements to address concerns expressed during the environmental analysis and public involvement process, according to a Laura Pramuk of the Payette National Forest.

The forest acquired the Reed Ranch, including the airstrip, as part of a land exchange with Brundage Mountain Resort in 2006. At that time, the airstrip was privately owned and designated as a “restricted-use” facility. ITD submitted a request for a special use permit in November 2007, launching the formal process to open it for general aviation.

Under the special use permit, ITD will manage the airstrip as it does other backcountry airstrips. The U.S. Forest Service owns another 22 airstrips.

Idaho maintains the largest network of backcountry airstrips in the lower 48 states. The airstrips attract pilots from throughout the country and contribute to both the state’s and local economies.

Although many are used heavily for recreation, the airstrips also serve as front doors to wilderness areas, opening them for delivery of food, mail and other essential goods. Pack animals are the only other options available to transport goods into some of those areas.

Airstrips also are used for emergencies, such as wildfire suppression and medical transport.


Published 8-6-2010