The Recreational Aviation Foundation (RAF) recently met with federal and state agencies, aviation groups, land owners and other stakeholders at the US Forest Service Regional Headquarters in Albuquerque, NM to develop a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that creates a new partnership called the New Mexico Airstrip Network. The focus of the groups will be to collaborate on preserving, promoting and enhancing the many recreational airstrips and related airports within New Mexico.
President John McKenna, Director Rol Murrow and the RAF’s New Mexico State Liaison, Larry Filener, represented the RAF at the November 10th meeting. Filener, who also chairs the New Mexico Pilots Association (NMPA) Backcountry Committee, said that the MOU is the result of more than four years of work, and “is the most significant event that has ever happened concerning backcountry and recreational flying in New Mexico.” Steve Summers, the New Mexico Department of Transportation’s State Aviation Division Director said that NMAN hopes to “replicate the collaboration achieved in Idaho which advanced aviation and produced positive economic impact for rural communities throughout the state.”
Though New Mexico has a wide range of both private and public airstrips, offering excellent recreational opportunities for hunting, fishing, outfitting, hiking and camping, the state has never fully tapped into these assets. Murrow, who owns an airstrip in northern New Mexico says the state is ideal for backcountry flying as it offers “a moderate climate and an average of 280 days of sunshine per year.”
Though NMAN will focus their initial efforts on identifying and maintaining the airstrips already in place, they do plan to develop and add new airstrips to the inventory. According to Francisco Valenzuela, the US Forest Service Southwest Region Recreational Director, the MOU helps them define how they’ll be working together, and sharing both responsibilities and resources to achieve their common goals.
In addition to reps from the RAF, NMPA, US Forest Service, and NM DOT, reps from the New Mexico Tourism Department, Bureau of Land Management, New Mexico Airport Managers Association, New Mexico Aviation Aerospace Association, New Mexico Council of Outfitters and Guides and United States Pilots Association joined in at the signing, and a number of other organization are expected to sign on in the near future.
McKenna said that the RAF was proud of all the hard work that made NMAN possible, adding that “The future of recreational flying in New Mexico will certainly be brighter as a result of this partnership. What is learned here can be applied across the nation.”
Featured Image: courtesty of The RAF and Joyce Woods / Mystic Bluff Airstrip