WE NEED YOUR IMMEDIATE HELP. PLEASE TAKE ACTION NO LATER THAN MARCH 28
The RAF is requesting members to submit comments to the National Park Service (NPS) on the Saline Valley on a management plan, which will determine the future of theChicken Strip in Death Valley National Park. Comments can be made online at clicking this link or by visiting the URL below:
The comment deadline is Friday, March 28, 2014.
If you cannot submit comments online, please mail them to:
Saline Valley Management Plan
Death Valley National Park
P.O. Box 579
Death Valley, CA 92328.
The Chicken Strip is one of the few remaining backcountry strips in California and provides access to remote natural hot springs that otherwise would requite a several-hour drive across rough dirt roads to reach. A memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the National Park Service and the RAF permits RAF volunteers to maintain the airstrip and keeps it open to the public.
The NPS has published five alternatives for the final land use management plan. Fortunately, four of the five options would keep the airstrip open. It would be our suggestion that pilots recommend option 3, which officially recognizes the strip and encourages community involvement from organizations such as the RAF to maintain the facilities in the Saline Valley,
(1) No Action Alternative
Everything remains status quo. The RAF continues to maintain the airstrip under the MOU. However, since the status quo violates some NPS regulations (e.g. unofficial airstrip, water quality standards, etc.), it is unlikely that this will be selected.
(2) Minimum Action Alternative
This option implements the minimum actions necessary to bring the area into compliance with regulations. The RAF continues to maintain the airstrip under the MOU; however, the airstrip would need to be officially sanctioned, requiring public hearings and ultimate inclusion in the official NPS regulations. Although the goal of this effort is to establish the legality of the airport, public hearings and the regulatory process opens the door to opponents to voice their objections too.
(3) Community Engagement Alternative
This option is essentially similar to option 2 above, but encourages user groups to be more involved in maintenance the facilities. The RAF is already involved through the MOU, but this would establish such involvement as policy and potentially add other organizations (such as off road vehicle or hot springs user groups) to maintain other facilities.
(4) Recreation Management Alternative
Under this option, the NPS takes complete responsibility for operations and maintenance of the Saline Valley and airstrip. The RAF would no longer maintain the airstrip under the MOU. As with options 2 and 3, the airstrip would need to be officially sanctioned and special regulations would be written to recognize the airstrip.
(5) Restoration Alternative
This option removes the airstrip and nearly all camping facilities, returning it to its natural state.
These five alternatives are covered in detail atDEVA_Saline_Valley_Warm_Springs_EIS_Preliminary_Alternatives_Jan_2014.pdf. A more concise description is in the Death Valley National Park Alternatives Newsletter atDEVA_alts_newsletter_final.pdf. Finally, a handy matrix that compares all five options is available atDEVA_Saline_Valley_Warm_Springs_EIS_Preliminary_Alternatives_Comparison_Table_Jan_2014_(1).pdf
Here are some key points you can build on while drafting your comments concerning the proposed directives:
User comments should include as many facts as possible about the value of the airstrip to the community and the park service itself. Some suggestions for points to include are shown below, but please don’t hesitate to add your own arguments:
Aircraft provide a light environmental impact. The Chicken Strip landing area is only about 40 feet wide by 1,350 feet long, and is constructed of native material
If you have landed at the airstrip before, comment on your thoughts about how you have safely used the strip
The airstrip has existed for more than 50 years and is historically significant
The airstrip provides convenient access to handicapped and/or the physically challenged without enduring a grueling 5-hour drive by road
An airstrip at the Saline Valley Warm Springs provides access to a very remote area of the Park for use as a staging area for search and rescue and quick med-evac
Park personnel could fly there in 30 minutes from the headquarters at Furnace Creek rather than five hours by vehicle
Hints to make your comments effective:
When you write your comments, put them into your own words. Form letters and mass emails that are all the same are usually not counted as individual responses.
Write from the point of view of your own experiences, values, and use of aircraft for recreational access for yourself and your family. Emphasize your own prior great experiences and how they fit into the objectives of the National Park Service to provide wonderful outdoor experiences for the widest variety of people.
Be courteous and give constructive comments. Park Service planners have worked hard to make the proposed alternatives the best they can. We’re helping them see items they have overlooked.
Contact John Kounis firstname.lastname@example.org or Rick Lach email@example.com.
Recreational Aviation Foundation
1711 West College Street
Bozeman, MT 59715-4913