Senator John Carlson (R. Bemidji) and Representative David Hancock (R. Bemidji) have received national recognition from the Recreational Aviation Foundation (RAF) for their efforts to amend the Recreational Use Statute (RUS) in the State of Minnesota.
RAF President John McKenna explained: “Recreational Use Statutes give limited liability to private landowners that allow others to use their property. It’s sometimes called ‘The Good-Guy Law.’ Each state has enacted laws limiting liability for landowners that allow others to use their land, providing that no charge is made for the use, and that the landowner doesn’t intentionally create a hazard.”
The Minnesota RUS lists a number of outdoor activities, like hunting, fishing, swimming, plant and rock collecting, cave exploring, snowmobiling, and cross country skiing. While it didn’t exclude aviation, it didn’t specifically include it either, causing cautious landowners to not allow aircraft to take off and land at private airstrips. This bill makes that change.
Senator Carlson and Representative Hancock carried the bill through the Senate and the House, respectively. With the legislative session ending, many did not think that there was time enough to address the bill, but they found ways to get a hearing on it. Ultimately, the House and Senate passed different versions of the bill, which were ironed out in a late-night House-Senate Conference Committee.
“We watched the progress of the bill every day,” said RAF’s McKenna. “Sometimes, we thought there was no hope, but Sen. Carlson and Rep. Hancock didn’t give up.” The bill passed, and was signed into law by Gov. Dayton.
The bill will allow airports on public and private land to be open to the aviation public, treating aviation just like hunting, fishing, or other outdoor activities. Minnesota becomes the 15th state nationwide to change their Recreational Use Statutes to include aviation.
“This will be important for airstrip owners, pilots, cabin owners, lodge owners, sport pilots, and rural communities,” McKenna explained. “It will bring people to rural areas. It also will be useful for emergencies, allowing emergency equipment and evacuation from rural areas, and all of this didn’t cost the taxpayers of Minnesota a dime. That’s good legislation!”
The Recreational Aviation Foundation is a non-profit 501 (c) (3) corporation. It is run by volunteers, and is dedicated to preserving and protecting remote airstrips on public and private land by working with landowners and state and federal agencies. It has members in all 50 states. Information on the organization is available at http://theraf.org or by calling 406-582-1723.