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Wilderness advocates and fans are upset over an Idaho Fish and Game airstrip built in the middle of the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness Area but have little recourse to fight it.

The agency recently flew in a small 55-horsepower, 4,000-pound backhoe to build an airstrip at its Mitchell Ranch property about 3 miles off the Middle Fork of the Salmon River and along Marble Creek, a salmon- and steelhead-bearing stream.

The agency says the strip increases access for hunters, anglers, trappers and others to the 2.3 million-acre wilderness area.

The Lewiston Tribune reports that because the strip was built on the agency’s property, it wasn’t subjected to federal wilderness regulations, such as a ban on motorized equipment operating there.

Airstrips in the wilderness area have become congested during hunting season and the new access point will help alleviate that.

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