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Recreational Use Statute and Private Airstrips

Expanding Recreational Access

Two new privately owned airstrips were added to the aviation Sectional Charts in the past few years:

           - Taos Grant Besley (NM03)

           - Murrow Ranch on the Divide (NM99)

Permission is required for landing. NMPA is grateful these landowners for permission to use these for events, plus several others including the privately owned Mystic Bluffs airstrip (NM56). We have enjoyed this privilege, thanks to the generosity of airstrip owners, their communities, and volunteer NMPA members. We also recognize this would not be possible without the NM Recreational Use Statute.

Recreational Use Statute and Liability Protection

Through a recreational use statute landowners in New Mexico are granted immunity from liability when they allow the public to enter their land for recreational activities, including aircraft operations, as long as there is no charge for the use of the land for those particular activities.

To gain this protection landowners generally cannot charge a fee for use of the land. Also, there can be no malicious intent to injure someone on the part of the landowner. The purpose of these statutes is to keep private, and in some instances public lands open to the public for recreation.

Grant Besley Airstrip near Taos
In 2011, volunteers from the NMPA and the Recreational Aviation Foundation (RAF) were successful in asking the New Mexico State Legislature to pass HB12, which modified the existing New Mexico Recreational Use Statute to explicitly include “operation of aircraft.” Governor Martinez signed HB12 into to law on April 5, 2011.

The successful amendment to include aircraft operations was due to the Recreational Aviation Foundation’s (RAF) effort across the USA. For more info, see the RAF website on RUS..

Murrow Field on the Divide

What is a Recreational Use Statute?from

"Recreational Use Statute" is a term given to legislation generally intended to promote public recreational use of privately owned land. The statute does this by granting landowners some protection from liability for personal injuries or property damage suffered by land users pursuing recreational activities on the owner's land. The underlying policy of a Recreational Use Statute arose from the realization that the public's need for recreational land has outpaced the ability of local, state, and federal governments to provide such areas, and that owners of large acreages of land should be encouraged to help meet this need.


Mystic Bluffs Airstrip, near Ramah

RUS and “Duty of Care”from

Generally speaking, a Recreational Use Statute (R.U.S.) provides that a landowner owes, to one using his or her  property for recreational purposes and without charge, neither a duty of care to keep the property safe for entry or use, nor a duty to give any warning of a dangerous condition, use, structure, or activity on
the property.

Under prior common law (law made by court rulings), the landowner had different duties of care depending on whether a person was on the land as an invitee, licensee, or a trespasser. The greatest duty of care was owed to an invitee and no duty was owed to an unknown, adult trespasser. Under an R.U.S., recreational users are treated in the same manner as trespassers and thus the landowner owes them no duty of care. The protection of the statute is lost, however, if the landowner charges for the use of the land or if the landowner is guilty of malicious conduct.