The program subsidizes airline flights to 171 communities in the continental U.S.

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp says President Donald Trump's call to eliminate subsidized air service to rural communities could hurt three North Dakota cities.

The North Dakota Democrat says the Essential Air Service program makes affordable air travel available in Dickinson, Devils Lake and Jamestown.

The EAS program subsidizes airline flights to 171 communities in the continental U.S. They would otherwise have no air service. Heitkamp says the program helps "keep rural economies vibrant and connected."

Trump's proposal is expected to run into opposition in the Senate, where lawmakers from rural states have helped keep the program alive despite several previous attempts by budget-cutters to kill it.