Official EcoFlight page -we educate and advocate for the protection of remaining wildlands and wildlife habitat through the use of small aircraft.
Yesterday we flew over the 416 fire that is burning just north of Durango, Colorado in the Hermosa Creek area. It has burnt over 34,000 acres and is only 37% contained. The fire started on June 1st and caused the evacuation of over 1500 people. Wild fires are expected to be severe this summer with much of the Colorado River Basin experiencing extreme drought exacerbated by dry, windy and hot weather.
In October 2017, Secretary Zinke announced that he aims to scrap the MLP process, calling it a burden on energy companies. Local governments and citizens support the Moab MLP and all the work that has gone into it already, saying it balances energy and recreation interests. Grand County Council sent a letter to Zinke asking him to uphold the locally-driven plan. More than 28,000 public comments were received and considered in developing the final plan. Since the plan was finalized in 2016, the BLM must continue with the MLP as the law of the land. Other MLPs however, have been set aside, freezing progress on proposed plans and restarting leasing in contested areas. #wilderness#publiclands#aerial#aerialphotography#conservation@protectwildutah
This past week EcoFlight has been flying around the Sangre de Cristo mountains in southern Colorado. On the western side of the mountains is the spectacular Great Sand Dunes National Park. On the eastern side are more then 18,000 acres in Huefano County proposed for oil and gas leases that the Bureau of Land Management is auctioning in September. The BLM is only giving 10 days for the public to comment on the proposed leases, announcing what parcels are up for auction on July 20 and ending the comment period on July 30. Drilling could be done on parcels touching the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness Area, and as close as one mile from the boundary of the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. Newly acquired Navajo ancestral property lies to the north, and Navajos consider two mountains in the area to be sacred. These proposed drill sites could potentially harm the Cucharas River and the Huerfano Rivers which are critical water sources for the agriculture in the area.
The High Divide is one of the most important linkage areas in the Northern Rockies, connecting valuable tracts of wildlife habitat: the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, Central Idaho, and the Crown of the Continent ecosystem. Ensuring wildlife can move through the High Divide to any of these core regions is essential to keeping healthy wildlife populations intact. As pressures from development, mining, drilling and human population growth are increasing, there is still an opportunity to restore and protect wildlife habitat and movement corridors on a landscape level through sensibly revising federal land and resource management plans in the High Divide.
On June 8, 1906, Pres. Theodore Roosevelt signed The Antiquities Act into law. It is the first law to establish that archeological sites on public lands are important public resources. It obligates federal agencies that manage the public lands to preserve for present and future generations the historic, scientific, commemorative, and cultural values of the archaeological and historic sites and structures on these lands. It also authorizes the President to protect landmarks, structures, and objects of historic or scientific interest by designating them as National Monuments. The Antiquities Act stands as an important achievement in the progress of conservation and preservation efforts in the United States. In shaping public policy to protect a broad array of cultural and natural resources, the impact of the Antiquities Act is an important tool in conservation. The Grand Canyon - one of America’s iconic natural features, was a National Monument before it was a National Park.
Killpecker Sand Dunes, the largest living dune system in the US. Part of the Red Desert in southwestern Wyoming, they stretch 55 miles east from the Green River Basin across the Continental Divide into the Great Divide Basin and encompass approximately 109,000 acres. A vital function of the dune fields is storing snowmelt and rain which support vegetation and wildlife. Water percolates deep into sand where it is safe from evaporating winds and sun. The Killpecker Sand Dunes of the Red Desert support a wide range of wildlife and vegetation, ranging from elk who use the adjoining sagebrush steppe for shelter to aquatic organisms that thrive in snowmelt ponds. The Red Desert is also home to the world’s largest desert elk herd who depend on the water in the dunes. The dunes support the world’s largest desert elk herd. Additionally, they are also home to mule deer, pronghorn, raptors, and coyotes.
Located on 3,600 acres of U.S. BLM managed land in southeastern California, the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System is a 392 megawatt solar thermal power facility. Thousands of “Heliostat” mirrors are programed to track the sun and point toward a solar receiver. The Ivanpah project is creating clean energy, and over the course of the plant’s 30-year life, it will save 13.5 million tons of carbon dioxide. This renewable energy plant still has its impacts as well and must deal with issues involving native soil and vegetation and habitat for threatened desert tortoises. As with any energy development, Ivanpah must take steps to reduce its impact on the land. Lessons learned from the Ivanpah project will help managers plan better for future projects on a broader landscape level, proper site-selection, research potential impacts, and offset them where possible.
The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act represents the highest form of river conservation in the United States. Enacted in 1968 by Congress to conserve iconic rivers and streams from impoundments such as dams, the act protects water quality and remarkable values such as scenery, recreation, fisheries and wildlife habitat. In Montana, rivers are an economic engine, contributing to the $5.8 billion recreation industry, and attracting visitors from across the world. Yet, while millions of visitors annually flock to Montana to experience the treasure state's river gems, few recognize that the vast majority of Montana's rivers are unprotected from development. As demands on fresh water systems grow throughout the West, the Greater Yellowstone Coalition is working with a coalition of businesses, private land owners, sportsmen, and conservationist groups - called Montanans for Healthy Rivers - to secure new Wild and Scenic River designations and conserve Montana's iconic headwater streams.
The confluence of the Yampa and Green Rivers in Dinosaur National Monument. In 1938, President Franklin D. Roosevelt enlarged Dinosaur National Monument from its original 80 acres to more than 210,000 acres to protect the river corridors and adjacent viewsheds for the major canyons of the Green and Yampa rivers. A new National Park Service (NPS) report shows that 315,589 visitors to Dinosaur National Monument in 2017 spent $18,479,400 in communities near the park. That spending supported 231 jobs in the local area and had a cumulative benefit to the local economy of $20,400,200.
For the past decade, Montanans have worked together to hash out a lasting solution for public lands in the Blackfoot-Clearwater valley. Timber industry reps, snowmobilers, outfitters and guides, and conservationists have collaborated to create a legislative proposal for a landscape-style approach to balancing the needs of timber and restoration, recreation and conservation in the Seeley and Ovando areas in the Southern Crown of the Continent.
In February 2017, Senator Jon Tester announced the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act which will protect 79,000 acres of public land, develop a comprehensive trail plan with access to the Lolo National Forest, open 2,200 acres to snowmobiling, and protect access to 3,800 acres of mountain biking. The bill is the result of over ten years of collaboration between timber industry, sportsmen and women, ranchers and business owners.
The Climax Mine is a molybdenum mine located at the top of Freemont pass near Leadville, Colorado. Molybdenum minerals are used in the process of hardening steel alloys. Mining for molybdenum produces vast quantities of "froth flotation," which are stored in dams that cover many square miles near the site. Although the mine is regulated by the EPA and many other local and federal environmental agencies, many people are concerned about the location of the mine, at the headwaters of our Colorado and Arkansas rivers. Over the past few years, molybdenum has been leaking into Tenmile Creek - which feeds into Dillon Reservoir - a drinking water source for Denver. The mine owners have asked Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to relax the water quality limit for molybdenum in streams used for domestic water statewide to 9,000 parts per billion from 210 ppb, saying that the current limits are too strict.
Saturday, May 19 is Colorado Public Lands day! Get outside and celebrate your lands! Colorado became the first state in the nation to establish a holiday recognizing the value of public lands within the state. The state’s 24 million acres of public land are a defining part of our heritage, identity, and unique way of life. Public lands generate $722 million for the state’s economy and support over 45,000 jobs.