The Thompson Creek Fins, a slice of Utah in the midst of the verdant forests of Colorado's Thompson Divide area.
Thompson Creek Fins, Colorado. (c) Bruce Gordon, EcoFlight 2009.
As we await our passengers I look around at the Glenwood Springs municipal mountain airport and take in the variances necessary from a pilot's point of view. A small short strip with a crick at the approach end and a valley mid field that causes downdrafts when the wind is blowing from the west. A mountain pilot's aerodrome.
I look at my mix of passengers approaching. Tall lanky rancher and cattlemen, a rather large person from the press and thank goodness, from a weight and balance perspective, the organizer from the Thompson Divide Coalition, 5'2" Lisa Moreno.
As we lift off with plenty of room to spare, we fly over roadless areas and the largest dark timber in the White River National Forest - areas that could potentially become gas fields.
Much of the land west of the Crystal River and north of McClure Pass has already been leased for natural gas drilling.
SG Interests, a company that owns leases in Thompson Creek, is currently beginning new production near Paonia, Colorado and has submitted a request to the United States Forest Service to drill a well on the south side of McClure Pass. Development of these leases will have disastrous consequences for the area.
The Thompson Divide Coalition was formed to secure permanent protection from energy development for federal lands in the Thompson Divide area. The coalition is comprised of ranchers, farmers, hunters, fishermen. conservationists and community leaders who live, work and recreate in the area and some of whom depend on these federal lands for their livelihood.
It's a perfect example of the kind of passengers we target to give the land a voice and bring the aerial perspective to an issue we care about.
The passengers remark at each familiar landmark where they literally grew up and comment on potential concerns.
Our flight continues over the Grand Mesa Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests (GMUG) and the controversial Bull Mountain Pipeline which cuts through this area containing the largest number of roadless acres of national forest in Colorado. The Bull Mountain Pipeline looks so much like a road that a local conservation organization filed a lawsuit that had the appeals court finally decide that the pipeline was not a road and was therefore allowed.
We return over the starkly contrasting industrialized area near the Roan gas patch, alerting our passengers as to what could possibly become of their beloved backyard areas.