March 2015 - Conservation Flying with John Denver

Mar 6, 2015

Day 6 in the month of March, in the Earth calendar year 2015

It was one of those late-winter, early-spring days when the weather cannot seem to make up its mind. What appeared to be the start of a banner snow year turned into one of the warmest winters on record on the Western Slope of Colorado, along with a dearth of snow. I just got off the slopes and got first "rain tracks" as the snow continues to melt and precipitation is in the form of raindrops. Climate warming? Certainly climate weirding.

The mission today is a "drive" to Old Snowmass, to meet up with some old friends who are collaborating on the newest John Denver documentary. As one of John's longtime and dearest friends I was invited to "shoot the s*!" and share stories with a few other character gems. The documentary is focused on getting behind all the hoopla, and share things about the man that many people do not know.

How does this relate to conservation flying? Well, it brought back many memories of aerial educational tours with John as my copilot. One memory in particular was when John piloted his Lear Jet, which we filled with politicians, ministers of Canada, and the press, flying low and slow (140knots) over the clear cuts of Northwestern Washington and British Columbia, highlighting the frightening truth about just how much of the landscape had been clear cut. Or when John was in the right seat as we flew to Baja to meet Jean-Michel Cousteau while he was researching the Gray Whale. En route we helped bring attention to the Vaquita Porpoise, a very small porpoise that only lives in the Gulf of California and which is endangered as a result of entanglement in fishing nets.

John was a tireless voice for the environment, and a leader for 'not-so-popular' causes that he helped bring to mainstream. John was a voice for the future, and it was a voice that carried far and wide due to his fame, and his voice made a difference.


During my interview for the documentary, I spoke about the diversity of EcoFlight's current work for the environment, such as our latest flights bringing back images of the California Desert for wilderness proposals and solar installations,and flights over our beloved Thompson Divide landscape. We also talked about EcoFlight's student program, Flight Across America, that educates young adults, and is dedicated to John. The filming filled me with nostalgia, and also an exuberance and enthusiasm to keep on keeping on, and raise awareness wherever and whenever possible.

In John Denver, we lost not only a great aviator and a great friend, but a voice for the environment.


Bruce Gordon