Captain's Log Starship 1XE, Day 22 in the month of March in the Earth Calendar Year of 2017 and Starship 1XE is "ready for departure".
Well that was certainly plan A, but as aviators and EcoFlighters we always strive to have a plan B or maybe even a C. This was going through my mind as mission day approached. Our mission was to fly a diverse mix of passengers out of Salida, a small vibrant town south of Buena Vista, Colorado. Salida is a mountain town that has resisted the urge to gentrify and hence retains its bucolic rural ambience offering recreational opportunities galore and some pretty darn good restaurants.
Starship 1XE was still in the shop for its annual inspection. So onto plan B. Gary Kraft who flies many of EcoFlight's missions when not busy with his primary business, the premier flight school in Aspen, is our Plan B. Gary has been flying for us more and more as the demand for our unique brand of conservation grows, especially with the challenges these days under the new administration. A quick call to Gary and no problem. Right? Wrong! Unfortunately Gary had a scheduling conflict so on to plan C. Skip Behrhorst is one of our Board members, and he quickly agreed to lend me his plane, so plan C it was.
We took off from Aspen as early as airport curfew would allow and caught the sun just as it began to illuminate the early morning with the glorious light of a high mountain dawn. The sunlight flowed like a river over the high peaks and frozen Taylor reservoir. The sheer majesty of it all reminded me of a couple of weeks ago when Janey and I flew for Mountain Rescue after a recent winter storm looking for where a climber had fallen off Pyramid Peak. We didn't find his route but we did see how he ingeniously stomped out an S.O.S. in the snow (photo to right) just before MRA found him.
But I digress...back to Salida. We had 4 flights filled with interested and interesting souls ranging from a veteran to the mayor of Poncha Springs, to press and local business owners. The BLM is currently revising its management plan for 668,000 acres of public lands along the Arkansas River, known as the Eastern Colorado Resource Management Plan. The plan essentially determines how this land will be managed for the next 20-30 years. And this terrain is some of the finest Colorado's Front Range has to offer. Our flights surveyed the rugged terrain and highlighted priority areas for conservation in the plan - such as Bighorn Sheep Canyon, Badger Creek and Echo Canyon.
Echo Canyon, Table Mountain "Lands with Wilderness Characteristics"
The plan is in the "scoping period" and public input will help drive the direction of the plan and hopefully protect the incredible value of these lands when they are left to their own devices, and we encourage our passengers and readers to jump in on the action here.
This type of issue is particularly important considering how Washington is dealing with our public lands in the new Trump era. The BLM recently introduced a long-overdue revision to its planning process called Planning 2.0, to increase local public participation and involvement in the management of our public lands. The Congressional Review Act allows fast track disapproval of regulatory rules issued by federal agencies by hitting the delete button on many of the previous administration's recent bills.
Before President Trump took office, the CRA was a rarely used tactic, successfully used only once. Congressional Republicans dusted it off and have already successfully overturned seven Obama-era regulations, with six more awaiting the President's signature, and devastating consequences for the environment of the USA. In the case of the BLM's Planning 2.0, the BLM will now have to return to their outdated planning rule established 35 years ago. Other rules protecting our public health that the administration is throwing out the door, along with transparency, are the stream protection rule for coal mining and the resource extraction rule, and they have their sights set on the methane waste rule.
Under an administration that is hostile toward the environment, it is important for the citizens to pay attention and show congress they still have a mandate to protect our wild places.