October 2017 - Strange Bedfellows

Oct 2, 2017
Captain's Log Starship 1XE, day 18 in the month September, Earth Calendar year 2017.
Lots of traffic
(Click for more photos)
One of the more interesting aspects of flying is reading an aviation chart. Even though paper maps are fast becoming archaic, soon to be found only in time-capsules, the apps on our iPads still need to be interpreted and understood. Along with topographical designations and airport symbols and relevant elevation markings, there are boundaries that represent where and how high you can fly. There are not many restrictions in US airspace compared to most other countries and hence there is a sense of freedom, especially when flying in the less populated areas of the West. However, there are lines drawn in the "air" that you cannot cross. Restricted airspace is verboten and military operations take precedent.
On our latest flight mission to the Mojave Desert, we encountered a great deal of these restrictions. Over the recently created Mojave Trails National Monument, there are restricted areas galore. So, it made for an interesting day. My iPad lit up with all kinds of red and blue lines and kept me on the lookout for F/A-18 Hornet jets flying at 1,190 mph above a stirringly beautiful brutal landscape. Hopefully none of our passengers, consisting of military liaisons, federal land managers, wildlife experts, reporters and conservationists, noticed my neck constantly swiveling from outdoor scanning to in-cockpit iPad-viewing, monitoring all the traffic alerts.
The Mojave Trails National Monument was established in February 2016, and protects irreplaceable historic resources including ancient Native American trading routes, World War II-era training camps, and the longest remaining undeveloped stretch of Route 66. Additionally, the area has been a focus of study and research for decades, including geological research and ecological studies on the effects of climate change and land management practices on ecological communities and wildlife.
It is also one of the monuments being reviewed by Secretary Zinke, who recently uttered some disconcerting rhetoric, "public lands are best suited for drilling and mining, while solar energy should stick to rooftops." Hmm, silly me, as I thought the head of the Interior would adhere to his department's mission statement in managing our public lands, " The Bureau of Land Management's mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America's public lands for the multiple use and enjoyment of present and future generations." The Department of Interior is therefore clearly mandated to manage our public lands for ALL uses, not just for resource extraction.
At EcoFlight, we encourage a balanced view on our public lands, and the aerial perspective inspires our passengers to stay open minded. Our flights reflected the multiple use attitude of different interest groups. It might seem unlikely that conservationists and the military have similar values, but this is what we love about our work at EcoFlight - that we get to fly wildly diverse yet collaborative passengers, all working for the same end result, to protect the striking landscapes, a heritage of cultural resources, and keep endangered species viable. Military missions in the California Desert region are reliant on the health of natural resources and undeveloped landscapes to preserve realistic battlefield conditions and to protect the integrity of their operations from encroachment. Vigilant oversight of renewable energy and urban development, transmission lines, recreational use, mining activity and wildlife management results in mutual benefits for both conservation goals and the military's mission.
Bruce Gordon