Spring 2018 Newsletter

Mar 27, 2018
50 Years of Wild & Scenic

The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act represents the highest form of river conservation in the country. 50 years ago, Congress passed the law to conserve iconic rivers and streams and keep them free flowing, protect their water quality and remarkable values such as recreation, fisheries, and surrounding scenery and wildlife habitat. The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act now includes over 210 river segments from Maine to Alaska. EcoFlight is using the 50th anniversary of the act to promote the designation of spectacular and threatened river sections deserving Wild & Scenic protection.

Deep Creek

Deep Creek flows from the Flat Tops and Deep Lake through one of Colorado's most spectacular and rugged canyons before it joins the Colorado River. Deep Creek was found to be the only creek "suitable" for Wild and Scenic designation by both the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service. The canyon is one of the most unique and truly pristine untouched environments left in Colorado. It is home to several very rare plant communities, the largest complex of caves in the western US, and the scenery is outstanding. A Wild & Scenic designation by Congress will protect this unique ecosystem, prohibit dams and inappropriate development or potential mining, grant a quarter-mile protective buffer around the stream, and require a management plan to guide protection of its natural and recreational values while respecting private property and water rights. EcoFlight will be working in 2018 with Colorado's US Senators, the Governor's office, and American Rivers to help highlight the benefits of this designation.
The Crystal River

The gorgeous free flowing Crystal River in western Colorado sustains diverse fish and wildlife populations, and is literally the lifeblood for local ranching communities, while providing outstanding natural beauty for residents and visitors. EcoFlight has been instrumental in educating the Gunnison County Commissioners with overflights and the urgent need to propose protections in unincorporated portions of their county, as well as in Pitkin County. The Environment Foundation,
a local employee based foundation, has supported EcoFlight in their mission to help protect the Crystal. The river is eligible for federal Wild & Scenic designation, which will protect non-consumptive use for critical fish and wildlife habitat, and consumptive uses essential for agricultural and municipal needs. A designation will also benefit local economies, agriculture, recreation and the environment, and provide additional leverage for funding river restoration projects.
Montana - Leading the Way

Montana has played a historic role in the creation of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. In the 1950s, two Montana biologists - Frank and John Craighead - were inspired to help craft the legislation while fighting to protect the Middle Fork of the Flathead River from a proposed dam. Rivers are an economic engine in Montana, contributing to the $5.8 billion recreation industry and attracting visitors from across the world. While these rivers attract millions of visitors a year, most people don't realize that the vast majority of Montana's rivers are unprotected from development. Only four river segments are designated as Wild and Scenic in Montana.

As climate change and population growth put increasing demands on fresh water systems in Montana, EcoFlight is working with the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, American Rivers and a coalition of businesses, private land owners, sportsmen, and conservationist groups to secure new Wild and Scenic River designations for iconic rivers and streams in western Montana including parts of the Flathead, Madison, Gallatin and Yellowstone Rivers, and east Rosebud Creek, in southeast Montana.
Partner Spotlight: Charles Drimal

EcoFlight is always thrilled to work in the northern Rockies - and especially with the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, an effective conservation organization that has flown with Bruce for 30+ years. For the past eight years, the Greater Yellowstone Coalition has been working with Montana businesses, land owners, watershed groups, sportsmen and conservationists to designate new Wild and Scenic Rivers in MT through a coalition called Montanans for Healthy Rivers.

Charles Drimal is a passionate outdoorsman who works specifically for GYC on securing protection for Montana's key rivers. Charles shared with us how the aerial perspective is an inspiring platform for diverse stakeholders: Flights over the Gardiner Basin, Bear Creek, and the Boulder River provided the perfect bird's-eye view for a Park County commissioner, lodge owner, realtor, and wildlife tourism guide to converse about the value of keeping Montana's headwater streams clean and free-flowing. EcoFlight has played a key role in telling the visual story about the upper Yellowstone River and the social fabric of landowners, business owners and county government officials who are invested in seeing this iconic stream protected as a future Wild and Scenic River. Thanks in part to the work of Charles and GYC, the BLM in March 2018 deferred oil and gas leases that would threaten the Yellowstone River.
President's Letter
The snowflake floats delicately down to the surface of the planet. I am near the South Pole where the snow drifts and piles up in varied knolls and mounds. As the seasons come and go it gets compressed, forming the ice shelf and the glaciers. Year after year the cycle repeats itself, thousands of years layering upon thousands more. Technology now allows us to drill into the core and reach the tiny bubbles of air trapped in these layers, and gives us an accurate scientific reading of our climate story.

You may ask, why these ruminations? I am just back from an Antarctica ski adventure where I can testify that the climate is definitely changing. The snow was surprisingly dense and saturated like our ski slopes are on the final days of spring skiing. The veterans on this remote continent have never seen anything like these last few years of warming temperatures and rain. It seems like there is water, water everywhere, but lately not a drop to drink in many places.

I think of this now as we are celebrating and scheduling flights for the 50th anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. The historic efforts to preserve our wild and scenic heritage are etched in some remarkable river landscapes in the USA, but it will take a concerted and bipartisan approach to enact more of these protections. Especially as our planet warms.

Our work on rivers dates back to the inception of conservation flying, documenting remote rivers in the Arctic Circle down to heavily tapped rivers in Latin America, always filling the plane with a diverse mix of passengers. Former Colorado Rep. Scott McInnis (Republican) flew with us over Deep Creek 20 years ago to consider protecting this wild and scenic watershed near Eagle Vail, CO. Deep Creek didn't get protection back then due to politics, but is still in the mix going forward for designation, and now has USFS and BLM buy-in, and currently has great support.

Using the 50th as leverage, we will be celebrating some of our country's most important waters, and pushing hard for protections on our last free-flowing rivers. Water is life, with rivers as the veins and arteries of our planet, and the presence of water in all its many forms in Antarctica reaffirmed for me how critical it is for us to protect our last remaining sources of fresh water.
We are called the Blue Planet after all.
Best, Bruce