Newsletter - Summer 2016 - NPS Centennial

Jul 18, 2016
Happy Birthday National Park Service!
100 years ago cars were rare, horseback was the preferred mode of transport, telephones had just been invented, and radio programming was a thing of the future, yet our most unique wild landscapes in the West were already recognized as areas worthy of protection. In August 1916 the Organic Act was passed creating our National Park Service (NPS).
The Grand Prismatic Spring is Yellowstone's largest hydrothermal feature - evidence of Yellowstone's active supervolcano status. The iridescent pigments are caused by bands of microbes that thrive in these warm waters.

Today technology has radically changed much of our way of dealing with the world and, thanks to the vision of Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, millions of people get to visit these landscapes and cultural gems of the NPS. Using our modern technology of travel, even those who are physically impaired can get to these distant landscapes, and enjoy the solitude and magnificent scenery of icons like Bryce and Grand Canyon, Yellowstone and Yosemite, and lesser-known parks like Harriet Tubman (Maryland) and Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers (Ohio) National Monuments.

At EcoFlight we are working closely with partners and stakeholders across the West to ensure that this 100-year birthday party is more than just a celebration. Our collaborative outreach will help inspire our youth, Latinos, urban dwellers and octogenarians to marvel at our national parks and hopefully to positively impact their lives.
However, we need to pay attention, because our national parks are now, in 2016, threatened by both budget neglect and climate change. The timing of this centennial is an opportunity to spotlight both our popular and also the lesser-known crown jewels of our country, and to advocate for their continued protection.
Sand to Snow National Monument (154,000 acres) offers some of the most biologically diverse habitat in the country, providing critical linkages between the San Gorgonio Wilderness, Joshua Tree National Park and the San Bernardino National Forest.
California Desert Protected!
Route 66, Marble Mountains, desert tortoise and bighorn sheep - these are some of the historical, ecological and geological treasures that can be found in the recently established national monuments in the California Desert. In February, under the authority of the Antiquities Act, the president established three new national monuments with strong bipartisan support. From the air it is easy to see how all these landscapes fit together to form the greater desert ecosystem. EcoFlight provided the critical aerial perspective to help build support and to highlight this designation, including press overflights the week before they rolled out the announcement. The Monuments consist of Castle Mountains (20,920 acres), which contains some of the finest Joshua tree, piñon and juniper forests in the desert; Mojave Trails (1.6 million acres), that links the Mojave National Preserve to Joshua Tree National Park and existing wilderness areas, and includes vital wildlife habitat and corridors and important Native American cultural sites, and Sand to Snow (in the photo above).
Idaho's High Divide - Linking Ecosystems in Greater Yellowstone

Picture mixed herds of pronghorn, elk and mule deer moving across the landscape, grizzlies and wolves fighting over an elk carcass, a lone wolverine traversing a snowy ridge - all of this and more are glimpses of the High Divide, one of the most important wildlife linkage areas in the Northern Rockies. The High Divide connects valuable tracts of wildlife habitat between the well-established and relatively protected ecosystems of Greater Yellowstone, Salmon-Selway and the Crown of the Continent. It is critical to ensure these corridor links are protected to safeguard intact and healthy wildlife populations.

As a changing climate threatens to push species northward and uphill, and a growing human population places more demands on wildlands, the future sustainability of these Northern Rockies ecosystems will depend on this connectivity. This will bode well for a more diverse mix of genetic material across a group of animals; resulting in stronger, healthier and more adaptable wildlife populations. As pressures from development, mining, drilling, and human population growth are increasing, this is an opportunity to restore and protect wildlife habitat and movement corridors in this broad and critical region of small mountain ranges, valleys and sagebrush steppes. EcoFlight, our conservation partners, public and federal land managers, local communities, scientists, foundations, and private land owners are working hard to highlight the true conservation value this landscape plays in the Northern Rockies.


Partner Spotlight: Ty Churchwell
Sportsmen and women add a powerful voice to conservation and are essential stewards for the future of wildlands in the U.S. EcoFlight has been privileged to work for many years with Ty Churchwell, the San Juan Mountains Coordinator for Trout Unlimited, on issues ranging from wilderness designation and watershed integrity to acid mine waste. From his home in Durango, CO, Ty shared the following thoughts with us, "Our founding principles were first articulated by Theodore Roosevelt in the early 1900s - so sportsmen are often considered the original conservationists. Habitat, whether primitive backcountry or cold, clean mountain waters, is the foundation of our passions. Without quality habitat, sporting endeavors would cease to exist. To ensure excellent habitat exists today for the species we covet, and for tomorrow's hunters and anglers, it is imperative sportsmen and women play a lead role in conservation".  EcoFlight continues to work with Ty and his fellow sportsmen and women as they push for meaningful action on mine clean-up, and monitor water quality along the Animas River, the site of the 2015 Gold King mine spill.
Letter From Our President
My first introduction to a national park came at a very late age while based at the infamous Camp 4 and climbing in Yosemite. I was surrounded by real wilderness, towering granite cliffs and extensive meadows. Little did I know that hanging on those precious rocks would change my life. This was back in the 70s and I quickly became a fan and fanatic when it came to exploring our National Park system. I began to live in pursuit of all the good things I found in those parks - incomparable beauty, life challenges, and friendships carved in stone.
Yellowstone became my favorite and I am proud to say I played a small part in wolf reintroduction with conservation flying, helping to restore Yellowstone to a fully functional ecosystem. Yellowstone was our inaugural national park, established in 1872 by Congress to protect it from settlement. However, it was not until 1916 when the National Park Service was created that the concept of conservation became mainstream. More than 3 million visitors pass through this park annually and hopefully they take away a sense of peace, prosperity and abundance, as do I.
The National Park system has developed into a public lands treasury that in my opinion epitomizes what is best about our country. Nowhere else in the world does a system exist that was created for the people and by the people to protect some of the most spectacular settings on the planet. These lands are critical for our wellbeing, for wildlife, and as buffer zones against climate change. As historian Dayton Duncan said at a recent WGA meeting, "each one of you is the owner of stunning mountains and breathtaking canyons. They belong to you. And all that is required in return is that you put it in your will for your children so that they can have it too."
These iconic lands have their challenges like many of the public lands that EcoFlight works on. It is imperative that we allocate enough money and resources and attention to these lands that benefit the citizens to whom they all belong. Challenges to the parks will remain, whether it is too many visitors, natural resource extraction on park perimeters, or even wild schemes to give our national lands back to the states. EcoFlight is doing our part, highlighting the importance and splendor of our National Park system with the aerial perspective, and our ultimate goal is that this extraordinary legacy becomes everlasting.

Bruce Gordon