Flight Across America (FLAA) 2013 focused on the multiple designations of wild land protections that exist in today’s era, and the threats that wilderness quality lands are facing in the West. With our college level students, this year’s program took an aerial look at wilderness areas and other public wild lands in Colorado, Utah and New Mexico, with a special look forward to the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act in 2014, a uniquely American idea that wilderness is part of our heritage and a legacy to be passed on to our children.
The flight route this year took us to the Canyons of the Ancients on the border of Colorado and Utah, to National Parks threatened by the industrial ground zero of the San Juan Basin, over the incomparable red rock country of Utah and up north to the snowy, cold and windy North Platte basin on the Colorado/Wyoming border. At every stop on our flight tour we met with groups to discuss all types of wild land protections, from NCAs to WSAs, to National Parks, National Monuments, MLPs, RMPs and of course, the big W, Wilderness.
Since the passage of the Wilderness Act nearly 50 years ago, citizens and conservationists have set aside some of the nation’s most untrammeled landscapes to protect them for their iconic beauty, their religious, cultural, scientific and intrinsic values, opportunities for solitude and the ecosystem services they provide.
Mid and lower-elevation landscapes are ecologically more diverse and provide wildlife with a richer source of food and habitat. Many of these areas were overlooked for their ecological value while other more iconic “rock and ice” locations were given wilderness protection priority. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands, once known as the “lands nobody wanted,” are now some of the most sought after lands in our country and contain not only huge supplies of oil, timber and minerals, but also some of the most unique archeological and ecological resources on the continent.
Some wild lands have since been given other protective designations like National Conservation Areas, Special Management Areas, National Monuments, or no designation at all. Different administrative and legislative designations can protect wild lands from the negative effects of over-development, over-use, pollution and habitat loss.
Protecting and preserving wild landscapes is becoming increasingly important in the nation and in the West. Wilderness protects watersheds that provide clean air and water. Wilderness contains habitat and corridors for wildlife, and is the natural and cultural heritage of our country. Wild lands provide recreational opportunities and are an economic driver for local communities.
Our FLAA 2013 program wrapped up with our students and a diverse group of presenters presenting to a seminar of over 150 students from eight high schools and middle schools in the Roaring Fork Valley.
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