Two University of Colorado students will get on a flight next week that will take them on a three-day field trip, touring national parks in the Four Corners region and researching the environmental pressures that they face.
The trip is organized by EcoFlight, an Aspen-based nonprofit. CU students Ashley Basta, a humanities major and Xavier Rojas, an environmental biology major, will be joining students from the Colorado Mountain College on the flight. They are both in CU's International and National Voluntary Service Training Program.
The students will explore the effects of uranium mining in the Grand Canyon -- a topic that has risen to the White House's radar as Interior Secretary Ken Salazar recently placed a six-month moratorium on mining claims in the iconic national park.
They'll also probe the effects of air quality on Mesa Verde National Park resulting from surrounding coal-fired power plants and examine the potential impact that a recently developed coal mine will have on Bryce Canyon National Park and the area's water and air resources, as well as its wildlife.
The trip is EcoFlight's seventh annual “Flight Across America Student Program.”
The students will meet with fellow young adults from Navajo and Havasupai nations to discuss the areas flown over. The students will also fly over the Canyonlands National Park and evaluate the impacts from oil and gas development in the area.
Basta said she plans to take what she learns on the trip and share it with her classmates, as well as hold an information panel and share her findings through social media outlets.
“I'm excited about the opportunity to get a literal overview of what's going on in terms of energy and the environment in the Southwest,” she said. “It's so close to home.”
David Meens, an instructor with INVST Community Studies at CU, said students in the program took a similar flight over Garfield County last summer to look at the effects of natural gas drilling in the area. A group of about 16 students took a week-long trip, touring the area and going on the flight to get a birds-eye view on the final day.
“When you get up in the air, it helps them understand how the landscape and habitat is transformed,” he said.