Kestrel Education Program: Responsible Energy Development

May 30, 2013

As part of EcoFlight's continuing education program, 18 environmental sciences students from Carbondale's Colorado Rocky Mountain School participated in overflights and a discussion of responsible oil and gas development and the Thompson Divide. We were joined by local conservation groups Wilderness Workshop and the Thompson Divide Coalition who are working on the issue for a lively discussion at the Glenwood Springs airport.


The following letter  written by the class appeared in the Aspen Daily News on June 7th, 2013:



Last Thursday, May 30, our AP Environmental Science class from the Colorado Rocky Mountain School went flying with Ecoflight, and got an aerial view of the Roaring Fork and Colorado River watersheds. Our class has been exploring the ecological services and economic benefits of the Thompson Divide and Colorado River watershed.

At the Glenwood Airport, Bruce Gordon, the program’s founder and executive director, and members from the Thompson Divide Coalition discussed the significance of undeveloped land and potential impacts on our communities from drilling in ecologically sensitive areas. After introducing us to the stakeholders and how public land is managed, we were taken up in groups of three to five students to get a new perspective of the landscape above our home in the Roaring Fork Valley. This experiential education brought new meaning to the concept of a “watershed,” as we were able to visually apply our learning from the classroom to our backyard.

The potential for water pollution, soil erosion, habitat fragmentation, loss of economic prosperity from recreation in the area, and depletion of biodiversity became real as we flew over drilling sites in Silt and Rifle. The contrast was evident as we soared above the mountainous Thompson Divide. Junior Harry Hilson shared, “It was interesting to see all of the greenery, plateaus, mountains, and how roads and drilling would affect this.” The general consensus was that the Thompson Divide struck us as a big, lush, undeveloped mid-elevation zone, which is really unique to Colorado. “I was astonished by the vast verdant expanse that is the Thompson Divide” reacted student Woody Hild.

As students and concerned citizens, we feel fortunate to have been provided with this opportunity, and would like to thank Ecoflight and others who are committed to carrying on conservation education in our community. “It was really mind blowing to see what is at stake by any type of development in the Thompson Divide,” closed junior Michael Schumacher.

This experience allowed us to form more educated opinions regarding drilling in the Thompson Divide, in addition to creating an opportunity to connect classroom content with pertinent issues in our community.

Nicole Lipe and the 2013 CRMS AP Environmental Science class