Newsletter Fall 2007

Oct 26, 2007

Take a Stand Now for Colorado Wilderness

“An area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain” – wilderness as defined in the Wilderness
Act of 1964.


Red table_webNLpk

Sunrise over Red Table Mountain - a Hidden gem in the Colorado
Wilderness Act Proposal of 2007. (c) John Fielder

The importance of wild, open spaces was formally recognized for America by the Wilderness Act of 1964, permanently protecting some of the most natural and undisturbed places in America and to"secure for the American people of present and future generations the benefits of an enduring resource of wilderness".

Only Congress can designate wilderness but anyone can recommend wilderness to his or her elected representatives in Congress. New wilderness designation is now being considered for Colorado and it is time for every citizen and organization to stand up and speak out now to protect our remaining public lands. By acting now, we take a stand for wild places where we can walk the earth untrammeled and where open spaces are preserved for wildlife and the future, and to define clear boundaries on our land where industrialization of the land must stop.

At EcoFlight our primary work is to educate our local communities, their politicians and the press about the issues and to advocate for public lands protection through campaigns such as the Hidden Gems Wilderness Campaign. This wilderness campaign is about protecting our very own White River National Forest, a landscape of national importance, located right here in our own backyard. It is the country’s most visited national forest, and it straddles an ecologically vital portion of the Upper Colorado River watershed. These public lands contain a critical stretch of a continent-scale wildlife migration corridor while providing core habitat for Colorado’s recently reintroduced lynx population.  

EcoFlight is currently working with The Wilderness Workshop flying politicians and press from the Roaring Fork Valley over a spectacular wild area called the Clear Fork Divide (a ‘hidden gem’) which is a roadless area totaling over 120,000 acres. A new pipeline is proposed through this area, which would prevent it from being designated as wilderness.  This is just one of many examples of why we need to ensure that these wild places are designated wilderness before it is too late. At the speed with which BLM is leasing our public lands, too late could be any day now.

There are a myriad of crucial lands in Colorado that need our protection and our support. Congresswoman Diane DeGette’s Colorado Wilderness Act of 2007 will protect more of these gems, such as the sculpted cliffs and lush top of the Roan Plateau, the red rock canyons of Dolores River Canyons, and the vital riparian areas and wildlife habitats of Beaver Creek near Colorado Springs. Also contained in DeGette’s wilderness bill is The Vermillion Basin in Northwest Colorado, which currently has no formal protection. The industry wants access. and unless stopped would turn this wilderness into a landscape resembling its neighbor to the north, the Wyoming Jonah and Pinedale oil and gas fields. This would reduce the beautiful red rock vistas of the Vermillion into a network of roads, drill pads, waste ponds, and pipelines, its wilderness values lost forever.  Currently, only the NE corner of the Vermillion is leased for oil and gas. The remainder of this wild canyon land, with its incredible
collection of petroglyphs and soaring sandstone cliffs should be added to our list of wild places to be preserved for future generations to enjoy. A new pipeline and more oil and gas drilling is not what the popular vote in our valley and state want.


Letter from the President



Dear Friends and Supporters,

Low clouds and snow covered a landscape punctuated by the golden leaves of fall as we got airborne today on our way to the Vermillion basin. Our mission: to video the relatively unknown Little Snake Resource Area. The video will be used along with footage of Adobe Town in Wyoming to create a
virtual aerial educational tour showing pristine areas that are now under threat of oil and gas development. The virtual tour, accessible via the web, is envisioned as another way to inform
citizens and inspire them to speak out.  This is EcoFlight’s mission in a nutshell. We are committed to bringing our unique perspective to the protection of our diminishing public wild lands.  

This summer we have had great success teaming up with national, regional and local organizations that have been bringing press together from around the country and offering workshops and conferences to impart an in-depth briefing on specific issues.  When the presentations are concluded,
EcoFlight flies the reporters over these issues to once again let the land speak for itself.  Recently NRDC brought scientists and reporters from around the country to Yellowstone to discuss impacts of climate change on our nation’s national parks. What better place to speak to this issue than our first
national park, a park that is currently showing severe consequences of climate change with an epidemic level infestation of White Bark Pine Beetle, resulting in whole tracts of forest being killed. Through flight, we were able to locate and document a number of areas that dramatically imparted a
somber visual reality to the scientists’ presentations.  

In another example of this model’s success, Earthworks and the Idaho Conservation League brought together communities, mining interests, conservationists and a gaggle of reporters to attend an evening addressing current attempts to reform the 1872 mining law. The following day, EcoFlight took to the air with the reporters on board to let the mines “speak for themselves”. It was clear from the air that many mines are situated at the head of watersheds, causing water problems that affect wilderness, wildlife and communities. A number of concise articles disseminated this information to thousands of readers across the country. It has always been my contention that if we can see these environmental challenges on the land, see the impacts and what is at stake and learn more about them with our dedicated conservation partners, we will be motivated to speak out and make a quantitative difference in the outcome.   

Bruce Gordon

Get a Load of this one!


Whenever the conversation turns to the 1872 mining law that was created during the time President Grant was in office it becomes almost comical. Comical if the public wasn’t getting cheated out of a fair share of the profits; that insufficient monies have been allocated for the many environmental
catastrophes that have occurred and health standards have been compromised for corporate profits. But now get a load of this one: the federal government is finally offering to purchase Shoshone tribal land deep in the remote Nevada wilderness near the Carlin Trench and Elko. Aside from negating the
Shoshone’s traditional way of life with gigantic mines and their associated challenges, the Feds add insult to injury by offering to buy the land at 1872 prices. Why can’t we find some of those BLM realtors here in Aspen, Colorado?

The U.S. government continues to hand over huge tracts of Shoshone lands, with prospectors being replaced by corporate industrial mining practices with immense consequences. 295 gold mines are currently active on Western Shoshone lands. The largest, run by American Barrick, earns a reported profit of $4 billion dollars per year. Barrick has been mining Shoshone lands without consent and is now expanding into Mount Tenabo and Horse Canyon, areas sacred to the  Shoshone. Though the United Nations Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination ruled last year that no mining could occur on tribal lands without Shoshone permission, Barrick continues unabated. Under the antiquated 1872 Mining Law, corporations can purchase these so-called public lands from the government for as little as $5 a hectare ($2.50 an acre), without owing a penny in royalties for the  
minerals they extract. The area now under attack is central to Shoshone creation stories, their spiritual life and a source for traditional medicines and food.  

EcoFlight put together flights for Shoshone leaders and press over sacred ancient sites and vital traditional cultural grounds as well as the lands and waters that face further development. From the air, the damage wrought by the road system was evident and the nearby Cortez mine showed what a fully developed facility would look like.  It was an ideal aerial educational tour filled with extremely concerned community and tribal members seeing their lands from the air for the first time and sharing their frustration and concerns with the attending reporters.  Everyone came away inspired and
committed to reforming the 1872 mining law that was allowing the destruction to continue.

Between 1995 and 2015, more than half of the gold mined will come from indigenous peoples’ lands, with devastating consequences. After the gold is taken, will people be able to rebuild communities, will wildlife be able to survive depleted streams and aquifers, and a people be able to survive the loss
of their ancient and sacred sources of spirit and sustenance?

The ancestral territory of the Shoshone people stretches from southern Idaho, through eastern Nevada, to the Mojave Desert of California. Underneath this swath of over 60 million acres lie billions of dollars worth of gold.

Prospectors came in the 1840s. Clashes prompted the 1863 Treaty of Ruby Valley between the US government and the Western Shoshone Nation. The treaty allowed settlers to extract natural resources from Shoshone lands, but recognized the Western Shoshone people as the landowner, entitled to royalties for the extractive activities.  

No royalties have ever been paid.


Pinon Canyon Ranchers and the Military Square Off

Pin?on Canyon – should this be the U.S. Army’s new maneuvering training grounds or should the cattle ranchers who have ranched this land for generations have property rights in this military land grab situation?  Should the largest continuous native grassland on the western edge of the Great Plains and the pin?on-juniper woodlands become the tramping ground of tanks and soldiers?

This stunningly beautiful and ecologically rich shortgrass steppe of southern Colorado and northern New Mexico that is being targeted by the Pentagon is the last intact shortgrass prairie in the American Great Plains and is home to thousands of species who depend on its superbly adapted yet fragile
ecosystem.  The region was recently placed on the “Most Endangered Places” lists kept by the National Trust for Historic Preservation because the proposed expansion would destroy this historically and environmentally rich and fragile landscape. Preserving the economy, environment, history and
culture of southeastern Colorado is important not just for those living in the region, but for all Americans.

War has overtaxed our military’s training grounds and the Army is looking for 5 million more acres.  Pin?on Canyon is a 1000 square mile area similar to parts of Iraq and Afghanistan in terrain, therefore ideal in the military’s mind for this type of facility. From ranchers to county commissioners to state
legislators there is an outcry against the landowners of this region being forced to sell their property, probably below market rates.  As the Washington Post proposed in a front page article after our flights over this region, the argument has come down to growing the military presence in Colorado and
businessmen excited about the boost in economy this would bring versus the time honored tradition of generations old ranching and protecting Southeastern Colorado’s unique combination of canyonlands, forested mesas and grasslands.
These lands stretch well into northern New Mexico and cannot be replaced if destroyed, especially as grasslands are the number one most threatened ecosystem on the planet.


EcoFlight Set to Launch New Website

EcoFlight’s new innovative and functional website will
be live online in December 2007. Exciting new features
will help advance our mission of education and
advocacy in promoting a positive vision for America’s
energy future and protecting our public lands.  Look for
our extensive photo gallery of aerial images, virtual
aerial tours of important conservation issues, the
Captain’s Log chronicling current flight missions,
extensive updates on our primary programs and a secure
donations page. The URL will remain the same: Check it out and be sure to let us
know what you think.