Newsletter - Spring 2017

Jun 5, 2017


Moving Forward on Wyoming Public Lands

EcoFlight is hard at work flying ranchers, snowmobilers, mountain bikers, county commissioners and conservationists over 9 counties in Wyoming as part of the WPLI (Wyoming Publics Land Initiative), looking at both WSAs (Wilderness Study Areas) and non-WSA landscapes that might qualify for some sort of protection. This county-level initiative is a good way to look at lands that have been in limbo for 25 years, and will be a compromise project, hopefully with wins for all parties involved. As outfitter Dan Smitherman shared, these “locally-driven initiatives bring everyone to the table: industry, recreationists and ranchers”. “It’s not about wilderness,” he said, “it's about looking at a landscape and deciding what is the most appropriate way to utilize and protect that landscape.”


Bodie Hills - A linkage between the Eastern Sierra and the Great Basin landscapes

Just east of Yosemite, is a wild and unusual landscape, the Bodie Hills. The area is home to Bodie State Park, founded in 1964 to protect the decaying historic mining town of Bodie, the 3rd largest town in California in 1879 with a population of almost 10,000 people. Then the mining boom went bust. Surrounding the ghost town are bold beautiful hills and mountains, including three WSAs, providing critical wildlife habitat. The southern third of the Hills drains into Mono Basin adding water to Mono Lake, a unique high altitude saline desert lake. The watershed is home to 14 different ecological zones, over 1,000 plant species and 400 recorded vertebrate species – a biologically diverse treasure. EcoFlight is working with locals to highlight these hidden gems and the need to protect them just the way they are for future generations to enjoy. The plane provides a spectacular visual experience from Mono Lake over the rolling Bodie Hills, an intimate view of the ghost town, and a new perspective to the communities of Bridgeport and Lee Vining, with Yosemite towering over the western horizon.


A River in the Desert

The Amargosa Basin, a vast stretch of desert in California and Nevada, is a vital and fragile landscape providing habitat connectivity between Death Valley National Park, Mojave National Preserve and Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge. The lifeline of the basin, the Amargosa River, is unique in that the permanently flowing reaches of the river are fed from springs drawing from a deep, ancient carbonite aquifer. This makes it a reliable source of water in a parched and unpredictable landscape, but also a delicate aquifer that is vulnerable to overuse and hard to recharge. This precious water attracts migrating birds and rare species of wildlife including the endangered Amargosa vole, with a range of only five square miles, making it the most endangered mammal in the country. The area also has plenty of cultural resources, like the historic foot paths of the Shoshone and Paiute, wagon routes of the Mormon Trail, and old railroad beds and mining roads. The basin contains numerous protected areas with varying levels of protection, but wildlife, water and human impacts don’t adhere to boundaries or lines on a map, so EcoFlight is working with the Amargosa Conservancy and Conservation Lands Foundation to advocate for a landscape-level approach to managing the Amargosa.


Partner Spotlight: Ellie Langford

It’s always a treat for EcoFlight to stay in touch with our students from our Flight Across America (FLAA) program, and to learn how the experience impacted them. Ellie Langford participated in our 2016 program, a celebration of the National Park Service centennial, with a challenge to participating students to think about and prepare for the next 100 years of stewardship. Ellie presented her observations to her college faculty and peers, about efforts to protect iconic landscapes like Bears Ears and the Grand Canyon, and a call to action. FLAA inspired Ellie to elevate her activism, “I have always been passionate about conservation biology and restoration ecology, but it was the FLAA program that sparked my interest in public lands and land management agencies.” Ellie recently partnered with local organizations and EcoFlight for her capstone project, conducting field surveys of a property that is being jointly managed by her school, Colorado Mountain College (CMC) and the owner, for ecological sustainability. She is embarking on a two-year joint internship with the US Forest Service and CMC, and plans to continue studying sustainability and restoration ecology in graduate school.


A Letter from the President

This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York island;
From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me.

A great song by Woody Guthrie, and probably more appropriate now than ever before. This song speaks to me about Public Lands, so important to our American way of life and identity, lands that are our primary focus at EcoFlight, and lands which are largely responsible for the health of our environment. Public lands should also represent a sustainable and balanced way of life for our communities, as defined by the mission statements of the BLM and USFS. The recent push by the current administration to review and possibly revoke or shrink national monuments, or sell off federal publiclands is unwise. It is a costly ideological undertaking that makes no dollars and sense, and serves only to benefit drilling and mining industries, and throws the general public under the bus. Balancing resource extraction and the many uses of these extraordinary landscapes is a continuing challenge in our lifetime.


In my opinion there is no better way to see public lands and understand the land than from the air. So, at EcoFlight, we definitely have a perspective and an opinion - which happens to align with another great song, “Let it be, let be, let it be, let it be, speaking words of wisdom, let it be.” These quality lands are worthy of protection.


Our National Monuments are public lands that were researched, surveyed, included plenty of public comment, public scrutiny and public debate, and were subsequently designated and protected for their cultural, historic and significant intrinsic qualities. Whether it is Bears Ears in Utah, Mojave Trails, Sand to Snow, Giant Sequoia, Carrizo Plains and Berryessa Snow Mountain in California, Katahdin Woods and Waters in Maine, Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks in New Mexico, Grand Canyon-Parashant in Arizona, Cascade Siskiyou in Oregon, or Canyons of the Ancients in Colorado, and the list goes on - the thorough input and support in designating these areas was extraordinary. As my friend and noted author Tom Barron declares, “National Monuments greatly benefit local economies and are gifts to future Americans of all descriptions. And they represent the highest and most eternal American ideals, a tremendous boon to our heritage going back to Teddy Roosevelt.”


Educate yourself about this critical issue and have your voices heard.


Best, Bruce