Backyard Landscapes with SkiCo

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Backyard Landscapes with SkiCo

Date: 05/02/2024     State: CO     Issues: Mining, Oil and Gas, Watersheds, Wild Lands, Wildlife     Airport Origin : Aspen, CO    


Preserve the pristine nature of the greater Roaring Fork Valley. With support from the Aspen Community Foundation and Environment Foundation, we have seen great success for conservation and critical steps towards furthered protections.

We began our flight over Killer 82, where EcoFlight is working with Roaring Fork Safe Passages to kickstart the long-overdue effort to construct a wildlife crossing in the Valley. Wildlife crossings are proven to create a much safer environment for motorists and wildlife, like deer, elk, bear, and countless smaller critters. With the support of the Environment Foundation, we’ve flown to analyze wildlife movements, collect video and imagery of herd movement, and discover where wildlife tend to cross the busy highways, with summer overflights planned to educate county electeds and conservation leaders, as well as generate media to engage the community.

We then followed the Crystal River toward Marble and the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness. The Crystal is one of the last undammed and undiverted rivers in Colorado and a major tributary of the Roaring Fork River, which provides between 6-12% of the Colorado River's annual flow. EcoFlight has been providing overflights to Steering Committee members, press, local government representatives, students, and experts to share the big-picture perspective on the necessity of protecting the Crystal and its local character. EcoFlight is also part of the Crystal River Wild and Scenic and Other Alternatives Feasibility Collaborative Steering Committee, which recently reached consensus on next steps for three potential protection tools for the Crystal River: use of an intergovernmental agreement, a "peaking instream flow" right, and a Wild and Scenic designation. Subcommittees formed to explore the specifics of each of these tools - Lea Linse, EcoFlight's Conservation Program Manager, is co-chair of the Wild and Scenic Subcommittee.

We flew to the newly protected Thompson Divide, roughly 250,000 acres of pristine public lands that are protected from new oil and gas and mining leasing for the next twenty years!

This protection has been a long time coming and has taken decades of advocacy from local communities, businesses, government leaders, and conservation groups, including tireless advocacy and leadership from Wilderness Workshop. EcoFlight has been flying stakeholders over the Thompson Divide since before 2004, when a coalition came together to fight for the preservation of the Thompson Divide. It has been a joy to showcase the Divide’s beauty and diverse values to Colorado’s congresspeople, governors, county commissioners, and city councilmembers, and to finally celebrate the mineral withdrawal for this beloved place.

We flew over the undeveloped Divide to the Piceance Basin, where oil and gas scars  checker the ground. Flying past Mamm Creek, we saw the Mamm Creek natural gas pipeline. The scale of these impacts can be difficult to conceptualize from ground level, but from the air, the expansive network of well pads and their proximity to less affluent communities of color becomes clear. Much of EcoFlight’s recent and upcoming work is focused on educating county officials, state reps, and community and public health leaders about the threats and inequity natural gas development poses to the greater Rifle area.

Thank you Aspen Community Foundation and SkiCo Environment Foundation for supporting EcoFlight’s aerial work to protect the wildlife we love and this special place we call home.

Click for photos from your flight. Click for a collection of Thompson Divide aerial photos or aerial photos of the Crystal River or the Piceance Basin or RVF wildlife tracks.

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