Issues: Student Education, Watersheds
Partners: American Rivers, Colorado River District, Colorado Wildlands Project, Glen Canyon Institute, Trout Unlimited, Western Slope Conservation Center
Hungry for knowledge, EcoFlight’s eight Flight Across America (FLAA) college students took to the air in search of a big-picture understanding of the water challenges that will define the West in their generation.
We could see education happening – students’ faces pressed against the windows of three small Cessna 210 airplanes over what used to be a lake, Lake Powell, and over the sacred Little Colorado River, threatened by hydroelectric proposals. Their passion was palpable in meetings with experts, including a 12th generation New Mexico resident and dedicated steward of community acequia systems, who shared thetheir story of traditional Norteño communities grappling with federal systems ill-suited to address water needs amidst a changing climate.
The program covered the overarching issue of drought in the West, with focus on areas of critical concern in the Colorado River Basin and Desert Southwest, the systems that govern water use and watershed management, and racial injustices related to water and land.
Through the FLAA program, these students' passion for conservation, equity, and the natural world blossomed into community presentations, educational social media content, and newspaper articles, reaching audiences far and wide.
This is EcoFlight’s 18th iteration of FLAA, which began as a collaborative idea with the late John Denver. Bruce and John originally designed FLAA to bring national attention to conservation issues by bringing celebrity pilots together for an aerial tour, highlighting diverse environmental issues across the country. The trip was to end in Washington, DC on Earth Day, 2000, where the pilots and passengers would talk to our nation’s elected officials, advocating for the protection and conservation of wildlands and waterways.
After John Denver’s passing in 1997, Bruce kept the program alive in honor of John, along with its original name, Flight Across America - but with the focus on students instead of celebrity pilots. FLAA has morphed into a program that touches 100s of students’ lives each year, helping stimulate interest in conservation and leading to life changing career opportunities.