EcoFlight’s latest airborne adventure focuses on wilderness proposals | SummitDaily.com

EcoFlight’s latest airborne adventure focuses on wilderness proposals

Randy Wyrick
rwyrick@vaildaily.com

EAGLE COUNTY — There's nothing like an aerial view to broaden your perspective; there's nothing like a hike in the forest to focus it.

EcoFlight flew a group of students from Colorado colleges around Colorado, Utah and Wyoming to observe and hike through wilderness areas.

They're supposed to learn a little perspective.

EcoFlight invites students from in-state colleges to spend a week flying over and walking through wilderness areas — both protected and proposed — and to learn why it should be protected.

The focus of this year's program is the celebration of 50 years of the Wilderness Act. In this area, the students were flown over Eagle, Pitkin, Garfield and Summit counties, where they learned about wilderness areas both existing and proposed.

The students also learned that wilderness is not necessarily silent. They learned this by hiking into the woods and sitting quietly for an extended period of time.

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"They sat in silence and listened to the world," said Michael Gorman, of EcoFlight.

Speaking of perspective, EcoFlight's is clear. The group advocates for the protection of wild lands and wildlife habitat by flying people over them. Gorman said the flights help people see the impacts of activities like oil and gas drilling, mining, water diversion projects, forest clear-cuts, road building and off-road vehicle use.

"Our job is to get people in the air so they can educate themselves," Gorman said.

A week in the air

The students left Aspen last Thursday and spent their weekend collecting their thoughts about wilderness and its place — and ours — in the world. They did presentations on Tuesday at Aspen High School when they returned to Aspen.

"They get exposure to all the issues. By presenting them with the aerial perspective, we hope to broaden their personal perspectives," said EcoFlight's Justin Patrick.

'WHAT WILDERNESS MEANS TO US'

Jessie Dunlop is majoring environmental studies at the University of Colorado.

"We're seeking what wilderness means to us," Dunlop said.

For Emily Denham, nature is therapeutic, something she hopes to use in her chosen vocation.

James White has been out of college for 10 years, working in digital media and broadcast design for Fox Sports, among others.

He also wandered around southeast Asia living on $10 a day. He got sick, got well and got around. He published a couple large format coffee table books about the experience and combined them with his digital background.

Some of his buddies were pilots, and he saw how they were using geographic information systems. He is now studying that at the University of Denver.

He said he'll probably use his presentation as the foundation for his next project.