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EcoFlight offers students unique perspective of Routt County

Bruce Gordon, EcoFlight’s executive director, takes photos during an aerial tour of the Yampa River Basin high above the South Routt landscape. (Photo by John F. Russell)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — College students from around the state got a bird’s eye view of the Yampa and Elk River basins Wednesday morning as part of Flight Across America, a program sponsored by EcoFlight. Bruce Gordon, EcoFlight executive director, is hoping the students walked away from the experience with a better perspective of water issues and what they mean.

“I’ve been doing conservation flying for over 35 years with different iterations,” Gordon said. “The latest one is EcoFlight, and our mission is to educate and advocate for the environment.”

On Wednesday, three planes left Steamboat Springs Airport carrying 12 students, two members of the media and Charlie Preston-Townsend from Friends of the Yampa. The group enjoyed a 20-minute aerial tour over the confluence of the Elk and Yampa rivers, past the slopes of Steamboat Resort to Stagecoach Reservoir and then to the headwaters of the Yampa River in the Flat Tops Wilderness Area.

Three planes with EcoFlight prepare to take to the sky Wednesday morning at the Steamboat Springs Airport. (Photo by John F. Russell)

Eight of the students were part of Flight Across America, which has spent the past three days exploring several river basins in western Colorado, and the rest were students from the sustainability program at Colorado Mountain College Steamboat Springs.

“One of the most impressive things for me was seeing the confluence of the Yampa and Green. We went right over that, and it was really cool to see how different those two rivers were and then seeing them come together,“ said Malcolm MacLeod, who attends Western Colorado University in Gunnison where he is getting a master’s degree in environmental management. “But what really stuck out to me is how much of an impact on the landscape humans can actually have. I thought it was really impressive, and you don’t really get that sense from the ground.”

During the flight, Preston-Townsend narrated the flight over the headsets in all three planes. Once the planes landed, passengers were greeted by Jackie Brown, natural resources policy advisor for Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, and Kelly Romero-Heaney, water resources manager for the city of Steamboat Springs.

The Elk River cuts through the snow-covered Routt County landscape. (Photo by John F. Russell)

The two shared their knowledge of water issues including what is being done locally and across the nation to mitigate water issues that are being fueled by growth and to address drought conditions that were very evident this year.

For Gordon, the flights are a way to start conversations so that tomorrow’s environmental leaders have the background to address many of the problems that are on the horizon.

“I don’t want people looking out the left side of the windows or the right side of the windows,” Gordon said. “I want them looking down at the landscape. I want the land to speak for itself. I want people to educate themselves on what they care about and then have their voices heard.”

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.

College students from around Colorado, including students from the Colorado Mountain College sustainability program listen as Kelly Romero-Heaney, water resources manager for the City of Steamboat Springs, talks about water issues. (Photo John F. Russell)


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