Our Cessna 210 takes off between two gas drilling rigs standing sentinel over the end of the runway at the small airport in Rifle, Colorado. "I am always a little worried about those when the weather is marginal," says our pilot, Bruce Gordon, founder of the conservation flying organization EcoFlight.
I have come along on the flight with Gordon and two wildlife specialists from the State of Colorado to get a view of energy development on the Roan Plateau. The Roan has become a heated battleground in the fight over public lands and energy policy. Gordon knows the area well. He swoops over drilling rigs wedged into hidden canyons and small herds of elk huddled between rigs on the remote plateau, giving us a matchless view of the impacts of the gas industry on one of the largest herds of migratory elk in the world.
"I have flown all across the Intermountain West from southern New Mexico to Canada, and it is the same issue--oil and gas drilling," he says. "The industry gets in, and before people know what is going on it is out of hand."
Gordon has been a pilot for conservation groups since the 1970s, and he formed the Aspen, Colorado-based EcoFlight in 2002. EcoFlight raises awareness of the mounting threats to western public lands by taking decision-makers, stakeholders, the press, students and members of the public up for aerial tours of environmental hotspots, giving them a chance to literally...