Taking off from the tiny airport in Glenwood Springs, Colo., with four high school students buckled into his Cessna’s back seats, Bruce Gordon interprets the panorama below: A plaid pattern of golf courses and cul-de-sacs abuts roadless mountains. From the vantage of 2,000 feet, Gordon hopes the students will see the contrast between the developed valley and areas that citizens have proposed for wilderness protection.
"Everybody’s got their short-term
agendas," he says over the headsets, referring to oil and gas
interests and other development. "But you have to look at the long
term. Thirty years ago, I didn’t think anything like this
would need to be protected."
Gordon has been piloting
small planes for two decades; for 16 years, he flew with the
international advocacy group Lighthawk, which flies government
officials, scientists and activists over environmentally
contentious areas. "But after flying politicians for 20 years," he
tells these teenagers, "I’ve got to admit, I got fed up with
In 2002, Gordon founded a smaller nonprofit
organization, EcoFlight, in Aspen, and took his message into the
"I’ve had these kids become real
advocates," he says. Some have written to local newspapers and to
their representatives; some have started environmental clubs.
During his school visits, Gordon usually holds a panel
debate on the need for wilderness, then takes the students flying.
While it’s impossible to say if he’s made activists out
of apathetic teenagers, he’s made an impression on at least
one. "We (usually) only see the fronts of the mountains, not behind
them," says Lauren Roberts, a junior from Rifle, Colo. "It’s
way prettier where there’s no roads."
contact EcoFlight at 970-429-1110 or