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Meet VP Bob Peterson

Of the many aircraft Bob flew for the Department of Interior, among his favorites was the De Havilland Beaver. Beavers are known for dependability, excellent carrying capacity and able to get in and out of tight places, like Portage Lake in Lake Clark National Park, AK pictured here.

 What’s the best way to get around our largest state? Talk with Alaskan outdoors enthusiasts and they will tell you it’s by plane. For LightHawk volunteer pilot Bob Peterson (Boise, ID), airplanes played a key role in his work throughout Alaska for the National Park Service (NPS) developing well-managed parks and monuments for all of us to enjoy.

Bob Peterson first volunteered for LightHawk in 1994 after retiring from the Department of Interior as director of the Office of Aircraft Services. In this role, he oversaw aircraft and pilots flying for NPS, Bureau of Land Management, and other Interior branches who mobilized biologists, rangers and pilots in their work.

 For 19 years, Bob and his wife Anita flew their own Cessna 180 mostly on floats. The 180 gave the Petersons access to Katmai National Park, Alaska.

Continuing the conservation flying he started during his 35-year career, Bob has flown LightHawk missions in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. He also migrated south to fly in Belize, and Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula and Veracruz region.

 Peterson donated a flight over the proposed Boulder-White Clouds area. Image: Alexandria Bombach/ICL/LightHawk

Volunteering for LightHawk helps Bob continue to focus his piloting skills and long career in natural resource management in support of conservation issues. He says the aerial perspective, “changes the participants’ view to a 3D vision, rather than the limited or narrow view normally seen from the earth’s surface”.

Asked about a favorite LightHawk flight, Bob replied, “in my view they are all memorable”. After a few minutes, he shares his most satisfying experience flying for LightHawk.  “[It was] a wading bird survey in Yucatan's Sian K'ian Biosphere Reserve. This was on my second Yucatan trip and the previous year I had questioned my biologist passengers about the non-native tree Casurina (Australian Pine) invading the beaches.”

Flamingos take flight along Mexico’s Yucatan coastline. Image: Chris Boyer/

This was an issue Bob had seen first hand in Everglades National Park during his assignment there as chief ranger. “Casurina destroys natural beaches, wrecks sea turtle nesting sites, and it was widespread in Sian K'ian,” recalls Bob. “To my real surprise, this year, they directed us to survey their very impressive Casurina control efforts. Lots of dead trees! It was a real testimony to what the dedicated folks in the Yucatan do with a lot of determination and few resources.

Bob has donated flights to LightHawk helping dozens of conservation partners since 1994. He also served on LightHawk’s Board of Directors guiding governance and planning. Bob continues to fly for LightHawk in his Cessna 182 out of KEUL, Caldwell Industrial near Boise, where he lives with his wife, Anita.