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How LightHawk's Supporters are Saving the Earth From Slime to Saved When LightHawk flights lead to presidential actions When you think of Florida’s beaches, you probably don’t imagine them abandoned, full of dead fish, and giving off toxic gas. That’s exactly what happened in 2018 as Florida experienced the worst red tide algae bloom since 2006. Not only was the sea suffering from the poisonous microscopic creatures, but lakes and rivers too...Read More »
Thank you for being our hero! Your humanitarian compassiona nd generous support has made LightHawk indispendable to the conservation partners and projects we support! Your generosity supports hundreds of conservation missions and projects from coast to coast. Triple Match ! There's never been a better time to give because our board of directors has agreed to match every gift, up to $40,000, if received by December 31, 2018, and our volunteer...Read More »
LightHawk flew three endangered Mexican Wolves between the Midwest and New Mexico to help enrich the species' gene pool and reintroduction efforts.Read More »
Dear LightHawk Friends, The earth can't tell its own stories. LightHawk does. We have stories because of our supporters, and we are deeply grateful for their support. Water Scarcity & Quality Rowene Aguirre-Medina grew up in both Mexico’s Mexicali Valley and the Imperial Valley of California, where her grandfathers pioneered and settled beginning in 1908. Drawn there originally by the Colorado River and the economic opportunities associated...Read More »
Did you receive the LightHawk paper airplane in the mail? Here's a handy video which you can follow along with if you run into trouble. Want to print the plane from home and try it out? Here's the PDF .Read More »
Merry Schroeder
LightHawk is proud to share that Merry Schroeder , a steadfast Volunteer Pilot, Board Member, Donor and all around LightHawk champion was recently selected as the 2018 National Aeronautic Association Distinguished Volunteer Pilot . Merry will be presented this award on 27 November at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, Virginia at a formal dinner. Merry's friends and family will be present, as well as a small cadre of LightHawk supporters...Read More »
small plane, general aviation
LightHawk: Destination Conservation We're thrilled to star in an hour long PBS documentary about LightHawk and conservation! Watch online for free. Full version available: Share with all your friends! Show them why LightHawk is awesome.Read More »
An orchard under an agricultural conservation easement hugged by Colorado's Gunnison River. Credit: Colorado West Land Trust
LightHawk flew for conservation in so many ways this summer! An orchard under an agricultural conservation easement is hugged by Colorado’s Gunnison River. In a drought year riddled with wildfires, aerial monitoring of conservation lands reduces the risk of sparking a fire and the dangers that follow. Jeremy Puckett/CWLT Smokey Bear is Proud of Us! LightHawk Helps Fire-Ravaged West Colorado shared a disastrous fate with many Western states this...Read More »
When Oil Spills, We’re First on the Scene When a section of the Keystone pipeline burst spilling more than 210,000 gallons of oil onto the South Dakota prairie, LightHawk sprang into action. Working hand-in-hand with our national partner the Waterkeeper Alliance and tribal leaders from Dakotas for America, we assembled flights over the spill, allowing for a thorough assessment of potential damage to groundwater resources and the best way to...Read More »
Taking Flight After Irma’s Devastation In the wake of Hurricane Irma’s devastation of southwestern Florida, we are providing critical flights to help our local partners understand the immediate and long-range impacts to the environment. We flew with Everglades Foundation ecologist Steve Davis who discovered a jarring sight: immense floating islands of dead seagrass – critical to maintaining the Everglades’ health – were strewn by Irma “as far as...Read More »
A while back I was walking through the Novato, CA airport when a corporate jet pilot and I shared a glance. “Hey, LightHawk! I know them,” he said, gesturing to my prized LightHawk jacket. He regaled me with stories from his time flying for LightHawk back in the early 1980s when we employed staff pilots. We chatted about common friends, and he learned how our ranks have grown and our work expanded. As I opened my copy of our most recent Annual...Read More »
It was dark when I got out of bed and still before 6:00 am when I pulled onto I-25. I was headed to the airport for my first LightHawk flight on my fifth day as the organization’s Western Program Director. Sure, I had been on plenty of flights in my grandfather’s planes when I was a kid, but this would be my first time in a small aircraft since. Our pilot, Stephanie Wells, was once a NASA pilot, so my nervousness wasn’t so much about the flight...Read More »
Join us in congratulating the following pilots on completing their first flights with LightHawk! We are so tremendously grateful for all of our pilots, especially those who are new to our family. David Harris Area: Torrance, CA Date: 6/19/2017 Partner: Heal The Bay Mission: This flight helped educate newly appointed Fish and Game Commissioner Anthony Williams. Mr. Williams serves on the Commission which has regulatory authority over sport...Read More »
It’s not just elbow room — it’s a matter of survival. Arizona’s Sun Corridor will double in population by 2040. One of America’s fastest growing areas is also one of its most environmentally-sensitive, increasing pressure on a North American gem – the Sonoran Desert. The area has some of the greatest diversity of life of any North American desert and a landscape diversity rivaling all others. Smart growth is a life and death matter with wildlife...Read More »
The Delaware River carries a heavy load. Each drop of this river is reused 20 times. And while its footprint is less than one percent of the nation’s land, it provides drinking water to five percent of the nation’s population — more than 15 million people. The burden, however, was once much heavier — the river ranked as one of America’s most polluted rivers. But the Delaware has made a scrappy comeback. LightHawk flies extensively in this area...Read More »
The red knot is an extraordinary flier. In the course of its life, it may migrate farther than the distance to the moon. But it cannot out-fly the threats along its path. The red knot and similar shorebirds are showing the most drastic declines of any group of birds. Human disruption, habitat loss and degradation, and climate change are among the top threats that put these birds at extreme risk. Already, populations across the Americas have...Read More »
In addition to raising awareness about the effects of climate change, king tide flights provide a window into the future for land managers to see what the “new normal” for wetlands in their charge may look like with sea level rise. Photo: Robert Siegel / San Francisco Baykeeper / LightHawk
Seeing is believing. It’s hard to show people the potential of how climate change will impact their daily lives. But for the millions who make their home and livelihood on our nation’s shores, the world’s largest environmental threat is becoming real faster than ever with sea levels anticipated to rise up to three feet in the next 50 to 100 years. LightHawk has flown 12 missions since 2014 to photograph king tides along the Pacific coast. These...Read More »
New England Forestry Foundation staff said the aerial perspective was “incredibly valuable” to put the conservation project in perspective with the larger landscape. Photo: Jonathan Milne / LightHawk
The future is in the forests. Forests are critical to our health and wellbeing. But forest cover across New England steadily declines each day as development and unsustainable forestry practices take a bite. More than 100,000 acres will be buzz-sawed for urban uses each year over the next three decades, reports say. Forests conserved at the landscape level safeguard wildlife and the ecosystem, as well as human health with pure water, clean air...Read More »
Today is a great day! We are thrilled to report to you that the once endangered manatee is on a path to recovery and is no longer officially considered “endangered.” While our fight to save this gentle, yet still-threatened creature isn’t over, we’re happy to know that together, with your on going support, we have truly made a difference. Since 2001, we have flown more than 80 missions to save the manatees in Mesoamerica and in Florida’s...Read More »
Friends — Many of our friends and supporters have asked me, “What does the new federal administration mean for LightHawk’s work? If you follow conservation and environmental organizations, there’s a lot of noise and motion gearing up for anticipated events. Internally, we’ve had great discussions, and I wanted to share our thinking. In considering LightHawk’s role, I’m reminded of what our fundamental value has always been — we show reality. Our...Read More »
A Note from LightHawk CEO Terri Watson: We’re wrapping up the end of year “giving season” that is the lifeblood of every non-profit, especially smaller ones that depend on the fervent support of dyed-in-the-wool loyal supporters to keep doing the good works that we all love. It’s a fantastic time of year. Each gift, each contact, reaffirms your belief that our work matters, that we make a difference. And that — your trust, your faith — is why I...Read More »
Comb Ridge inside the newly designated Bears Ears National Monument. Photo: Tim Peterson with aerial support by LightHawk
Welcome to 2017. Things may look a little clouded for conservation right now, but we wanted to share a few big wins we’ve had in hopes of keeping your spirits up. In the last few months, we’ve seen the creation of a massive national monument, the passage of a funding bill that will help restore the Everglades and the temporary removal of a stunning area from mining consideration. Bears Ears National Monument In late December, President Obama...Read More »
The proposed Enbridge pipeline would have been built less than 10 kilometers north of this location. Photo by Neil Ever Osborne. Aerial photography was made possible by LightHawk and pilot Steven Garman.
The Canadian government has officially put the last nail in the coffin of a plan to carry Alberta tar sands oil through a new 730-mile oil pipeline dangerously close British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest. LightHawk has flown several missions to both support the protection of the Great Bear Rainforest and against the proposed pipeline. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the Enbridge-backed Northern Gateway pipeline, running from near...Read More »
Dawn arrives upon the newly protected Boulder-White Clouds wilderness. Photo: Alexandria Bombach/Red Reel Video
It was daybreak and Dani Mazzotta climbed aboard. Her LightHawk pilot that day, Michael Schaffer, lifted her gradually until the signs of humanity — roads, houses, power lines — began to disappear. Ahead were the Boulder-White Cloud Mountains in central Idaho, one of the largest intact roadless areas in the country lacking permanent protection. Her role with the Idaho Conservation League is to safeguard central Idaho’s clean water, clean air and...Read More »
 The High Divide straddles Idaho and Montana, is the headwaters of two major watersheds and is an essential wildlife corridor in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem. As one of LightHawk’s Strategic Initiatives, the High Divide area is home to many important issues, including protecting land corridors, open spaces, river health and wildlife migration. Photo: Courtesy of The High Divide film
“You don’t want to be part of something that’ll be lost in your generation.” Merrill Beyeler couldn’t believe the news about the stream flowing through his ranch. The eastern Idaho basin where he lives was once rich in salmon, but in 1995 only five were counted making the 900-mile inland migration. That incredible journey takes the salmon on a 6,500-foot climb to reproduce — higher and farther than any other fish on earth. Seeing only a handful...Read More »
The Colorado River is LightHawk's newest strategic initiative. We're dedicated to ensuring this mighty, yet endangered river can support the 16 million jobs and $1.4 trillion in annual economic activity it generates despite increasing demands.
"Where will the next bucket of water come from?" Summer Waters couldn’t stop thinking about it. As she boarded a LightHawk flight over Colorado’s Front Range, the fact that the Colorado River is the most endangered river in America kept coming to mind. And seeing the watershed from the air reinforced her desire to make a difference. “These flights confirmed the incredible demands being placed on the Colorado River Basin, which will force tough...Read More »
By Greg Bedinger Pilot Outreach Manager As many of you have probably heard by now, the Department of Transportation has issued an Emergency Order , effective October 15, 2016, forbidding the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 from being brought onto any Flag carrier in the United States. The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 has a battery that can experience what is called a "thermal runaway" resulting in excessive heat and ultimately a fire. The Federal Aviation...Read More »
Please welcome our new volunteer pilots to the LightHawk family. In 2015, our network of pilots flew more than 400 missions, getting 1,634 eyes in the sky over 99 projects with 129 partnerships. Chris Keithley Hometown: Rosamond, CA Aircraft: Bonanza BE35 Profession: US Air Force test pilot at Edwards AFB Paul Armstrong Hometown: Montague, CA Aircraft: Piper PA-28 Cherokee Profession: Semi-retired, developing a sustainable farming project Ryan...Read More »
By Ryan Boggs Chief Program Officer A formal and structured business plan to save the world. That’s what I realized was really taking shape after being immersed for six days at the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s World Conservation Congress. Being that LightHawk is a new member of IUCN, we didn’t quite know what to expect at our first Congress. At first glance, it seemed only to be huge conservation trade show. Formed in 1948,...Read More »
We kicked off the 2016 LightHawk Fly-In in Sedona, Arizona by greeting a few of our best friends. About 100 pilots, partners and supporters attended the Fly-In, making it one of the most attended in recent memory. LightHawk's CEO Terri Watson gave a "State of the Organization" speech focused on how we're positioned for the future. "We really prioritize getting the most conservation value most efficiently," she said. Watson's speech also served...Read More »
Your gifts to LightHawk have been hard at work, from the critical watersheds of the Atlantic seaboard to the endangered California condor. Across the nation we ensure our pilots are flying missions where aviation has a meaningful contribution. And central to this work is you and your steadfast generosity. For that, we are so very grateful. With you by our side, over the last year we have secured major victories and embarked on new initiatives,...Read More »
Friday, Oct. 14 Take Off: State of the Organization Location: Poco Diablo Resort 1752 State Route 179, Sedona, AZ 86336 LightHawk: An Insider's Perspective Time: 4:30 - 6 p.m. Featuring: CEO Terri Watson and Board President Josh Marvil Location: Flagstaff-Prescott-Tucson Room Welcome Reception Time: 6 p.m. Location: Canopy Patio Saturday, Oct. 15 Breakfast Time: 7 - 8 a.m. Location: Poco Diablo Resort, Canopy Patio 1752 State Route 179, Sedona,...Read More »
Sedona Area Self-Guided Local Tour Leg 1: After taking off from Sedona and flying SW over the Verde Valley to Jerome, you will see the Secret Mountain Wilderness on your right and Oak Creek on your left as it flows toward its confluence with the Verde River. You will cross the Verde River at Tuzigoot National Monument , an ancient hilltop pueblo site, and then make your turn to the NW at the historic mining town of Jerome, once the largest town...Read More »
We’re excited that you’ve expressed interest in joining this small group of LightHawk pilots and friends to Baja California. Baja Bush Pilots (BBP) is leading the trip for us and with their help we’ve planned for the flight to depart Sedona the day after the LightHawk Fly-in, Monday October 17th. Costs in U.S. Dollars: $210 — Per person based on double occupancy $275 — Per person if single occupancy $200 — Estimated extra costs for the following...Read More »
Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. Photo by Scot Miller with aerial support by LightHawk
More than 87,500 acres of gorgeous forest in central Maine was permanently protected from encroaching timber industry threats Wednesday, Aug. 24 when President Barack Obama created the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. The monument, which will be managed by the National Park Service, protects the including the stunning East Branch of the Penobscot River and a portion of the Maine Woods that is rich in biodiversity and known for its...Read More »
Just what is it that conservation professionals "get" when they finally "get it" aboard their first LightHawk flight? And just what does aviation really have to do with conservation anyhow? LightHawk CEO Terri Watson authored a piece for the National Association of Flight Instructors in its July/August 2016 edition. Here's an exerpt: "A nonprofit organization is given that tax-saving status because it serves a public good rather than a profit...Read More »
LightHawk volunteer pilots fly missions to advance conservation efforts around the nation. Here are a few of the first LightHawk flights volunteer pilots new to our network have donated in generous support of our mission: Ken Foster Area: Gulf of California Date: March 11, 2016 Partner: Mexican Fund for Conservation of Nature Mission: This is flight was one of many to count and locate fishing vessels in the upper gulf of California, which is...Read More »
Please welcome our new volunteer pilots to the LightHawk family. In 2015, our network of pilots flew more than 400 missions, getting 1,634 eyes in the sky over 99 projects with 129 partnerships. John Sandvig Hometown: Seattle, Wash. Aircraft: F33 Bonanza Profession: Retired Boeing engineer Tim Timmons Hometown: Phoenix, Ariz. Aircraft: Cessna 150 Profession: Assistant chief flight instructor at Cochise College in Douglas, Ariz. Other: Retired...Read More »
Join us in Sedona I can still vividly remember my first flight for LightHawk and the change it affected. I flew photographers at rim level through the Grand Canyon to document the uranium mines perched on the edge of the North Rim where they leached into the Colorado River below. The images we captured that day helped convince the Secretary of the Interior to impose a moratorium on any new mines at the canyon within three weeks of our flight...Read More »
Exceeding industry standards and outperforming most similar charities, LightHawk recently earned a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent charity evaluator. LightHawk won the highest possible recognition for its sound fiscal management practices and commitment to accountability and transparency. This is the fifth time that LightHawk has earned this top distinction since 2010. In bestowing this rating, Charity...Read More »
When LightHawk pilot Jimmy Roswell teamed up with Conservian, a coastal bird conservation group, it represented an historic approach to protecting shorebirds and coastal habitats in the Bahamas. That work is now paying off as they launch a shorebird and habitat protection program in the Bahamas. image: Margo Zdravkovic/Conservian/LightHawk
Buzzing the islands of the Bahamas for six days in a seaplane has paid off. LightHawk flights in December 2014 were intended to empower our partner Conservian with information to begin their ground work. This May, they will initiate their Bahamas program of protecting nesting shorebirds and their habitats. Conservian is using data gained during their LightHawk flights with pilot Jimmy Roswell to prioritize the islands and areas for their ground...Read More »
Named "LightHawk" by the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo after the flight to bring her to the Colorado Springs facility, this female Mexican wolf was introduced to her new mate "Leopold" on February 9, 2016. image: Cheyenne Mountain Zoo
A female wolf was transported via a LightHawk donated flight to Cheyenne Mountain Zoo just in time for the once-a-year Mexican gray wolf breeding season. She will be paired with the Zoo’s male wolf, Leopold, in an effort to continue the valuable genetic line carried by these two wolves. Dina Bredahl, Animal Care Manager, has high hopes that these two older wolves can reproduce and is overseeing the new pairing. “Having two 11-year-old wolves...Read More »
VP Will Worthington (center) briefs passengers prior to a LightHawk donated flight over Baja California March 2013.image: Ralph Lee Hopkins/iLCP/LightHawk
*UPDATE* Three selections for the 2016 Wild and Scenic Film Festival feature aerial footage, thanks to our volunteer pilots and generous supporters. “ Flying Doors Off Over Baja California ” features our own Will Worthington and Armando Ubeda. Starting at minute 6:00, the movie powerfully highlights why your support of conservation flying is so important. " Behind the Emerald Curtain " was made with our partner Pacific Rivers and explores the...Read More »
On land, only the cheetah is faster than the pronghorn. Mexican pronghorn are facing extinction, but LightHawk is helping with a plan to save these swift animals. image: Joe Riis Photography.
In the arid grasslands of the state of Chihuahua, Mexican pronghorn are in trouble: barely 500 remain. Two doctoral students with Instituto de Ecología are urgently working to try and save one of Mexico’s most endangered species. LightHawk is helping in this effort through a suite of flights to advance knowledge, and build support for a recovery plan. The Mexican pronghorn ( Antilocapra americana mexicana ), unlike pronghorn in the United States...Read More »
Ian Dowdy of the Sonoran Institute sharing an aerial view of public land in western Maricopa County that's valuable habit and maintains a buffer zone for the Barry M. Goldwater Range. image: Will Stone/KJZZ with aerial support from LightHawk
Turns out, it’s a good thing for nature to have the military close by. That’s what LightHawk partner Sonoran Institute discovered after examining the places where military facilities were tucked against public land. [ REPORT ] Sonoran Institute (SI) partnered with LightHawk for a flight campaign to put this story in front of a national audience. The project is designed to inform decision makers about how important Arizona’s military lands are to...Read More »
This '56 C182 was my first civilian aircraft and I flew it for LightHawk until upgrading to a prettier C182.
Reflections from LightHawk’s new executive director, Terri Watson. While returning to LightHawk feels like coming home, I realize I never truly left. When I became a volunteer pilot for LightHawk in 1997, it merged my passions for flying and conservation. Back then, I had no idea how much LightHawk would become tightly woven into the fabric of my life. Maybe like you, I was drawn into each story that these LightHawk flights told me —the work to...Read More »
While we had their vote last time, could we count on it again? The Nature Conservancy Vermont wanted to shore up support from their state’s congressional delegation. LightHawk helped by designing a day of educational flights for the lawmakers. “Why do we take to the air for conservation?” TNC VT said. “So our federal delegates can visually understand the expansive benefits of our work and their federal investments in conservation.” The latest...Read More »
At our annual Fly-In celebration, we debuted this video highlighting some projects milestones from 2015. Thank you to our incredible volunteer pilots and generous supporters who make it all possible. Recognize some of the voices in this film? They are the people behind our conservation flights program: Armando, Christine, Greg, Jonathan, Ryan and Yendra.Read More »
LightHawk Volunteer Pilot Stephanie Wells has had incredible experiences with aviation.
"Stephanie is one of those pilots that when you’re around her, you really want to become a better pilot, just like her," says Greg Bedinger, LightHawk's pilot outreach manager and a longtime volunteer pilot himself. Greg shares his interview with LightHawk Volunteer Pilot Stephanie Wells of Arvada, CO. Greg Bedinger: Why did you learn to fly? Stephanie Wells: The flying bug bit me at age 15 after I took an introductory lesson. I joined Civil Air...Read More »
Volunteer pilot aircraft ready for a mission with SkyTruth. image: David Manthos/SkyTruth/LightHawk
For more than 35 years, LightHawk has helped accelerate conservation success for its partners. Here are six ways LightHawk flights have enabled groups to foster dialogue and build consensus to support their conservation strategies. LightHawk flights gave divergent parties a powerful shared flight experience and created common ground. Water rights in the Klamath River Basin, which straddles the border between California and Oregon, were so hotly...Read More »
Sonoran Institute's Seth Cothrun and Francisco Zamora gave New Belgium’s Director of Sustainability Jenn Vervier a comprehensive overview of the Colorado River Delta restoration effort to help inform NB's philanthropic strategy towards the project. image: Greg Bedinger/LightHawk
LightHawk's longterm partner Sonoran Institute had been successful in raising support for restoring parts of the Colorado River Delta. These efforts culminated in a historic release of water to jumpstart life in the arid landscape. Now they faced the challenge of showing their backers the impact of their support, and making the case for what Sonoran Institute could achieve with increased investment. In mid-January, LightHawk's own Greg Bedinger...Read More »
Part of California's newest national monument Berryessa-Snow Mountain. image: Pam Flick/LightHawk
We are pleased to learn of a great outcome in California - a new National Monument! Many times over a five-year span, LightHawk flew for our conservation partner Tuleyome in their campaign to protect the Berryessa Snow Mountain region. Flights helped promote informed decision-making and contributed to joining together scattered parcels of publicly held, yet unprotected, areas vulnerable to encroachment in northern California. “LightHawk was...Read More »
Carefully planned and executed flight campaigns are a powerful resource to help our partners reach their conservation goals. Here are six examples of how our partners have utilized LightHawk flights to promote informed decision-making to support their conservation strategies. After California’s new network of marine protected areas were implemented, scientists faced the challenge of how to obtain timely information on usage and compliance in...Read More »
Aerial photo of Batiquitos Lagoon, Carlsbad. The Batiquitos Lagoon is a coastal wetland in southern Carlsbad, California. Part of the lagoon is designated as the Batiquitos Lagoon State Marine Conservation Area, run by the California Department of Fish and Game as a nature reserve Photo credit: Phillip Colla / / Lighthawk
California photographer Phillip Colla recently made a special flight with his friend and LightHawk volunteer pilot Steve Parker. The flight's goal was to help build consensus for the value of California's network of marine protected areas (MPAs) by producing new aerial images of several MPAs near San Diego. On his website, Colla shared his recollections about the flight including some insights on how to capture the best quality...Read More »
VP Rick Durden with passengers prior to a manatee survey in Belize. image: Tony Rath
"Flying for LightHawk not plain vanilla..." Rick says in this video produced for the 2015 Endeavor Awards. Rick was recently recognized for his 20+ years volunteer flying for LightHawk. Congratulations, Rick!Read More »
Celebrating the pulse flow of water arriving in the Colorado River Delta. image: Andy Quinn
Recollections from volunteer pilot Bob Allen . I joined LightHawk in 2011 shortly after retiring. One of my first flights involved flying the Colorado River Delta for Sonoran Institute, and there I became acquainted with the dedicated people who are trying to restore a small portion of this once magnificent river to its former glory. I’ve flown that route many times over the last four years, but no flight was more inspiring than the day I saw...Read More »
Pilot Bob Allen.
Over huevos rancheros at a Tucson breakfast spot, we caught up with volunteer pilot Bob Allen. LightHawk: How did you get your start as a pilot? Bob Allen: I learned to fly at Harvey Young Airport in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1983. It was a grass strip. The flight school there had two Piper Tomahawks and a Piper Warrior. I learned in the Tomahawk, which required some new skills since it had a “T” tail. You had to get going over 70 knots before you...Read More »
Whale shark off Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. image: Ivan Gabaldon/LightHawk
Ivan and Bud talk about why LightHawk flies conservation missions in Mexico and Central America in the final installment of our Ride Into Birdland guest blog. I.G. What is Lighthawk? L.S. Lighthawk is a group of volunteer pilots, some 220 volunteer pilots living across the United States, who fly their own airplanes in volunteer service to the goals and objectives of Lighthawk, which is to help conservation and wildlife organizations, primarily...Read More »
Volunteer pilot Bud Sittig. image: Ivan Gabaldon/LightHawk
Photographer Ivan Gabaldón interviews volunteer pilot Bud Sittig in this second installment of Gabaldón's guest blog from Ride Into Birdland . ( Click here for the first part of the story.) On the night of our second day I get together with Captain “Bud” to learn more about his experience as an aviator and the work he does with Lighthawk. The ensuing conversation is worth sharing, along with more images, with all of you here. I give you Captain...Read More »
A hawk’s view of the Yucatan Peninsula. image: Iván Gabaldón with aerial support from LightHawk
Guest post from Iván Gabaldón of Ride Into Birdland for Pronatura Peninsula de Yucatan. The sun is just beginning to rise but I feel none of its warmth as I walk towards the vintage Cessna on the wet tarmac of Merida’s airport. I’m about to embark on my first aerial photography mission for Pronatura Peninsula de Yucatan , a thrilling prospect for sure, but the gloomy weather is taking some of the joy out of the idea of going airborne in a single...Read More »
Mayan temples peek through the dense jungles at Tikal, Guatemala. image: Armando Ubeda/LightHawk
This is the fourth update from the Rockies to Reef Expedition as Executive Director John Pryor and Mesoamerica Program Manager Armando Ubeda explore the landscapes, partnerships and conservation opportunities in Mexico and Central America...all from John's Cirrus SR22 airplane. Departing Belize City bound for Flores, Guatemala, the aviation gods smiled on John and Armando with clear skies and uncomplicated departure procedures. 45 minutes later...Read More »
Bird's-eye view of Belize reef. image: Tony Rath Photography
This is the third update from the Rockies to Reef Expedition as Executive Director John Pryor and Mesoamerica Program Manager Armando Ubeda explore the landscapes, partnerships and conservation opportunities in Mexico and Central America...all from John's Cirrus SR22 airplane. A productive visit in Merida led to a hop over miles of lush green jungle enroute to San Pedro, Belize. First stop: Belize City! Belize Audubon Society (BAS) is one of the...Read More »
LightHawk has partnered with Ninas Y Crias for over a decade bringing flight to their flamingo conservation program. image:
This is the second update from the Rockies to Reef Expedition with Executive Director John Pryor and Mesoamerica Program Manager Armando Ubeda. After a smooth flight from Sarasota Florida, John and Armando landed in Merída, Mexíco with plans to visit with a few of LightHawk's conservation partners. After tucking the airplane in for the night at the airport, Armando and I caught a ride into the city of Merída to drop our bags at the hotel before...Read More »
Armando Ubeda stands on the wing of John Pryor's Cirrus SR22 ready to depart KSRQ for MMMD.
Yesterday, Executive Director John Pryor and Mesoamerica Program Manager Armando Ubeda departed Sarasota, FL (KSRQ) bound 686 mile south for Merida, Yucatan (MMMD). Here are John's thoughts on the first part of the Rockies to Reef Expedition. Joining me for the trip is Armando Ubeda who has managed LightHawk's program in Mexico and Central America for seven years. In addition to being a superlative travel companion, Armando will be introducing...Read More »
Executive Director John Pryor joined LightHawk one year ago. The Rockies to Reef Expedition is a journey that will deepen his understanding of LightHawk’s work in Mexico and Central America. It also allows him to personally get to know our partners and donors. He will depart in his Cirrus SR22 from Telluride bound for Merida, Mexico before heading on to Belize and Guatemala. This journey from the Rockies to the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef in his...Read More »
Buffalo Mountain in Summit County Colorado surrounded by cascading waves of lodgepole pine forests in red phase mountain pine beetle infestation. image: Steven DeWitt/LightHawk
Guest post from LightHawk conservation partner, Steven DeWitt the Eagle County, Colorado photographer behind, The Lodgepole Project which illustrates the historic mountain pine beetle epidemic and explores the human response to the loss of the forests. I’ve been documenting the destruction of my local lodgepole pine forests for over ten years from a front row seat in the United States’ most visited National Forest - Colorado's White River...Read More »
Volunteer pilot Chris Boyer presents "The Aerial View of Landscape Data" at TEDx Bozeman. (Scroll to 1:09:21 for his talk).Read More »
Victoria Peak National Monument. BAS/LightHawk
LightHawk returned to Belize this February to work with longtime partner Belize Audubon Society (BAS) in the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary (CBWS) and Victoria Peak Natural Monument. Flights provide efficient access to rugged tracts of land inaccessible by land and allow management to make general observations and document changes occurring within and around the protected areas. LightHawk helps BAS to identify areas within the protected...Read More »
Recording extreme high tide events dubbed King Tides shows the impacts of rising sea level on coastal areas. image: TWC/LightHawk
Guest post from LightHawk partner The Wetlands Conservancy based in Portland, OR. This was the third of four flights LightHawk volunteer pilots have flown over the King Tide events. (VPs Scott Brewster, Tony Carson and Jane Nicolai have contributed flights to this project.) This year the December King Tide (highest tides of the year) followed several days of big storms. On December 22, TWC GIS Analyst John Bauer, Photographer Ben Friedle and...Read More »
VP Jimmy Roswell with Conservian biologist Margo Zdravkovic
Historic Flights Aid Bahamas Shorebird Conservation “In our work at Conservian, we’ve done aerial surveys before, but this was the trip of a lifetime,” says conservation biologist, Margo Zdravkovic, following six days of surveying the Bahamas with LightHawk volunteer pilot Jimmy Roswell of Jupiter, Florida. With Roswell at the controls of his bright yellow Piper PA-18 Super Cub seaplane and Zdravkovic photographing the coastline below, the pair...Read More »
Volunteer Pilot Bob Keller
We recently asked longtime volunteer pilot Bob Keller (Boonville, NY) to tell us about why he flies and what he finds challenging about being a pilot. Hint: it has something to do with winter in New York state. LightHawk: Why did you learn to fly? Bob Keller: I had always wanted to fly since I was a child. I remember flights on Northeast Airlines DC-3s, flying on a variety of seaplanes in Maine, Canada, and the Bahamas. Back then pilots seemed...Read More »
We asked our conservation partners, donors and pilots why they're involved with LightHawk, here's what they said.Read More »
Bristol Bay, Alaska. image: Carl Johnson/LightHawk
The largest wild sockeye salmon run in the world was recently protected by the federal government. LightHawk enabled photographer Carl Johnson to make aerial images showing the value of waters, home to a $2 billion fishery. The partnership between Johnson and LightHawk empowered conservation groups with stunning images of waterways and wetlands to help protect this incredible natural resource. After flying over the region with volunteer pilot...Read More »
On December 10, 2014 LightHawk provided an aerial tour of the proposed Columbine-Hondo and Pecos Wilderness areas with New Mexico Wilderness Alliance (NMWA) for council members of the Picuris and Taos Pueblos. This bird's-eye view showed the rugged areas NMWA is looking to protect which are crucial for safeguarding major watersheds for the Pueblos. "Lighthawk continues to be a valuable partner for some of the campaign work we do in northern New...Read More »
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...Read More »
Volunteer pilot Chris Boyer (Bozeman, MT) talks about how flying photographer Michael Melford on assignment for National Geographic can have a huge impact on conservation. Do something amazing for the environment today.Read More »
image: David Owen/LightHawk
"I've been a student of water use, storage, and transportation for decades, but have never before seen the collection and diversion systems from the air (other than a glimpse of a big reservoir from a commercial jet)," remarked Jennifer Pitt of the Environmental Defense Fund. Pitt and David Owen, a reporter from The New Yorker recently flew with LightHawk over the Colorado Rockies. LightHawk partnered with EDF and The New Yorker to increase...Read More »
Acclaimed National Geographic photographer Michael Melford works with LightHawk to make aerial photographs that support conservation. His most recent feature in the September issue of National Geographic Magazine celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. At LightHawk’s 35 th anniversary Fly-In, Melford shared some of his secrets to making the most of his opportunities to fly with LightHawk. 1. Prepare for your flight mission...Read More »
Photo Puzzler: What does this image show? This aerial image made by Carlton Ward during a LightHawk flight was part of the Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition . This image reveals how plantation style agriculture disrupts natural forest growth and affects the viability of corridors for some species. LightHawk helped Carlton and his colleagues demonstrate the need to preserve corridors for animals to move around developed areas of Florida. From...Read More »
Ralph Lee Hopkins/iLCP
Ten days, over 13,000 images, one remarkable experience.Read More »
Guest post by LightHawk volunteer pilot Stephanie Wells, a retired Air Force and NASA pilot. Among her many numerous flight experiences she flew the KC-135 in a roller coaster pattern of parabolas to create 25-second periods of zero gravity. Each flight contained about 40 parabolas enabling researchers to conduct experiments and astronauts to experience weightlessness. These reduced gravity aircraft were nicknamed, “vomit comets” for their...Read More »
Armchair Travel Monday takes you over Costa Rica on a flight with Dr. Sylvia Earle, Mission Blue and MarViva to explore sea turtle nesting beaches near the Central American Dome. Check out MarViva 's website for how you can help protect turtle birthing grounds and buffet zones.Read More »
Welcome to the Photo Friday Puzzler. Do you know what this is...and how is it related to our newest national monument? Find the answer to this Photo Friday Puzzler, like our Facebook page .Read More »
Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument. Nathan Small/NMWA/LightHawk
What does a WWII pilot riding in a Beechcraft Bonanza, massive bullseye targets in the desert, and a presidential order have in common? They're all part of the newly established Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument in New Mexico. Long before President Obama declared those 500,000 acres near Las Cruces protected, LightHawk and New Mexico Wilderness Alliance took WWII veteran Bill Greenberg over the terrain he knew so well. Bombardier...Read More »
Water moving on salt marsh of Drift Creek Alsea River, Oregon. Site of major restoration work. image: The Wetlands Conservancy/LightHawk
Something happens each year that may provide a fleeting glimpse into the future. This year, LightHawk and The Wetlands Conservancy teamed up to document this phenomenon from the air. Extreme high tides, called “king tides,” occur around the new moon when the moon is closest to the Earth. Scientists think images of the king tides may show us what will be the new normal for high tides as sea levels are expected to rise up to 3 feet in the next 50...Read More »
LightHawk volunteer pilots ready their aircraft to fly over the hotly contested Kalamath River Basin helping tribal members and cattle ranchers find common ground from the sky. image: Jon Engle/LightHawk
In 2008, LightHawk supported water sharing in the Klamath River Basin with a blitz of local flights. Today, we applaud tribes and ranchers who signed an agreement to share water in the upper reaches of the Basin by looking back at those early flights. The two groups are working together to sustain the future for the fish and cattle so closely tied to their identities. Originally posted on National Geographic NewsWatch . Six years ago, volunteer...Read More »
Chris Crisman holding tight to his camera.
This guest post from photographers on assignment for The Nature Conservancy Magazine takes them to a place where they’ve never made pictures before. It's a place that afforded a truly unique and inspiring point of view, and a place where they needed to make sure they didn’t drop the camera. For the first time, the Chris Crisman Photography team took to the skies to shoot aerial photography of southern Utah to capture visuals that would help show...Read More »
Downtown Phoenix, AZ and northern sprawl. Rachel Glass with aerial support from LightHawk
Video from a LightHawk flight shows energy corridors and the rivers, mountains and lakes north and west of Phoenix, Arizona. Passengers from Defenders of Wildlife and the Arizona Solar Working Group will use the information gained during their flight experience as they make recommendations to the USFS and BLM for future power transmission pathways from renewable energy sources into the urban area.Read More »
Volunteer pilot Jim Houser in the cockpit for the cougar flight. image: Sarah Kitzmann/LightHawk
Join the westbound leg of a wildlife survival flight as presented by budding videographer, Sarah Kitzmann. In March 2014, volunteer pilots Jim Houser (Charlotte, NC) and Mike Baum (Palo Alto, CA) donated flights to help three orphaned mountain lion cubs. Read the story here . Meet the cubs at 2:32 Touchdown in Charlotte, NC at 4:07Read More »
The cougar flights crew. LightHawk volunteer pilots were, second from left, Michael Baum (Palo Alto, CA) and on right, Jim Houser (Charlotte, NC) image: Sarah Kitzmann/LightHawk
When three young cougars were suddenly orphaned, two pilots from opposite coasts helped distance the kittens from their tragedy. The Monday began with rain as it often does near Portland, Oregon. As LightHawk volunteer pilot Mike Baum reviewed the latest weather reports and radar, the furry cargo he volunteered to fly halfway across the country left Oregon Zoo in a large dog kennel. Baum removed all but three seats from his TBM 700 turboprop...Read More »
Irrigated agricultural lands nestled alongside the Arkansas River, Colorado. Denise Dethlefsen with aerial support provided by LightHawk
Guest post by Denise Dethlefsen, Palmer Land Trust Recently, Palmer Land Trust flew with LightHawk to explore if aerial monitoring was a more efficient approach for our out-of-the-way properties. The flight also enabled us to collect a photographic overview of a number of properties on which we hold conservation easements just north and east of Boone, Colorado. Palmer’s Stewardship Director, Stephanie Thomas, and I met with volunteer pilot David...Read More »
LightHawk volunteer pilot Stephanie Wells (center) and Mesoamerican Program Manager Armando Ubeda (right) took Dr. Sylvia Earle (left) to survey turtle tracks along Costa Rica’s beaches.
This week, Armando Ubeda, Mesoamerican Program Manager for LightHawk traveled to Costa Rica as part of an expedition to promote the conservation and governability of the Central American Dome . LightHawk is in Costa Rica supporting this initiative led by MarViva , donating flight to the expedition and helping raise the profile of this effort. The Central American Dome is an area just offshore from Costa Rica which boasts high productivity where...Read More »
Laughing Bird Caye National Park, Belize with shadow of aircraft. Tony Rath/
Tony Rath’s day begins with a motion sickness pill and a good breakfast because even the hardiest stomach can churn when banked 45 degrees while peering through a viewfinder a thousand feet above Belize’s reefs. * Originally posted to National Geographic NewsWatch Over the last 20 years, Tony Rath and LightHawk have teamed up to photograph the jungles, coastline, and reefs of Belize from the air countless times. Tony shares what he’s learned...Read More »
Carol Walker
Ever wonder where the wild horses and burros live? Pilot and GoPro hero Ney Grant show you in this gorgeous, sweeping aerial video. You may want to view this full-screen. As Ney explains: I did this flight over the Twin Peaks Herd Management Area for LightHawk ( ) and wildlife scientists and experts Craig Downer, Jesica Johnston and Cate Scott. The purpose of the flight was to assess a recent burn area, and to observe and estimate...Read More »
Baja California. Ralph Lee Hopkins with aerial support from LightHawk
Escape the polar vortex with this video, and see why LightHawk flew a 10-day aerial photography expedition over Baja California. Flying in partnership with Ralph Lee Hopkins , International League of Conservation Photographers , and WiLDCOAST , LightHawk donated this 10-day series of flights, which crisscrossed the length of the Baja Peninsula from Cabo San Lucas to Tijuana. “ The reason I’m working so hard in Baja California making these images...Read More »
Dr. Sylvia Earle. Mission Blue
Recently, legendary explorer and tireless ocean protector Dr. Sylvia Earle said something that caused me to rethink the kinds of seafood I put on my family’s dinner table. Dr. Earle and her colleagues at Mission Blue fly with LightHawk to gain a big picture perspective of the ocean surface, to inform their work to protect the vibrant world beneath the waves. Dr. Earle’s passion for our blue planet, and its ocean wildlife, was palpable as she...Read More »
The juvenile harpy eagle spotted deep in the Patuca National Park. Credit: Herbert Dohlen
Although much of LightHawk's conservation flying in Central America is scheduled well in advance, unexpected opportunities sometimes arise that warrant a change in the flights calendar. Here is one such story. While hiking through the Honduran jungle on a break from his humanitarian work for Gespa e.V , something in the trees caught Herbert Dohlen’s attention. When he trained his camera on the canopy, he spotted something incredible. It was a...Read More »
Passengers with volunteer pilot Carl Mattson (right) after a flight for Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory. Photograph by Julie Boyd
Provide your passengers with a flight map and reference information for your flight. Book a conference room at the airport for organizing and post-flight debriefing. Use scheduling software, like Doodle , to make coordinating best flight dates for multiple passengers or multiple dates quick and easy. Offer water and beverage pre-flight, light snacks after flight. Thank the volunteer pilot who donated your flight with a hat, t-shirt or lunch...Read More »
Biologists spot manatees, whales and dolphins over Belize. Tony Rath Photography
Rick Durden learned two things quickly about flying LightHawk missions in Belize. Most of the runways are short, narrow and unforgiving, and fuel is everything. In addition to being expensive, aviation fuel was usually only available in one place. But he returned year after year. I became fascinated and enamored with the country and the flying, says Rick. I loved the challenge of making my fuel stop at a 1700' strip with water on three sides...Read More »
John-Michael Lee caught thresher sharks off Redondo Beach in California when he was a boy. “We’d float on a mat in the water, reach down with our hands and just catch them by the tail,” recalls John-Michael. “They were about three to four feet long, but most of that was tail.” “When I go diving now,” he remarks, “I don’t see many sharks anymore.” In 1999, the state of California decided it needed to do something to address this phenomenon and...Read More »
Giles Ashford/Riverkeeper
LightHawk can help conservation groups accelerate work towards their strategic goals in many ways. Here are ten top ways flight helps conservation soar. 1. Aerial Photography Tell a visual story about your project. Check out how Santa Barbara Channelkeepers used video to make a difference. 2. Inspire and Educate Provide an instant understanding of our impact on the environment by contrasting developed landscapes with intact ecosystems. 3. Staff...Read More »
Cabo Pulmo, Baja California. Ralph Lee Hopkins/iLCP with aerial support from LightHawk
Halfway through a ten-day expedition flying with photojournalist Ralph Lee Hopkins over Baja California, this is the fourth guest post by LightHawk volunteer pilot Will Worthington. The flights Will pilots, and the images made by Ralph, are being used by a number of conservation groups in the region to advocate for preserving the wild landscapes and rich waters of Baja California. With videographer Jeff Litton and LightHawk’s program manager,...Read More »
Sunrise and LightHawk’s Cessna 206, Baja Aerial Archive Project, Baja California, Mexico. image: (c) Ralph Lee Hopkins with aerial support by LightHawk.
Guest post by volunteer pilot Will Worthington. I’m joined by photojournalist Ralph Lee Hopkins as well as Fay Crevoshay and Sofia Gomez of Wildcoast for the hop from San Jose to La Paz on the third day of our adventure. Ralph brings a unique perspective to the flight both as a photographer who cares deeply about the Baja peninsula, and as Director of Expedition Photography for Lindblad Expeditions, an adventure travel outfit that promotes...Read More »
Armando Ubeda, Horacio Cabrera, Executive Director of EcoAlianza de Loreto and Will Worthington. Ralph Lee Hopkins/iLCP with aerial support from LightHawk
In 1980, pilot Will Worthington fell in love with the wild side of Baja California. On a recent a 10-day aerial expedition, he found change on the horizon. This is the second in a series of posts he wrote about his adventure. When I fly as a LightHawk volunteer pilot, I donate my aviation skills for conservation groups who want to leverage air support to benefit their causes. I fly scientists, staff, donors, governmental representatives, elected...Read More »
 LightHawk volunteer pilot Will Worthington kayaks in the Sea of Cortez with family dog Sofia.
In 1980, pilot Will Worthington fell in love with the wild side of Baja California. On a recent a 10-day aerial expedition, he found change on the horizon. This is the first in a series of guest posts he wrote about his adventure. How it Began In 1980, my family and I began falling in love with the Sea of Cortez and the Baja Peninsula. We were entranced by that part of the world and its beautiful shoreline, estuaries, wildlife and people. After...Read More »
The story of how GPS units, cameras and chance encounters on the streets of Bozeman Montana helped indigenous people trying to protect their land in Panama. The mud sucks at your shoes as you step off your boat onto the riverbank. Pushing through the dark understory away from the river, you abruptly emerge into a clearing and are blinded by intense sunlight. The forest surrounding the river where you hunted, fished and gathered wild foods is...Read More »
Dave Showalter.
Dave Showalter is an award-winning photographer, author and Fellow Photographer in the International League of Conservation Photographers . Ride along as Dave gives us an aerial tour of conservation issues facing Colorado and Wyoming by sharing why he created the following images made on LightHawk donated flights. Does Green Energy = Good Energy? The image below represents how complicated development can be in the West. LightHawk volunteer pilot...Read More »
Battered by storms and stunned by cold water, this Kemp's ridley sea turtle had just been cleared for takeoff. Credit: Jonathan Milne/LightHawk
Only five weeks into his new job as LightHawk's Atlantic Region program manager, Jonathan Milne experienced something incredible. Record numbers of sea turtles were being stranded in Cape Cod Bay and when LightHawk answered the call to fly the turtles to safety, Jonathan was asked to go along. “When you have the chance to make a difference for an endangered species,” said the former park ranger, “you jump at the opportunity.” Jonathan headed...Read More »
LightHawk's Cessna 206 over the Mesoamerica Barrier Reef off Belize. credit: Tony Rath/
LightHawk's version of air traffic controllers, Armando, Christine, Jonathan and Shannon work with about 250 conservation groups each year. These talented conservation professionals forge partnerships, plan flights, and deploy volunteer pilots in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Belize, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama to supercharge conservation efforts. Of our more than 300 projects, LightHawk's program managers have chosen their...Read More »
The Colorado River once flowed from its headwaters in Rocky Mountain National Park all the way to Mexico. Call it death by a thousand cuts, but the river once mighty enough to carve the Grand Canyon is now interrupted by more than two-dozen dams and other diversions. The Colorado River no longer reaches the sea. Though the challenges are many, conservation groups, local communities and the governments of the United States and Mexico are working...Read More »
Publish or Perish for the Goshute Tribe Cedar trees mark the site of the Swamp Cedars Massacre, which killed 300 of Rupert Steele's ancestors in the late 1880s. The Goshute tribal elder is concerned that pulling groundwater from beneath these sacred sites to top off Las Vegas reservoirs would kill the trees, and decimate communities who have been living sustainably within the regions’ limited water supplies for over a century. Working to prevent...Read More »
As a pilot for 25 years, LightHawk's executive director Rudy Engholm has seen some incredible things from the air. But nothing could prepare him for what he saw when he embarked on a four-day, 5100-mile journey across North America to the Alberta Tar Sands. This is his story. The Trip The Alberta Tar Sands and its associated pipeline proposals have become a controversial international topic. In an effort to see and understand the implications of...Read More »
 Two of 112 round wind turbine pads and access roads under construction in the desert east of San Diego. photo: Phillip Colla with aerial support from LightHawk
Is "Green" Always Good? Embracing renewable energy is important, but without careful attention to siting, valuable natural and cultural resources bear the brunt of development. In the wild desert near California's Anza-Borrego Desert State Park east of San Diego, conservationists and the local Quechan Tribe are concerned about the placement of a new 12,000-acre wind farm. They contend large projects like these change the desert from wild open...Read More »
photo courtesy of John P. Kennedy.
Flights Show the Way for Jaguars The thin wire strands surrounding the cattle paddock would not keep out the hungry jaguar. As its ribs protruded against a once magnificent dappled coat, the mangy cat sized up the herd looking for the easy kill. As more forest is swallowed up by development, agriculture, and ranching, jaguar habitat and traditional sources of prey are lost too. These cats must then choose between the wrath of ranchers or slow...Read More »
Michael and Kimberly Baum.
On a cold and windy February day, Volunteer Pilot Michael Baum and his daughter Kimberly embarked on a cross-country journey from their home in Los Altos, CA. The mission, which was donated through LightHawk, enabled the Baums to use their aircraft to help give black-footed ferrets a fighting chance to bounce back from near extinction and rejuvenate the North American prairie at the same time. Key to the American Prairie Volunteer Pilot Michael...Read More »
Whooping cranes with nest.
Stiff Headwinds They almost didn't make it. In 1941, after widespread draining of their wetland habitat and hunting cranes for food, feathers and sport, only 21 whooping cranes (Grus americana) remained. And these birds traveled together from Alberta, Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast. Any big storm or tragic accident could have easily wiped out the flock. So a plan was hatched thirteen years ago to create a new flock of whooping cranes in eastern...Read More »
photo of Cypress: Jill Lute/Folsom City Zoo Sanctuary
Alone in the Wild The soft cries of the 12-week old mountain lion cubs were not bringing their mother running back to them. She had been killed under a California Department of Fish & Game depredation permit after a San Jose area man lost some of his peacocks to the lion. Two weeks later, an emaciated 7-pound female cub emerged from the brush and attacked the man's Chihuahua. The flea-bitten cub suffered two broken legs and a broken jaw...Read More »
Wilderness Conservation Society Guatemala
8,100 Square Miles of Incredible The Maya Biosphere Reserve covers an area about the size of New Jersey and boasts sky-high biodiversity. It also forms the core of a tri-national system of protected areas in Guatemala, Belize and Mexico, making this bio-region the largest remaining contiguous block of tropical forest north of the Amazon. Pumas and jaguars roam the depths of the forests, while howler and spider monkeys traverse the branches above...Read More »
While using their airplanes to explore the connection between Western private lands and preserving important wildlife habitat, volunteer pilots Stan Bialek (Aspen, CO), Jim Grady (Grand Junction, CO), and Richard Hoover (Albuquerque, NM) discovered a long hidden connection between two of the pilots that went to the heart of their passion for aviation. Fitting the Pieces Together The aerial view provided a new perspective on habitat connectivity...Read More »
California desert tortoise. photo: Freya Reder
How could a fast, light metal bird help the slow, octogenarian desert tortoise of California's Mojave Desert get ahead? Read on to see how the story unfolds. The desert tortoise ( Gopherus agassizii ), the state reptile of California, is a resourceful, wrinkled-face creature that members of the Desert Tortoise Preservation Committee (DTPC) spend their weekends protecting. Out in the brown expanses of California’s northwest Mojave Desert, what...Read More »
Zeke's release. photo: Tom Buckley, USFWS
Our Seven Best from 2011 It's been a rollercoaster year for conservation and some say we'd have to be nuts to stay on for the ride. But for those of us who rode it out through the lows, we present some high points that make it all worthwhile. Check out the stories below including five involving mining, drilling or development in very sensitive places, and how LightHawk flights helped protect these extraordinary natural jewels. I nto the Wild...Read More »
photo of Kathy Phillips, the Assateague Coastkeeper as "Mrs. Clean"
LightHawk volunteer pilots must navigate unforgiving airspace over the nation's largest estuary, Chesapeake Bay, where no nonsense F15 fighter jets corral errant aircraft. Why do our pilots volunteer to fly in this challenging arena? To give local conservationists like Kathy Phillips, the Assateague Coastkeeper, a leg up in their efforts to clean the waterway. DelMarVa Peninsula Chesapeake Bay resides within the Delmarva Peninsula, so called...Read More »
Monkey River, Belize. Ilka Feller/Smithsonian
Guardian of the Mangroves As we ready for wheels up on our 25th year flying donated missions over Mesoamerica, LightHawk takes a look at how Smithsonian scientist Ilka "Candy" Feller uses flight to see mangroves in a new light and halt destruction of these unique ecosystems called the "rainforests of the sea". In the Field "As a child, I played in a swamp near my grandma's house. It terrified and excited me all at the same time. And I still do...Read More »
Wyoming wind sock in front of the National Weather Service building in Cheyenne, WY. photo: Tom Dietrich
Wyoming has world-class wind; just ask any pilot who has tried to plan a flight there. LightHawk volunteer pilot Mike Conway had to reschedule a flight with conservation photographer Dave Showalter for a week because of high winds. And it’s no coincidence that Shannon Rochelle, LightHawk Rockies program manager, trains for her ultra-marathons by running through "the Winds," or Wind River Range of Wyoming. But these days, Wyoming’s wind has...Read More »
Inside the Great Bear Rainforest the white Kermode bear (Ursus americanus kermodei) thrives. Photo: Ian McAllister/iLCP
After the Great Bear Rainforest Agreements were implemented in March 2009, many thought the remote British Columbia coastline would be safe from clear-cutting. This type of destructive logging endangered ancient trees and remarkable wildlife like the rare white Kermode spirit bear. But two years after the landmark collaboration between conservationists, First Nations, and the timber industry put an end to contentious bickering which saw...Read More »
During LightHawk’s spring 2011 Mesoamerica flight season, donated missions over Costa Rica’s northern Caribbean coast carried on a tradition going back 60 years. The flights to protect important sea turtle habitat were just the latest instance of small aircraft being instrumental for research and conservation which goes back to the 1950s and the early days of Dr. Archie Carr. “When I think about sea turtle conservation, I think about Dr. Archie...Read More »
Big Garden and Big White Islands off the coast of M aine are monitored by The Nature Conservancy's Maine chapter with the help of LightHawk volunteer pilots. photo: Dan Grenier/TNC with aerial support from LightHawk
Against all odds, the fastest growing conservation movement in the United States isn’t very glamorous and garners little national attention. It is typically rooted in the communities served and is entirely voluntary. Private land trusts, little known more than two decades ago, have conserved roughly 40 million acres of land since their inception. Every year, after the glorious autumn colors of the northern forest fade, LightHawk volunteer pilots...Read More »
Wetland structure in the foreground is juxtaposed b y development and a golf course in the upper left. Photo: Joanna Lemly/CNHP with aerial support from LightHawk
As a record snowpack in Colorado’s high country begins to melt and the Cache la Poudre River starts its annual rise, cities and towns in northern Colorado are embroiled in an argument about the future of the river. Starting at the headwaters in Rocky Mountain National Park, the first 30 miles of the Poudre is protected as Colorado’s only Wild and Scenic River, but as the river winds its way east out of the mountains to join the South Platte...Read More »
Annie's Rock, a popular vantage point for Cold Canyon hikers. photo courtesy of Tuleyome
For volunteer pilot Bill Rush, the Lake Berryessa area in northern California has always been a special place. As a teenager, he spent his summer days working on the boat docks and playing at the lake. That same lake is now at the southern edge of a proposed National Conservation Area and Rush is one of the pilots who are using their flight skills to preserve the area so that future generations may enjoy them. North of the San Francisco Bay Area...Read More »
ACES founders Cherie and Vince Rose go to many places to rescue wayward crocodiles
LightHawk flights can help change hearts and minds about the natural environment, and they can help gather data about species. Flights often persuade decision makers and inspire media to illuminate conservation battles. But sometimes these flights can provide a second chance for wildlife without a voice and environmentalists faced with incredible tragedy. On March 3, LightHawk received a disturbing email, “Last year LightHawk was going to assist...Read More »
LightHawk flights are helping scientists fill in the blanks about charismatic species such as the spotted eagle ray.  Photo: Wikimedia Commons
For as much as we know about Canis familiaris, the family dog, it would come as quite a shock to discover that when we sleep, instead of curling up at our feet as we assume, they crack the spine of some weighty tome and open a nice Barolo for the night. As ardent conservationists, we are often surprised by how little is known about certain species seemingly familiar to us. Take, for example, sharks and rays. Few marine animals readily capture...Read More »
The Sacred Headwaters, British Columbia is known as the "Serengeti of the North" as it supports one of the largest intact predator-prey systems in North America. Photo: Paul Colangelo with aerial support by LightHawk
There is a special place in the remote northern reaches of British Columbia where the Yellowstone to Yukon region meets the boreal forest. Home to caribou, stone sheep, moose, mountain goats, grizzlies and wolves, this is also the birthplace of three of British Columbia’s great salmon-bearing rivers: the Skeena, Nass and Stikine. This vast alpine landscape is known as the Sacred Headwaters, the traditional grounds of the Tahltan Nation. Rich in...Read More »
Point Dume's coastline is now a State Marine Reserve under the December 15, 2010 ruling.  Photo: Kip Evan Photography with aerial support by LightHawk
Last week, after years of stakeholder meetings, negotiations, heated discussions and scientific study, the members of California’s Fish and Game Commission voted to set aside small swaths of the ocean between Point Conception, near Santa Barbara, and the Mexico border as sanctuaries protected from human interference. Once implemented, these protected areas will join an existing network that stretches north to Mendocino. If sea otters could...Read More »
The large, unbroken swath of rainforest that is the Bladen Forest Reserve in Belize is home to big carnivores and small herbivores alike. Photo courtesy: John P. Kennedy
Twenty-five years ago the aerial perspective helped change hearts and minds and a remarkable 100,000-acre pristine jungle in Belize was protected. Those donated LightHawk flights allowed key government officials to see this rugged area from the air, a key factor in the decision to create the strictly protected Bladen Forest Reserve. The importance of such a large intact rainforest cannot be understated; jaguars roam the sunlight dappled forest...Read More »
A Male bobcat that has been tracked from the air by the University of New Hampshire and LightHawk. Photo: Heidi Chester
LightHawk takes radio-tracking technology to the New Hampshire skies to monitor two species that are ecological barometers for effective conservation. Understanding the needs of wildlife is critical to effectively protecting habitats and ecological integrity. Tracking individual animals by temporarily attaching a radio transmitter can enrich our knowledge of key species and the ecological systems they need to prosper. While much of this work is...Read More »
Lighthawk passengers (from left) Kenton Onstad, Theodora Bird Bear, and Bobbie Larson (far right) speak with Rae Ann Williams of Dakota Resource Council (second from right) about their LightHawk flight. Photo courtesy Chris Boyer.
The Mandan people moved northwest from the Ohio Valley and settled in what is now northwestern North Dakota around 1250. They were joined by the Arikara and Hidatsa people in the 1400s and eventually the three groups united as the Three Affiliated Tribes. Over the next four hundred years the tribes hunted, trapped and cultivated crops along the Missouri River while weathering devastating smallpox and cholera epidemics, intense conflicts with the...Read More »
Ancient Mayan temples rise above the dense jungles in Guatemala's Maya Biosphere Reserve. credit:  George Simchuk/LightHawk
Walking through the dense jungle forests of northern Guatemala, LightHawk Mesoamerica Program Manager Armando Ubeda could easily walk right by a huge Mayan temple just ten feet away without ever having a clue it was there. But, from 1,000 feet up in the cabin of a small plane, these grey stone pyramids built during the Pre-Classic period reveal themselves as grey stone beacons rising above the verdant canopy. Each year since 2000, LightHawk has...Read More »
Videographers called on LightHawk to bring images of the Nisqually River Delta to their production documenting the "before", shown here, and the after-the-dikes-are-breeched states of the estuary. Many of the delta's sloughs are dry and muddy as tidal flows do not reach them. credit: Ben Nieves/NarrativeLab Communications/LightHawk
More than 100 years ago, the tides were held back in the southern end of Puget Sound and wetlands became farmland. Five miles of man-made dikes stopped saltwater from mingling with fresh in the Nisqually Delta so that the land could be cultivated. Recently, these human barriers were removed and the area returned to a more natural state to bear different fruit. With the help of LightHawk volunteer pilots Eric Fogelin and Hunter Handsfield,...Read More »
A boat attempts to collect oil from the spill by skimming it with booms near Breton Island, which has a nesting colony of Brown Pelicans. Photo: Daniel Beltra/Greenpeace/LightHawk
At LightHawk, we always carefully weigh the conservation value of posting a mission against the resources used. In light of the recent horrendous events in the Gulf of Mexico, we have become even more conscious about our use of gas and oil. On Tuesday April 20, the British Petroleum Deepwater Horizon oilrig exploded, killing 11 platform workers and injuring 17 others. It burned and sank, leaving a broken and twisted pipe gushing oil and gas from...Read More »
Mark Menlove of Winter Wildlands Alliance points to a wolf track on the airstrip next to LightHawk's C185. Photo: John Robison/Idaho Conservation League.
Every day, from Alaska to Panama, LightHawk missions provide new perspectives on conservation issues. Typically, these insights and observations come courtesy of the aerial view, which reveals the true condition of landscapes and habitats below. In February and March 2009, LightHawk volunteer pilots Steven Garman and Dick Walker offered an additional perspective to a coalition of wilderness advocates in central Idaho. LightHawk took 15 people...Read More »
Cabo Pulmo National Park along Baja's East Cape. A mega-development project adjacent to the park threatens this marine protected area. photo: Ralph Lee Hopkins/LightHawk
For the past 16 years Ralph Lee Hopkins has led expeditions from the Arctic to the Antarctic and points in between as founder and director of Lindblad Photo Expeditions, a tour provider for National Geographic that promises to “turn vacationers into informed and engaged explorers”. Concerned with the rapid development he saw along the coast of Baja California, this past January Ralph, an iLCP (International League of Conservation Photographers)...Read More »