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6 Ways to Promote Informed Decision-Making with Flight

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 those zones. LightHawk partnered with the Bay Foundation on a multi-year aerial survey collaboration. Flying along California’s southern coastline each month, LightHawk enabled the Bay Foundation to capture accurate real-time data about activity in the marine protected areas by both humans and marine mammals. This data gathered on LightHawk conservation flights informs decisions on how to manage California’s Marine Protected Areas.


When remarkable and intact grasslands were vulnerable in Colorado, LightHawk partnered with The Nature Conservancy on a flight to showcase these highly endangered prairies to funders who could help protect them. From 1,000’ above the grasslands, funders saw the value of this little known landscape, realized the importance of protecting this ecosystem, and decided to make a $500K investment to preserve the landscape for future generations.


The wild character of Baja California was rapidly changing in the face of coastal development and nearby resource extraction. National Geographic photographer Ralph Lee Hopkins partnered with LightHawk to fly a 10-day aerial expedition to document all the existing protected areas on the Baja peninsula. Aerial images showing the iconic wild beauty of Baja helped sway the Mexican government to protect an irreplaceable coral reef offshore from a proposed development. Without these important images, decision-makers would not have realized the value in preserving the natural beauty of Baja.


Local waterways in Michigan were being fouled, but community members could not determine the source of this pollution from the ground. A local citizens group called on LightHawk to take to the air and find where the harmful runoff was occurring. From above, insufficient waste lagoons from industrial animal farming were observed running into community water sources. Situated out of sight from public roads, the illegal waste overflows could not be seen from the ground. The information gathered on LightHawk flights informed the local community about where to target their efforts to restore clean flows to their streams and rivers.


For many years, the Colorado River ran dry before reaching the Sea of Cortez. Sonoran Institute contacted LightHawk to help them collect data and images from the vast and desolate Colorado River Delta. Since 2009, LightHawk conservation flights enabled Sonoran Institute to monitor restoration sites in the Delta, and understand the unique geomorphology of the region. “From the air, it all starts to make sense,” said Sonoran Institute’s program director, Francisco Zamora. LightHawk empowered scientists with data they needed to make the right decisions to bring water and life back to the Delta. Finally, the Colorado River again reconnected with the Sea of Cortez for the first time in 16 years.


The iconic West is changing rapidly. LightHawk and the Heart of the Rockies Initiative are working together to help conserve clean water and wide-open spaces for the human and animal communities that depend upon them. A series of flights in 2015 enabled Heart of the Rockies to obtain powerful aerial images and video along the Rockies in Idaho and Montana, and Wyoming. By sharing images and video captured in flight, we are promoting informed decision-making among funders who can help secure the future of western landscapes.

How will you use flight to accelerate your conservation strategies? Contact us to start a conversation.