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Congressman Up In The Air for Vermont
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 round of “politics” in DC was putting conservation funds at risk. LightHawk and TNC VT responded with a flight campaign to promote informed decision-making by showing conservation projects on the ground.
We met on a hazy and hot July morning at Heritage Aviation in Burlington. Congressmen Peter Welch, Tom Berry of Senator Patrick Leahy's office, and Haley Pero of Senator Bernie Sanders' office joined us on the tarmac before taking off.
Flying with LightHawk volunteer pilot Jamie Gamble in his capable Expedition 350 aircraft, the group witnessed things from 1,000’ up they couldn’t have understood from the halls of Congress. Through windows reaching the floor, they witnessed the stories of the land and water below.
They saw the impacts of harmful runoff into Lake Champlain in the absence of healthy floodplains. They saw a fragmented landscape contrasted with a protected connected forest: the verdant woodlands that let wildlife roam and live free. They saw waterways obstructed by dams that had outlived their usefulness.
The flights also took them over swaths of conserved lands. These protected areas provide valuable resources to forest and recreational economies. The delegation could see how conservation investments deliver clean water, protection from floods, a vibrant economy and a healthy landscape for people and wildlife.
Days after the flight, a note on crisp letterhead arrived at TNC VT’s offices. “Thank you for the recent aerial tour of Vermont’s conserved lands,” Congressmen Peter Welch wrote. “Being able to see the Vermont landscape from a bird’s eye point of view provides context to the conservation debate, and will aid me as I work to support conservation efforts in Congress.”
During those 90-minute flights, LightHawk and TNC VT were able to demonstrate the importance of conservation funding. The powerful perspective of flight helped accelerate conservation, this time by promoting informed decision-making in Congressman Welch and the delegation for Vermont.