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Soaring Higher: Hurricane Flights, Land Trusts, Sea Mining and Climate Change

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 the eye could see.” While the overall impact is still being evaluated, Davis worries that Irma “re-opened the wound” of a large-scale seagrass die-off from a few years ago and from which the area is still recovering. We will continue our efforts in the Everglades. We are also building capacity in hopes of offering Houston-area flights to assess and mitigate Harvey’s impacts. Your support has allowed us to illuminate the damage to these ecosystems and empower scientists’ ability to help them respond and recover.

Helping Land Trusts Conserve More Nature

This summer our pilots helped monitor hundreds of conservation easements, which are the most effective way to protect private land, preserve wildlife habitat and safeguard clean water. We flew 39 monitoring flights with 22 partners. In just three flights, Black Canyon Land Trust monitored 120 easements in western Colorado, saving them 63 days of field work worth $12,000 of staff time. BCLT’s Jeremy Puckett said LightHawk has been critical in helping the land trust “keep our heads above water” operating with a bare-bones staff. Flights allow for more than just monitoring – they allow staff to assess indirect impacts to local conservation values and help with fundraising. Your support grows exponentially when land trusts like BCLT can put monitoring money back into conservation projects.

Exposing Dangerous Effects of Sea Mining

In Baja California, LightHawk flights exposed potential impacts of proposed ocean dredging in a critical gray whale migration corridor. Flights allowed CICESE-ULP scientists to estimate whale populations and to witness a whale defecating. It’s a rare sight which indicates recent feeding. This discovery runs counter to the belief whales do not feed there during their migration. Because of you, our partners can better protect these whales knowing human disturbance of the seafloor via mining could impact the whale’s — and countless other creatures’ — feeding, migration and breeding activities.

Saving a Hidden Climate Change Ally

Seagrass is one of our greatest allies. It absorbs more climate change-causing carbon than similarly-sized forests. However, in Long Island Sound, only 10% of eelgrass meadows remain. We’re helping our partners at The Nature Conservancy protect the few remaining patches by monitoring recreational boating around Fishers Island where eelgrass meadows are still intact, but threatened. Our partners said extensive monitoring of this climate change-fighting resource could not have happened without LightHawk.

On Land & From Above: Joining for Good

We recently documented a coal train derailment which sent several thousand tons of coal sliding down the banks of Montana’s Clark Fork River. This urgent flight request from Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper is an example of our budding partnership with the national Waterkeeper Alliance, which would pair our network of pilots with the work of more than 150 Waterkeeper organizations across the nation. In addition to helping Waterkeepers capture hearts and minds in their advocacy work, LightHawk hopes to provide immediate assistance when emergencies pose critical threats to water quality. Your generosity is helping us finalize this and many other partnerships that fuel our work across the nation.

Solving California’s Drought & Flood Puzzle

In California, record rainfall followed a five-year drought and LightHawk helped document how flood management projects held up against water levels not seen in a decade. We flew staff from American Rivers to document several floodplain restoration projects in the San Joaquin Valley which reconnected floodplains and reduced flood risk. The aerial perspective allowed staff to envision more ways to improve water infrastructure resiliency. Your support helps reduce the risk from drought and flooding caused by climate change.


These stories represent a fraction of our work. Your loyal support is igniting us to make more than 400 flights this year. We fly change makers — those with the courage and the influence to create a healthier Earth. Your LightHawk gifts extend to support the work of more than 120 partner organizations from every aspect of the conservation world.

As the largest conservation flying organization on the continent, our flights provide the view from above to solve our most troubling environmental challenges. We battle the effects of climate change every day by flying to conserve landscapes, protect oceans and coastlines, ensure species survival, safeguard rivers, and guide smart growth.

We are facing unprecedented challenges and we’re deeply thankful for your belief in our work.