Basalt High School students talk water conservation during flight above Roaring Fork Valley
Students in Basalt High School’s outdoor leadership class flew above the Roaring Fork Valley to see views of the Crystal River and Thompson Divide while learning about water conservation efforts on the Western Slope.
Seven 10th graders met with Lindsay DeFrates, director of public relations for the Colorado River District, while in a small plane piloted by Bruce Gordon. He is the executive director of EcoFlight, a non-profit that focuses on land and resource management and conservation.
EcoFlight partners with the Aspen-founded Buddy Program, which partners with schools to give students access to outdoor recreation.
Students in Basalt High’s outdoor leadership class have been learning about public lands management in Colorado, especially as it relates to the Colorado River and its local tributaries, said Ruth Cover, an outdoor leadership teacher in Basalt. It’s a topic that’s important for her students to learn as their community grapples with how to protect water in the valley, she said.
Just last week, over 200 people gathered at a community summit to discuss the best way to protect the Crystal River, one of Colorado’s last free-flowing rivers. Cover hoped giving the students a bird’s eye view would provide a fresh perspective of the valley’s water supply.
“I just think it’s one thing to be hearing about all the environmental impacts that we’ve been learning about, and it’s another thing to be flying above it and see it for yourself,” said sophomore Samantha Jackson, an outdoor leadership class student. “It’s almost more dramatic that way.”
DeFrates spoke with students while in the air about the Colorado River District’s work with water conservation in the state and the numerous ways students could get involved with water conservation work in the future.
“Our involvement in the conversation around protecting the Crystal River is that we have provided funding along with Pitkin County and Gunnison County to create what is a huge group of people who have a lot of interest in what happens to this river,” she said. “That’s one of the things that we do a lot is bringing these stakeholders – people who have different interests and different values – into the same room to talk about what they feel is the best choice.”
She added, “It’s not ever going to be simple.”
There are several interests at play in protecting the Crystal River, she said. People who are most concerned about water quality, health and viability of the fish, or agricultural interests are all involved in conversations about conservation.
DeFrates also told students about the importance of connecting conversations about wildfire mitigation and water conservation.
“In the (Grizzly Creek Fire) in 2020, it came through Glenwood Canyon so quickly it threatened the only intake that the city had for drinking water,” she said.
While on the flight, Gordon showed students burn scars in Basalt from the 2018 Lake Christine Fire.
“It’s all interconnected,” DeFrates said.
The flight took off from Aspen Airport on Thursday morning. EcoFlight will conduct two more Buddy Program flights with students from Rifle and Glenwood Springs High Schools on Nov. 9, which will take off from Rifle Garfield County Airport.
Students at Roaring Fork High School heard oral arguments made to a three-judge panel of Colorado Court of Appeals Tuesday as part of the Colorado Court of Appeals’ Courts in the Community program.