LightHawk Celebrates 30 Years


"Soaring in an airplane, the interconnectedness of the landscape unfolds. From the air you can see the way landslides from a logging road carry mud down slope to the once-shaded river, choking it with silt so that it warms and slows and cannot support the wild salmon that used to swim up it to spawn. The view from a small plane reveals misuse of protected land, like off-road vehicle damage in a designated wilderness area or illegal mining operations in a Mesoamerican forest. From above, in fact, there’s not much you can’t see.”

We couldn’t describe LightHawk’s invaluable contributions to conservation any better than this quote from their website. Formed in 1979, LightHawk is celebrating their 30th anniversary October 9 - 11 in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

LightHawk was founded by a “charismatic, slightly eccentric professional pilot named Michael Stewartt” who believed that aerial views did the best job of showing the degradation of our natural resources. He used his charisma to convince other pilots to donate their time to flying conservationists and photographers all over North America to show what was happening to the environment.

According to pilot Rick Durden, “It’s this clarity that LightHawk has been providing for partner organizations, the media, decision-makers, community members and researchers since 1979, making us the largest and oldest volunteer-based environmental aviation organization in North America. We have completed thousands of flight missions involving more than 700 flights each year for hundreds of partners throughout ten countries in North and Central America.”

Now under the guidance of executive director Rudy Engholm, LightHawk is stronger than ever. “LightHawk plays a unique and critical role in the environmental movement. Providing perspective from the air, LightHawk gives its passengers the chance to see for themselves the widespread effects of unsound environmental policies and practices.

Further, the aerial platform provides groups with the opportunity to gather scientific data and photographic images in support of conservation. For example, LightHawk flights enable passengers to serve as expert witnesses or document evidence for court cases; write informed articles for media campaigns; take photographs to assess land conditions; and survey habitat needed to protect endangered or threatened wildlife. By supporting the work of its partners, LightHawk leverages both its own and its partners’ resources beyond what either could achieve alone.”

Art for Conservation is proud to be a partner with LightHawk. We are currently producing a 30th Anniversary exhibit of aerial photography photographed by iLCP members from planes piloted by LightHawk pilots.

Oh, in case you’re wondering how much these pilots get paid for their services… zero, nada. They donate their planes, their fuel and their time to this worthwhile program. These truly are the unsung heroes of the conservation movement.

Take some time to go to LightHawk’s website and read the details of some of their accomplishments. If you want some firsthand info, talk to our friend, Laura Stone, who is LightHawk’s talented Rockies Region Program Manager.

LightHawk's website:

© 2009 All rights reserved. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our Privacy Statement, Acceptable Use Policy and Terms & Conditions