Partnerships that Soar above the Watershed: How the Aerial Perspective Can Move Forward Conservation Goals

Partnerships that Soar above the Watershed:
How the Aerial Perspective Can Move Forward Conservation Goals

By Jonathan Milne, Eastern Program Director for LightHawk

 Lighthawk/J. Milne

Lighthawk/J. Milne

Sometimes, I get lucky and get to take a photograph from a small plane.  In this case, from 7000 feet above Philadelphia. Nestled between the main stem of the Delaware River and the Schuylkill River, it truly highlights the important role water plays in daily life. When Lighthawk soars above these areas, the perspective comes into sharp focus and it is easy to see how the watershed bends and curves around us.

I stumbled upon a quote from Lynn Culbreath Noel that reminded me of the intricate connections that sometimes we see but often we do not.  Born in Philadelphia in 1924, she was a reporter in various locations and she summed up the watershed in six wonderful sentences.

“It’s hard to see a river all at once, especially in the mountains. Down on the plains, rivers run in their course as straightforward as time, channeled toward the sea. But up in the headwaters, a river isn’t a point where you stand. In the beginnings of a river, you teeter on the edge of a hundred tiny watersheds where one drop of water is always tipping the balance from one stream to another. History changes with each tiny event, shaping an outcome that we can only fully grasp in hindsight. And that view changes as we move further downstream.” -Lynn Culbreath Noel

 Lighthawk/William Penn Foundation - Delaware Bay

Lighthawk/William Penn Foundation - Delaware Bay

This quote sums up the importance of utilizing every available tool to accelerate conservation in this impressive watershed. From the Neversink to the Paulsinkill and from the Kittatinny to Delaware Bay, LightHawk has helped our conservation partners see the watershed and all its intricate connections. As Lynn correctly states, it is indeed difficult to see or comprehend an entire watershed, but Lighthawk makes it easier through the power of donated flight.

As a grantee of William Penn Foundation, we are here to make it easier for every conservation partner working in the Delaware River Watershed to change the hearts and minds of as many people as possible. That perspective, from 1000 feet, is amazing and transformative. Connections are seen and felt and this often translates into action on the ground.  The aerial perspective speaks for itself. Moreover, there is no charge to the partner!

 Lighthawk/Jim Wright TNC NJ - Columbia Dam

Lighthawk/Jim Wright TNC NJ - Columbia Dam

Following the flight above the Paulinskill/Columbia Dam project area, TNC staff, Michelle Diblasio remarked, “This flight allowed us to take a ton of great photos to promote our conservation work throughout a targeted area where we currently have protection and restoration efforts taking place. These photos will be used to help 'tell the story' of our progress and project success. Also, we were able to take great shots of a dam that is scheduled to come down within the next year. We were able to capture great pre-dam removal shots.”

Not only do we work with amazing conservation organizations, but our pilots are the best of the best. What amazes me on a daily basis is the generosity, dedication, and expertise of these pilots. They are indeed the engine that drives our successful work for our partners in the Delaware River Watershed Initiative (DRWI). We completed 14 missions across the eight DRWI clusters in 2017 and we hope to double that number in 2018. There is a lot of work to be done, and we are a resource to bridge the limited resources available to do it.

 Lighthawk/Ben Goodman - Kittatinny Ridge

Lighthawk/Ben Goodman - Kittatinny Ridge

LightHawk pilots donate their time and expertise to help conservation organizations advance their work through customized flights. LightHawk flights are used to capture images for use in communications or capital campaigns, monitor conservation properties, inspire and inform policy makers or donors, give your staff a different perspective, and track landscape changes over time -- to name just a few applications. For more information about how LightHawk can support your partnership’s activities throughout the watershed, please contact Jonathan Milne – Eastern Program Director and Audrey Ek-Psomas – Eastern Flight Coordinator.