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  • Writer's pictureLouisa Willcox

Episode 47 - Bruce Gordon

Bruce Gordon is a veteran pilot who has spent decades offering journalists, decisionmakers and concerned citizens a bird’s-eye view of threatened landscapes across the American West. Flying over 10,000 hours of conservation missions for hundreds of groups, in bush and mountainous terrain, Bruce and his organization, EcoFlight, provide a unique aerial perspective in their advocacy for the protection of wild lands and wildlife. He and Ecoflight have received numerous awards, such as the Conservation Hero Award and Best Business Award in Conservation.

Louisa and Bruce go way back, working together to protect the wild country of the Northern Rockies, and species such as wolves and grizzlies. This is a wide-ranging conversation about the transformative power of seeing the big picture, Bruce’s long friendship with the singer and pilot John Denver who inspired Ecoflight’s work, and how climbing and flying can open up your consciousness.


For me, it’s all about education. I don’t want people looking out the left side of the window, and I don’t want them looking out the right side of the window. I want them looking at the earth, thinking about what they care about, and then advocating for what they care about.

I learned that getting people in an airplane and showing them places in a way that they’ve never seen before can be transformative. Years ago, when I was working on clearcutting issues, I flew a number of loggers. And some said: “Oh my God, I had no idea that so much of this land had been clearcut.” It really opened their eyes and it changed them.

Bruce, after a biologist asked him to land in the wrong place, a tiny remote clearing in the Flathead Forest: I said: “Well great – and what am I going to do now. I’m in the middle of grizzly bear, wolf country. I got an airplane, that’s all I got.”

John Denver and I shared a love flying, of the mountains, and the spirit of the mountains that was so well reflected in his music. After he passed, I said: “How can I honor his memory?” And so I created Flight Across America program where we fly young adults over different issues, have experts in conservation speak to them, and task them to then go out and write editorials in their hometown papers and make their own presentations to more people. So through this program we are reaching a lot of people.

About the challenges facing the West: “It’s more people, “more people upon the land” as John [Denver]’s song said. But hopefully some of the images and the work that we’ve done with so many committed conservation organizations -- and we fly for over 300 of them -- we’re all working to get people to understand the challenges and try to address them appropriately.


For more about Bruce and Ecoflight, visit their web site:

A wonderful short video about flying for conservation, featuring Bruce Gordon and his wife Jane Pargiter: WATCH HERE


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