Farmington — Ten students from Red Valley-Cove High School were given a bird's-eye view of the area Wednesday morning.

For Leo Peacock Jr., the aerial tour added to his interest in the environment.

"It showed me a different perspective of this area," the high school junior said.

The high school is located in Red Valley, Ariz., which is 22 miles southwest of Shiprock.

It is an area that was impacted by uranium mining, a legacy that Peacock is aware of and as he works his way through high school, he is learning more about the environmental issues that impact the community.

He said there are mornings when he sees the plume from the San Juan Generating Station rising in the distance as well as the yellowish haze floating above Shiprock and the Hogback.

Red Valley-Cove High School students talk about their experiences with college students from Colorado on Wednesday at Atlantic Aviation in Farmington.
Red Valley-Cove High School students talk about their experiences with college students from Colorado on Wednesday at Atlantic Aviation in Farmington. (Jon Austria / The Daily Times)

That physical evidence makes Peacock think about what he has learned in his social studies class, where students follow the developments surrounding the San Juan Generating Station, Four Corners Power Plant and Navajo Mine.

"The politicians call it 'progress' but I don't see it as progress at times," Peacock said.

Peacock, along with freshmen Ryan Nakai and Daeliah Topaha, were part of the first group to fly over the two power plants, the mine, the San Juan River, and the northern section of the Navajo Agricultural Products Industry.

In addition to the high school students, eight college students from Arapahoe College, Colorado Mountain College, Colorado Mesa University and the INVST Program at the University of Colorado-Boulder participated in the tour, which was conducted by EcoFlight.

EcoFlight is a non-profit based in Aspen, Colo., that uses a small airplane to conduct flight tours as a way to teach students about conservation and to show them how energy production impacts the land.

The organization stopped in Farmington as part of its annual Flight Across America program.

During the flight, EcoFlight president and chief pilot Bruce Gordon explained that the organization started as an idea to teach the public about the impacts energy development has on the land,

From left, Leo Peacock, Daeliah Topaha and Ryan Nakai have their picture taken by Bruce Gordon on Wednesday shortly after landing at the Four Corners
From left, Leo Peacock, Daeliah Topaha and Ryan Nakai have their picture taken by Bruce Gordon on Wednesday shortly after landing at the Four Corners Regional Airport in Farmington. (Jon Austria /The Daily Times)

"To me, the whole idea is to think of the land as a whole and as people are making resource decisions, hopefully they are incorporating the people, and people need to be educated about what's going on," Gordon said.

Throughout the flight Gordon commented to the group about the mixture of ancient lands, national parks and energy development that dot the region.

After a safe landing, students listened to presentations from Mike Eisenfeld from the San Juan Citizens Alliance and photojournalist Carlan Tapp.

Tapp has produced stories focusing on the coal mining industry from across the United States and encouraged the students to continue learning about the environment.

"We need to share the message. Take what you've seen and what you've seen on this trip ... take it further, take it to the next step," Tapp said.

Jane Pargiter, director of operations at EcoFlight, said this is the second year students from Red Valley-Cove High School participated in the program.

"We want to empower them to have a voice," Pargiter said.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 and nsmith@daily-times.com. Follow him on Twitter @nsmithdt on Twitter.