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About SouthWings

We advocate for the restoration and protection of ecosystems across the Southeast through flight.

SouthWings partners with conservation groups, community groups, media, and decision-makers to provide a unique perspective to better understand and solve pressing environmental issues in the Southeast.

Our Vision

"SouthWings envisions the Southeast as a landscape of healthy communities that value and cooperatively steward our natural, cultural, and economic resources. We help ensure that the region’s unique identity and globally significant biodiversity are held in trust for current and future generations."

Our Impact

Aerial images of mountaintop removal coal mining in central Appalachia have circulated widely in outlets including CNN, 60 Minutes, and the BBC as a result of SouthWings flights. Viewing the practice from the air is a powerful experience; one passenger remarked that seeing “the might of the machines that literally reshape colossal mountains is jaw dropping.”

Through our partnerships in West Virginia, we supported the successful effort to designate Blair Mountain on the National Register of Historic Places in 2018, protecting the site from mountaintop removal.

Along the Gulf Coast, our partners keep a watchful eye on chronic and intermittent oil leaks from abandoned and improperly maintained offshore oil platforms through the support of our volunteer pilots.

SouthWings flights confirmed an ongoing oil leak at the Taylor Energy Wells, and indicated underestimating in reports of the spill’s severity. With these findings published in the Washington Post in 2018, the industry is under new pressure to contain and manage the impacts of the spill, following a trend toward increased compliance among energy companies in the region resulting from our efforts with the Gulf Monitoring Consortium.

Our flights support our Waterkeeper Alliance partners in monitoring threats to Southeastern waterways from urban development, livestock waste, coal ash, and other pollution sources. In 2017 alone, SouthWings flights enabled over 180 pollution reports to be filed with state and federal agencies to hold polluters accountable, and coverage of our flights in Rolling Stone and NPR have brought these issues to national attention.

According to one Riverkeeper, “To see the watershed from the air gives a great perspective. We can clearly see how the land, streams, and rivers are all connected.”

In a recent year, a record 170 conservation flights were launched by 50 volunteer pilots to educate 74 nonprofit organizations, 31 media organizations, 19 government officials, and 13 educational institutions, to benefit 70+ nonprofit conservation partners, and resulting in 130+ media pieces informed by flights, including:

WHAT WE DO

Founded in 1996, SouthWings is a non-profit conservation organization that provides a network of volunteer pilots to advocate for the restoration and protection of ecosystems across the Southeast through flight. Based in Asheville, North Carolina with a satellite office on the Gulf Coast, we operate in 14 states in collaboration with hundreds of partner organizations to enhance the work of the conservation community through aerial perspectives.

We work with individuals with the greatest potential to influence positive environmental changes through diverse methods including:
  • Engaging Stakeholders
    • Educating decision-makers by sharing first-handflight experiences over priority areas
    • Telling stories of environmental challenges that engage the public through press coverage, documentary films, and other media
    • Gathering images for educational campaigns
  • Holding Polluters Accountable
    • Monitoring the cleanup of spills and toxic sites
    • Documenting threats to waterways and communities from storm damage and flooding
    • Advocating for environmental justice
    • Ensuring compliance of livestock waste disposal regulations
  • Conserving Critical Habitat
    • Monitoring deforestation, wetland loss, coastal development, and urban sprawl
    • Enhancing public lands and wilderness protection
    • Surveying conservation acquisitions and monitoring easement properties
    • Informing native habitat restoration
  • Addressing Climate Change
    • Documenting the impacts of rising sea levels
    • Monitoring erosion, habitat fragmentation, and contamination caused by oil and gas development
    • Surveying impacts of mountaintop removal mining
  • Collecting Data
    • Gathering evidence for reporting and litigation
    • Collecting landscape imagery for analysis, mapping, or 3-D rendering
    • Identifying barriers to habitat connectivity and wildlife migrations
  • Enhancing Organizational Success
    • Engaging project funders by demonstrating the impact of their support from the air
    • Orienting new staff and board members to priority concerns in a landscape context
    • Gathering images for marketing and fundraising

Where We Operate

SouthWings arranges flights in fourteen states, including much of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, central and northern Florida, Louisiana, the Gulf of Mexico, and nearly everywhere between.
  • Alabama
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Mississippi
  • North Carolina
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
For flight needs outside of this region, contact our sister organization, LightHawk.

Video Overview

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