Mount Massive Wilderness Completed

May 19, 2022 – The Wilderness Land Trust (the Trust) transferred the last private inholding in the Mount Massive Wilderness to the United States Forest Service (USFS). The 20-acre Blue Lake property sits in the basin below the summit of Twining Peak east of Independence Pass and has the North Fork Lake Creek trail running through it. This property was vulnerable to mineral extraction and posed a significant threat to the surrounding wilderness.

The Trust acquired the property to remove this threat with the intent of transferring it to the USFS. With this transfer, the Mount Massive Wilderness, which includes Mount Elbert, Colorado’s highest peak, is now completely free of private inholdings and fully protected as wilderness.

“Our mission is to keep the promise of wilderness by acquiring private lands within them and transferring them to public ownership to become part of the surrounding wilderness,” says Brad Borst, president of The Wilderness Land Trust. “Our ultimate goal is to see every wilderness area free of private inholdings. The transfer of the last inholding in the Mount Massive Wilderness is a huge success for us and something to celebrate.”

The Blue Lake property is one of several parcels that the Trust has recently acquired off of Independence Pass. The group also owns the Spotted Tail, Panama, and Principal mining lodes, totaling 30 acres, near the Independence Townsite. With the partnership of the Independence Pass Foundation, these properties are ready to transfer to the USFS. That transfer will eliminate the last private land within the Pitkin County portion of the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness.

The Wilderness Land Trust was founded in 1992 by long time Aspen resident, Jon Mulford, and in the 30 years of its existence has conveyed more than 6,000 acres of formerly private land to the Forest Service and BLM in Colorado for permanent wilderness protection.

“It is very important to eliminate private land inholdings inside wilderness areas”, said Wilderness Land Trust Board Member Sara Shaw of Basalt, “because if the lands remain private land they can be developed with mineral exploration, mountain cabins and access roads which can severely compromise the solitude and natural values of wilderness, and harm wildlife.”

The Wilderness Land Trust is the only charitable organization in the nation focused solely on acquiring lands within in wilderness, wilderness study areas and proposed wilderness, and conveying them to the public for permanent wildlands protection. “Wilderness is critical to the protection of fish, wildlife and plant communities, water flows, clean air, climate stability and preserving places where the public can enjoy wild land”, said Borst. “We love the opportunity our work presents to conserve wildlands for future generations”.

Hercules Lode looking at Fancy Lake

More Protection in the Holy Cross Wilderness

From Hercules Lode looking at Fancy Lake in the Holy Cross Wilderness

From Hercules Lode looking at Fancy Lake in the Holy Cross Wilderness

March 11, 2022 – Today we closed on two more parcels in the Holy Cross Wilderness of Colorado. These properties, the Chance and Hercules Lodes, total 25 acres and are located on the southwest side of the wilderness.

I had the good fortune of visiting these properties with my cousin, who happens to live close by. Until that day, my cousin was unfamiliar with my job and so, as we hiked past the wooden Holy Cross Wilderness sign, I described the mission of The Wilderness Land Trust and why our work is important. I told her that, while the ground we were walking on is thought to have the highest level of land protection, there are actually significant holes in that protection.

When we reached the first of the two parcels, the flat, beautiful 5-acre Hercules Lode which runs along the east shore of Fancy Lake, my cousin was shocked.

“This is private property?!”

I explained that these pieces of private land are not only a threat because of the opportunities for cabins to be built, mines dug, trees felled.  They are a threat because they siphon off resources otherwise used to manage the surrounding wilderness. Their mere existence degrades the integrity of the wilderness area.

The good news is, The Wilderness Land Trust has a way to remove this threat and make our wilderness areas truly protected.

We’ve been at it for 30 years.

In Colorado alone, we have protected more than 6,000 acres of private land and the innumerable acres of surrounding public land with our work.

And today, we can add another 25 acres to that number.

We are grateful for all of our supporters who make our work protecting wilderness possible. We truly couldn’t do it without you.

-Kelly Conde, Wilderness Land Trust Lands Specialist

View of Mulhall Lake from Chance Lode

View of Mulhall Lake from Chance Lode

Photo of Hercules Lode which runs along the east side of Fancy Lake in the Holy Cross Wilderness

Photo of Hercules Lode which runs along the east side of Fancy Lake in the Holy Cross Wilderness

Looking down on the southeast corner of the Holy Cross Wilderness on the hike to Chance Lode

Looking down on the southeast corner of the Holy Cross Wilderness on the hike to Chance Lode

Light snow on the ridge behind a lake, as seen from the Northern Lode property

More Protection for Wilderness in Colorado

Light snow on the ridge behind a lake, as seen from the Northern Lode property

A spectacular view from the Northern Lode property

Feb. 25, 2022 – Today, The Wilderness Land Trust closed on the Northern Lode property, a 10-acre parcel on the eastern side of the Holy Cross Wilderness in Colorado. The Northern Lode is a true wilderness inholding, meaning it is completely surrounded by federally designated wilderness and will automatically become a new addition to the Holy Cross upon transfer.

I visited this property on a crisp, sunny day last October. The parcel is a three-mile trek into the wilderness area and sits just south of the 13,000-foot Homestake Peak on a steep, scree-filled slope.

As with every project site visit, this trip was a combination of pleasure and work. I got to punch through the first snow of the season, scramble up rocky slopes and soak in rugged ridgelines. I also investigated the remnants of old mining pits just off the property boundary and checked off another step towards acquisition. This trip ended up being my last wilderness hike of the year, closing another season of mountain wandering.

A snowy view of the mountains from the Northern Lode propertySo now, in mid-winter, this property sits close in my mind and makes its acquisition that much sweeter to me.

We are so grateful to all of our supporters for helping us continue this great work. To date, we have protected 6,086 acres in Colorado and are actively working on acquiring another 55 acres in this state. Please check out our current Colorado work online and stay tuned for more good news from across the western United States!

-Kelly Conde, Wilderness Land Trust Lands Specialist

The Trust's Copper Glance Lode property

The Trust Celebrates its 30th With a Successful Project Where It All Began

The view from the Copper Glance Lode property

The view from the Trust’s Copper Glance Lode property

Feb. 4, 2022 – In 1992, attorney Jon Mulford worked with the U.S Forest Service (USFS) on several small land transactions outside of Aspen, Colorado. Through this experience, he discovered that private inholdings within the boundaries of federally designated wilderness were posing environmental threats to the landscape and creating management issues for the agency.

This information inspired Jon to develop a plan to acquire private properties within the wilderness designation and turn them over to public ownership. His vision was a national wilderness preservation system free from the threat of human development.

On February 6, 1992, Jon founded The Wilderness Land Trust to fulfill his vision. Since that time, The Trust has acquired and transferred 514 properties totaling 54,110 acres throughout the west, including 6,077 acres in Colorado.

The Trust's Copper Glance Lode property

The Trust’s Copper Glance Lode property

As the staff lead for projects in Colorado, I am honored to announce the purchase of our latest inholding where it all started. The Copper Glance Lode is a 10.33-acre property in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness. This parcel sits in the scenic Queens Basin and was part of the former Copper Glance mining operation. With the Trust’s purchase of this parcel, Queens Basin is now free of the threat of development.

This year, The Wilderness Land Trust celebrates its 30th anniversary. I reached out to Jon Mulford and asked him for his thoughts. His response was simple, “Keep up the good work.” On behalf of our entire staff and board, we want to express how grateful we are to our supporters, project partners, agency staff and landowners who make our mission to protect wilderness possible.

Thank you Jon, for starting us on this journey. We promise to keep up the good work.

-Kelly Conde, Wilderness Land Trust Lands Specialist

A Colorado Wilderness Holiday Gift

Dec. 17, 2021 – The Fossil Ridge Wilderness in Colorado is more than 32,000 acres of raw granite, high mountain lakes and glacier carved valleys. Along a steep ridge just below the summit of Cross Mountain sits a 183-acre property that significantly supports wildlife habitat for deer, elk, mountain goats and bighorn sheep.

A dusting of snow in the Holy Cross Wilderness

This mining claim is accessible via an old jeep road. This easy access increased the likelihood of development on the property, which is why we are thrilled to announce that The Wilderness Land Trust has closed on this property and removed these threats from the wilderness.

Northwest of the Fossil Ridge Wilderness sits the 64,304-acre Raggeds Wilderness. A 10.33-acre mining claim just outside the boundary of the designation is easily accessed by a nearby dirt road and has the flat scenic vistas that make building a significant threat. I’m delighted to tell you we have also purchased this property and removed the threat of yet another development.

Acre by acre we are fulfilling our mission to eliminate private property from within our nation’s treasured wilderness areas. Every land acquisition is an opportunity to protect vital habitat for threatened and endangered species, unify fragmented wildlands to ensure safe animal migration and conserve large, biologically diverse ecosystems across the west.

The Wilderness Land Trust is incredibly grateful to the generous supporters who make this all possible. We hope this latest news brings a smile to your face as you celebrate the holiday season.

The Holy Cross Wilderness, Colorado

More Protection for Colorado Wilderness – A message from Kelly Conde, lands specialist

Dec. 6, 2021 – The Wilderness Land Trust just closed on the Little Anne Lode in the Holy Cross Wilderness. This five-acre property may be small, but with both building and mining potential, posed a big risk to the wilderness area.

View of the Holy Cross Wilderness from the Little Anne Lode property

View of the Holy Cross Wilderness from the Little Anne Lode property

My first time in the Holy Cross Wilderness was this summer on a site visit to Little Anne Lode, which is just a short scramble above Upper Turquoise Lake. While the hike was very pleasant, it wasn’t until I made it over the ridge to the property that I understood the true, epic nature of the Holy Cross Wilderness.

I saw before me the swath of unencumbered land, made of rugged ridgelines and glacier-carved valleys that sits between the Vail Pass and Thompson Divide wildlife corridors, and serves as a critical passageway for everything from elk to Canada lynx.

What I didn’t see but knew was there were the many private inholdings that dot the Holy Cross Wilderness. Within these private parcels, minerals can be mined, houses built, trees logged. These parcels sit beside high mountain lakes, along scenic ridges and through clear tumbling streams. Their impact extends well beyond their borders, threatening the very nature of the wilderness.

My site visit was a necessary step in purchasing the Little Anne Lode parcel and protecting it from these threats. And now, with this acquisition, the incredible view above Upper Turquoise Lake will remain unchanged and the area unencumbered by mining or other development forever.

Little Anne Lode is one of nine properties we are working to acquire throughout Colorado, five of which are in the Holy Cross Wilderness. On Tuesday, Dec. 7, The Wilderness Land Trust is participating in #ColoradoGives, a state-wide giving campaign that will help fund our efforts to acquire and transfer private land within Colorado’s wilderness. Please visit our Colorado Gives page between now and midnight on Dec. 7. All donations made between now and the end of the year will be matched (up to $35,000) by our board of directors.

And stay tuned for some more good news coming out of Colorado later this month!

Volunteers at the cabin removal site

Volunteers Restore Colorado Wilderness

Volunteers at the cabin removal site

Hearty volunteers in the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness

Sept. 3, 2021 – The Wilderness Land Trust is deeply grateful for the invaluable partnerships formed on many of our projects and this summer was no exception. In August 2020, the Trust purchased the 19-acre Panama/Principal Lode property outside of Aspen, Colorado knowing extensive work needed to be completed on site before it could be incorporated into the surrounding Collegiate Peaks Wilderness.

To help with this effort, the Trust reached out to The Independence Pass Foundation (IPF) for help with the cleanup, but rather than just assisting, IPF took charge. Throughout the summer, Executive Director Karin Teague, along with a band of hearty IPF volunteers, made multiple trips to the property to haul out countless bags of garbage in preparation for a two-day intensive work party scheduled for mid-August.

Volunteers removing the cabin roof

Volunteers remove the cabin roof with hand tools

On August 12-13, the Trust, IPF, and the Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers (RFOV) spent two long days emptying a historic cabin of anything not considered historic by the U.S. Forest Service. This included the removal of a heavy wood stove, plywood flooring and glass windows. We also dismantled the metal roof and underlayment — all done with hand tools and carried out on foot to waiting trucks at the trailhead.

We are grateful for this energetic cleanup operation made possible by our terrific partners. If you happen to run into Karin on Independence Pass sometime, be sure to say thanks in appreciation of all her hard work!

A view of the cabin with the roof removed

A view of the cabin with the roof removed