Last private inholding in Kalmiopsis Wilderness transferred to public ownership!

June 2, 2023- Looking out across the landscape, the Kalmiopsis Wilderness of southwest Oregon feels rugged and harsh, and since the entire wilderness area burned in the 2002 Biscuit Fire, it is a stark portrait of the ongoing change of natural processes. With one of the most complex geological areas in the country, full of uplifted and contorted ancient ocean floor and volcanic intrusions, the Kalmiopsis has always told the story of change, recording the marching of time across millennia. Within its deep, rough canyons and craggy ridges, the last few decades have also seen more rapid change as the ecosystem rebounds from fire.

Today we’re celebrating the start of a new chapter for 60 acres deep in the heart of the Kalmiopsis. In 2018 the Trust purchased the last remaining private inholding in the wilderness area. The property sits on the Little Chetco River, and up until the Trust’s purchase of it, was an active dredge mining operation. Most recently it was run as a destination for recreational gold mining trips, complete with cabins and dredging equipment flown in by helicopter, to house a steady stream of visitors as they tried their hand at gold mining. The impact of this kind of development reaches beyond property lines though, with sediment washing downstream in Coho Salmon spawning grounds, and wildlife pushed out of historic migration routes.

Acquiring the property was only the first step in protecting it. The Trust then undertook restoring the property to its wilderness character, no small feat in this remote and rugged location.

With the property successfully restored, we recently transferred it to public ownership, completing the wilderness area 54 years after it was first established. In this next chapter, this wild place will continue to change, but now that change will take place in nature’s timeframe, once again governed by natural processes, not imposed by human development.

Project Updates

August 12, 2022-

In the last two years, The Wilderness Land Trust has completed fundraising campaigns for several critical property acquisitions. Your generosity funded the purchase of these lands and covered acquisition costs. We are happy to provide you an update on the second phase of those projects, the transfer to public land.

Achenbach | Organ Mountains Wilderness, NM

WLT acquired 109 acres and secured trail access at the mouth of Achenbach Canyon in February 2021, protecting wildlife habitat and scenic views within the 500,000-acre wilderness. The Trust is grateful for our partnership with Friends of Organ Mountains Desert Peaks. We continue to work with the Bureau of Land Management staff to transfer the Achenbach Canyon property for permanent protection, which will take a few years. Thanks for your support of this important acquisition at Achenbach Canyon to protect future public access.

Panama and Principal Lode | Collegiate Peaks Wilderness, CO

When we purchased the 19-acre Panama/Principal Lode property outside of Aspen, Colorado in the fall of 2020, we knew there was work to be done to get the property “wilderness ready” in order to transfer it to the White River National Forest. A historic cabin on the property needed to be emptied of its contents, its roof dismantled, and the mounds of trash surrounding it, removed.

The Trust enlisted the help of The Independence Pass Foundation (IPF) with the cleanup and throughout last summer, volunteers made multiple trips to the property to haul out everything from old bedsprings to a heavy table and chairs to a yoga mat. The culmination of this work happened in late August, 2021 when the Trust, IPF, and the Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers (RFOV) dismantled and carried out a wood-burning stone, the cabin’s plywood floor and metal roof.

We are happy to report that, upon the completion of this cleanup, the property is now ready to be transferred to become part of the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness. We are working with the US Forest Service staff to complete this transfer.

Little Chetco | Kalmiopsis Wilderness, OR

The Trust acquired this 60-acre mining claim adjacent the Little Chetco River in 2017, the last remaining private inholding within the 180,000 acre Kalmiopsis Wilderness. This southwest Oregon wilderness contains the headwaters of three national wild and scenic rivers — the Chetco, North Fork Smith, and Illinois — clean, clear waters that provide critical habitat for salmon and steelhead. Our acquisition and impending transfer to the USFS permanently removes the threat of a former active mining operation that directly impacted critical spawning beds and water quality of the Chetco River drainage.

Acquisition of these properties removed the threat of development, but there is an equal amount of hard work in transferring these properties to our agency partners for inclusion in the National Wilderness Preservation System. Your continued support of The Wilderness Land Trust provides the resources for our staff to complete site visits and due diligence in that second phase of work. Please consider making a gift to steward these lands into public ownership!

Another Win for Wilderness on the Snake River

June 2, 2022 – The Wilderness Land Trust recently worked with the US Forest Service (USFS) to add 82 acres to Oregon’s Hells Canyon Wilderness Area. The private parcel, which is on a scenic bench above the Snake River and has the Reservoir Bench Trail running through it, is in the heart of the wilderness area and threatened the public access to the trail and the ecological integrity of the area.

This project was unique in the fact that the Trust acquired and transferred the property on the same day. The USFS had been working directly with the landowners, Idaho Power, and already had the due diligence completed and funding lined up to acquire the property. The two parties, both informed by their own bureaucratic process, came to a stalemate over legal documents and the Trust was called to step in as a third party.

The Wilderness Land Trust is designed to be nimble and to take on risk if the end goal is to create a stronger, more unified wilderness. We were created that way for this exact situation. The Trust was able to step in with the flexibility to get the deal done. Now, the Hells Canyon Wilderness is one step closer to being whole.

As we continue to celebrate 30 years of accomplishments, this project proved that these accomplishments are ever-building. The more we complete in a professional, efficient manner, the more we’re able to do. We are forever grateful to be called upon by our strong federal partners to do the work of keeping the promise of wilderness. And we are forever grateful to you, our supporters, for ensuring that we’re around to receive that call.

Sunrise, Juniper Dunes

Another Wilderness Designation Now Complete

Sunrise, Juniper Dunes

Sunrise, Juniper Dunes Wilderness – Photo credit: Bureau of Land Management WA & OR

August 20, 2021 – The Juniper Dunes Wilderness is a land of extremes – from windswept snowdrifts in the winter to triple digit temperatures in the summer. But despite its seemingly harsh climate and lack of water for flora and fauna, plenty of animals thrive within its boundaries: mule deer, bobcats, coyotes, badgers, skunks, weasels, porcupines, birds of prey (including the endangered Ferruginous Hawk), songbirds and yes, rattlesnakes. The area also contains the U.S. northernmost growth of western juniper trees, which grow among the vast, windswept sand dunes.

Sand dunes, Juniper Dunes Wilderness

Photo Credit: Bureau of Land Management

Today, the Juniper Dunes Wilderness in southeast Washington state is officially 236 acres larger with the recent transfer of our property to the Bureau of Land Management. While the transition to public ownership is always exciting for us, this project is particularly significant because it means this federally designated wilderness is now complete.

Cactus in Juniper Dunes Wilderness

Photo Credit: Bureau of Land Management


Thank you for making all of this possible. With your generous support, we have now helped complete 17 designated wilderness areas throughout the United States, removing forever the threat of commercial, industrial and residential development within their boundaries.


Sunrise, Juniper Dunes

Photo Credit: Bureau of Land Management 

Sandy landscape, Juniper Dunes Wilderness

Photo Credit: Bureau of Land Management WA & OR