Defining Wealth in the Wilderness

Oct. 5, 2018 — According to Merriam Webster, El Dorado is defined as a place of fabulous wealth or opportunity. As we know, opportunity and wealth are in the eye of the beholder.

Hopeful miners saw the El Dorado Lode in the Weminuche Wilderness of Colorado as a potential gold mine, their own “City of Gold.” However, like many mining properties throughout the west, the El Dorado Lode turned out to be a bust.

When the land fell short of their dreams, the long time landowners turned to The Wilderness Land Trust, and we purchased this 10 acre property for a fair yet modest price. Over the past two years, we have worked with our partners at the US Forest Service to complete and secure this wilderness, and we are thrilled to report that the El Dorado Lode has been successfully added to the wilderness that surrounds it.

This purchase and transfer ensures the protection of the Whitehead Trail that crosses it, above Verde Lake, assuring hikers access to one of our country’s most dramatic and beautiful wilderness areas along the Continental Divide. Although it was never realized as a city of gold, the El Dorado Lode will remain rich with the plants and animals that inhabit it, and provide a wealth of experiences for outdoor enthusiasts for generations to come.

Protecting the Weminuche Wilderness

Sept. 21, 2018 — Nestled within the Weminuche Wilderness in Colorado and located at the top of a rise behind beautiful Emerald Lake sits three properties that, until now, were a threat to the designated wilderness around them. Thanks to our supporters, The Wilderness Land Trust now owns these properties and they are no longer in danger of being developed and disrupting this pristine wilderness area. Instead, they will be enjoyed in their natural state for generations to come.

This is the happy ending. But where did it begin? We started working with the prior owners more than a decade ago. The Emerald Lake properties were owned by a couple with deep roots over several generations in southwest Colorado. At one time, the owners worked the land by herding cattle in order to help pay for college. When it came time to sell, they were very happy to see their legacy help fill in the gaps in the Weminuche. To us, our work is about more than closing the deal. We get to know landowners and they believe in our mission and trust our organization and process.

We will now take on the multi-year work to transfer this land to federal ownership and put another piece in the puzzle to help complete the Weminuche Wilderness. On to the next project!

33 Acres Returned to Rocky Mountain National Park’s Wild Basin Area


Before and After Cabin Removal

Sept. 6, 2018 — The Wild Basin area of Rocky Mountain National Park lives up to its name as the wildest area of the park. It’s in Wild Basin that a large amount of designated wilderness is located, and where backpackers, anglers, hikers and horse packers enjoy a truly remote experience a short hour outside of Denver and the Colorado Front Range.

Until now, a two-story house sat in the middle of this wilderness, perched atop a highly visible rock formation, its driveway cutting through the trees to its doorstep. After two years of work, The Wilderness Land Trust is pleased to announce the transfer of this parcel to the Park Service as an addition to Rocky Mountain National Park.

The Trust purchased this critical property and has removed the existing two-story house, returning the land to its natural state. The paved access road will soon be transformed into a hiking trail, giving the public access to the view from the property’s overlook for the first time in nearly 100 years.

We sincerely thank the Rocky Mountain Conservancy, the National Park Trust, and our local funders and supporters, for helping to make this a reality.

New Recreational Access in Castle Crags Wilderness

July 11, 2018 — A unique alliance between a land trust, three timber companies, the climbing community and the Forest Service has resulted in protection of the beloved Castle Crags area in northern California, a rock climbing destination, wildlife habitat and important water source for California residents.

Two square miles of land adjacent to the Castle Crags State Park and Federal Wilderness purchased by the Wilderness Land Trust from Roseburg Forest Products has resulted in the transfer of more than 1,250 acres to the USDA-Forest Service for inclusion in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest. Funding for the transaction was provided by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, along with the Access Fund Climbing Conservation Loan Program and The Conservation Alliance.

Eagles and other raptors frequently soar through the Crags, which contain world-class climbing opportunities. In the forest surrounding the Crags, almost 1,000 acres of mature timber also now stand protected. The property is located south of Dunsmuir and Mount Shasta, just off Interstate 5, from which the Crags are clearly visible. The area contains stunning views of Mount Shasta and Mount Lassen. Little Castle Creek provides spawning habitat for trout and fishing opportunities and it flows to the Sacramento River, providing clean water throughout California via the Sacramento River Delta.

“The land contains 360 acres of the Crags with dramatic rock outcrops and amazing views that are part of local history,” said Aimee Rutledge, vice president and California program manager for The Wilderness Land Trust. “The Wintu Tribe fought and died to protect it and still come for spiritual healing and guidance and to collect plants for medicinal purposes.”

Ranging from the bottom of Little Castle Creek to the top of Castle Crags, the area has few developed trails, the primary one accessing Castle Dome. Local groups like the Mount Shasta Trail Association have proposed building an Around-the-Crags Trail at some time in the future.

Other partners critical to the success of the project include local climbers and businesses. The Crags contain more than 20 challenging climbing routes as recently detailed in the Castle Crags section of “Mount Shasta Area Rock Climbing — A Climber’s Guide to Siskiyou County” by Grover Shipman.

“The acquisition is a great example of a large-scale win-win for conservation, cultural resources, and recreation, including access to incredible wilderness climbing,” says Joe Sambataro, access director for the Access Fund. “This type of deal is about protecting the outdoors and ensuring future experiences.”

“We are proud to be a part of the effort to increase the protected acreage at Castle Crags, and to improve access to this special place,” said John Sterling, executive director of The Conservation Alliance, a group of outdoor industry companies that work together to support conservation initiatives. “Our member companies benefit when outdoor recreation is more accessible.”

“Roseburg recognized there was a higher and better use for this land and was happy to make the sale. It maintains the company’s long tradition of active community support,” said Scott Folk, senior vice president of Resources at Roseburg.

The transaction culminated two years of collaboration between Roseburg and the Trust. In addition, Sierra-Pacific Industries and Kimberly-Clark Corporation assisted in the disposition of legacy mineral and access issues.

Who Was Sally Bowman?

April 18, 2018 — She must have made quite an impression in 1899, when Jerome Morse filed a patent on a 10-acre mining claim in the middle of what is now the Weminuche Wilderness in southern Colorado. Just after filing to create the Morse Lode, he filed to create the Sally Bowman Mine right next door. Intriguing!

That history is lost to us, but the property was not. The family passed it down from generation to generation, and in 2017 the heirs donated it to the La Plata Open Space Conservancy (LPOSC). The Conservancy has successfully protected private lands around Durango, Colorado and northern New Mexico for 25 years.

We then partnered with LPOSC to acquire the Sally Bowman Mine, and we are now in the process of transferring it over to public ownership. A successful transfer of this property will be the sixth project completed in Colorado’s largest designated Wilderness and further ensures protection of the La Plata River, which runs through the property.

THANK YOU for your generous support of our mission to Keep the Promise of Wilderness for future generations!

Wilderness Groups Celebrate Public Access to the Sabinoso Wilderness in Special Ceremony

May 29, 2018 — The Wilderness Land Trust joined the National Wildlife Federation, New Mexico Wildlife Federation, New Mexico Wilderness Alliance and other partners to celebrate the now accessible 16,000 acre Sabinoso Wilderness in New Mexico that, until recently, was impossible for the public to access without trespassing on private property.

Thanks to a contribution from the Wyss Foundation, The Wilderness Land Trust purchased the Rimrock Rose, a 4,176 acre property adjacent to the Sabinoso Wilderness that includes the remote and beautiful Canyon Largo, then transferred the land to public ownership by donating it to the Bureau of Land Management so that it may be added to the Sabinoso Wilderness area to create public access.

Today’s ceremony was held at the Petroglyph National Monument Visitors Center to honor US Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich of New Mexico for their leadership and collaboration with the Secretary of the Interior to successfully open the Sabinoso Wilderness to the public.

“We’ve been working on creating access to the Sabinoso Wilderness since it was designated in 2009,” said Brad Borst, President of The Wilderness Land Trust. “We are deeply grateful to the Wyss Foundation for funding the acquisition and transfer of the heart of the Rimrock Rose Ranch to the Bureau of Land Management; to US Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich of New Mexico for their leadership and perseverance; for the support of the San Miguel County Commissioners; for the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance volunteers for helping with site cleanup; and for the sportsmen groups who publicly advocated for this New Mexico treasure.”

The Sabinoso Wilderness, created by Congress in 2009, is a rugged backcountry area east of Las Vegas, New Mexico, that is home to mule deer, bobcats, gray foxes and a wide range of plant and animal species that are home to the high plains.  The headwaters of the Canadian River runs through the Rimrock Rose property and the Canyon Largo, then on past the designated wilderness. Canyon Largo was a well-traveled route used by cavalry traveling from Fort Union to Fort Bascom in the 19thcentury, and by native people for centuries before patented as private land a hundred years ago.


About the Wyss Foundation

Founded in 1998, the Wyss Foundation has long supported locally-led efforts to conserve public lands in the American West for everyone to experience and explore. The Foundation’s philanthropy has helped conserve and restore public lands from the Crown of the Continent in Montana and the Hoback Basin in Wyoming to the coastline of California and the rivers of Maine.

About The Wilderness Land Trust

The Wilderness Land Trust is a small, highly specialized nonprofit organization established to buy and protect wilderness land. Since founded in 1992, the Trust has preserved 450 parcels comprising nearly 49,000 acres of wilderness inholdings in 104 designated and proposed wilderness areas across 10 states. The Wilderness Land Trust, a 501(c)(3) organization, has offices in California and Colorado.

Wild West Elk

May 2, 2018 — Another success! We just finalized the purchase of 40 additional acres of private land adjacent to the West Elk Wilderness area in Colorado. Add this to the 40 adjacent acres we already own, and we are now ready to transfer the only remaining private land within the proposed East Elk Creek addition to the designated West Elk Wilderness. Now the work begins in transferring the land. We couldn’t have done this without our supporters and fellow wilderness lovers. Thank you!

Reid Haughey, Intermountain Program Director and project lead, recently spent a full day bushwhacking and assessing the property before purchase to ensure a successful acquisition. The trip was scheduled around sage grouse lekking closures and we’re happy to tell you that our project will successfully unify sage grouse habitat.

THANK YOU for your generous support of our mission to Keep the Promise of Wilderness for future generations!