Another gap in protection filled in the Wild Sky Wilderness

May 4, 2024-

The Wilderness Land Trust recently acquired 128 acres within Washington’s Wild Sky Wilderness, building on a years-long effort to unify protection across the landscape.

Looking at a map of the Silver Creek drainage in Washington’s Wild Sky and Henry M. Jackson Wilderness Areas tells a remarkable story of the cumulative impact we are making together in the wild places we love. It tells the story of a spectacular landscape, lush with old-growth forest, home to threatened steelhead trout spawning grounds, with a rich history of mining boom and bust that has left a patchwork of land ownership and protection across the wilderness areas.

As we revise this map we color new parcels in yellow as relationships with landowners deepen and deals to purchase their properties progress, in orange as the Trust acquires properties, and ultimately in green as they are transferred to public ownership and added to the wilderness area. It’s a wonderful sense of accomplishment as one by one we see the blank properties on the map filled in as the threat of their development is removed.

Recently we completed the purchase of the 128-acre Ramble Lode property. It was the Trust’s ninth acquisition within the drainage, and adjoins several already protected properties. With it we have filled another gap in protection in the Wild Sky Wilderness.

 

 

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New protections for Washington and California’s wild places

February 23, 2024-

Lands added to Henry M. Jackson Wilderness & Lassen National Forest

This week we are celebrating successful transfers of properties in California and Washington to public ownership! Both projects protect habitat important for maintaining biodiversity and improve connectivity across the landscape.

In northern California’s Lassen National Forest, 35 acres have been protected in an area proposed for future wilderness designation. The property provides an important connection between the proposed wilderness and Hat Creek, a trout fishery that Cal Trout and the Pit River Tribes have been working to restore. With good road access, the property was at high risk of development in the popular area for cabins and second homes just outside Lassen National Park. With the property’s addition to public lands, the road can be closed, adding to the roadless area eligible for wilderness designation.

 

 

 

The 15-acre West Seattle Lode property has been added to Washington’s Henry M. Jackson Wilderness. The property was our first acquisition in the wilderness area in 2022, which adjoins the Wild Sky Wilderness. This rugged, glaciated landscape is home to the endangered Northern Spotted Owl, Cascade red fox, pika, wolverines, and Marbled Murrelet, a seabird that nests in old-growth forests and alpine slopes. The property is on a steep slope that overlooks the Monte Cristo ghost town, the site of a gold and silver mining boom lasting from 1895-1912, and a popular hiking destination.

The Hat Creek and West Seattle Lode projects are great examples of how protecting small properties can have positive impacts that reach well beyond their boundaries.

 

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Celebrating 345 acres added to Washington’s wilderness

June 19, 2023- This week the Trust transferred the 345-acre Evergreen property to public ownership, adding it to Washington’s Wild Sky Wilderness. The Evergreen property was the largest remaining private inholding left in the Wild Sky Wilderness, and with its transfer, we are one step closer to unifying protection across the landscape and conserving critical habitat. 

The Trust first purchased the property back in 2018, and since then has been working with the US Forest Service to transfer it. This timeline to acquire and transfer a project isn’t unusual, and highlights an important aspect of our work. Because it can take years for federal agencies to go through their internal process to purchase private inholdings directly, they typically can’t meet the timeline of private sellers. The Trust, on the other hand, is able to move quickly. We pride ourselves on being able to work with landowners and complete necessary due diligence, like appraisals, to ensure that they are not only offered fair market value for their properties, but that we can meet their schedule and remain a competitive option in the market.

Thanks to this public-private partnership, we are able to celebrate the addition of 345 acres of old-growth forest in the heart of the North Cascades Ecosystem to the wilderness, ensuring it will remain wild and free of development for the benefit of generations to come.

The Value of Conservation in the Mount Baker Wilderness

February 10, 2023- The Wilderness Land Trust recently completed the purchase of 21 acres of private property within Washington’s Mount Baker Wilderness.

Within this 21-acre property, high in the alpine, sits one of the remaining 13 glaciers in the Mount Baker Wilderness. Glaciers across the North Cascades have been steadily losing volume over the last several decades. As glaciers shrink due to a changing climate, the ecosystems that depend on them become increasingly vulnerable. We must protect them from stressors like development to assure their continued resilience.

The first law of ecology is everything is connected. During their normal annual cycles of accumulation and melt, glaciers act as reservoirs of water that persist throughout the summer, creating perennial steam habitat and water sources for plants and animals. Their runoff is also important to downstream water temperatures, small variations of which can have huge impacts on the ecosystem, including salmon spawning grounds.

The value of protecting this little 21-acre property high on the slopes of the Mount Baker Wilderness flows downstream just as its runoff does. It is connected to the larger landscape around it through a web of actions and reactions, which we are a part of. A recent study found the Mt. Baker-Snowqualmie National Forest provides $30 billion worth of ecosystem services that we depend on. These are things like the clean air and clean water which sustain life. Every dollar invested in the Forest returns over $3,000 in ecosystem services, making the purchase and protection of this property a sound investment for future generations.

Enjoy the view from the Fourth of July Lode property

Closing out 2022 with protection in the Weminuche, Wild Sky, and Henry M. Jackson Wilderness Areas!

December 30, 2022-

We are wrapping up 2022 celebrating successful protection of the wilderness you love in Colorado and Washington!

In the San Jan Mountains of Colorado, southeast of the small town of Silverton, the Weminuche Wilderness covers almost half a million acres of pristine alpine habitat, including three 14,000 ft peaks. We recently completed the purchase of three parcels known as the Great Western Lode, totaling 30.96 acres. Protected within the property is a fragile community of grasses, sedges, and dwarf plants that make up Colorado’s alpine tundra. The popular 9.3 mile Whitehead Trail runs through two of the Great Western Lode parcels, connecting the Continental Divide Trail, Highland Mary Trail, and Deer Park Trails. Prior to our purchase, public access on the Whitehead Trail was not secured through the private parcels, leaving these treasured recreation opportunities vulnerable. Thanks to your support, generations to come will have access to explore this rugged, breathtaking landscape!

The Trust recently completed the purchase of the 15.15-acre West Seattle Lode, our first acquisition in Washington’s Henry M. Jackson Wilderness. This rugged, glaciated landscape is home to the endangered Northern Spotted Owl, Cascade red fox, pika, wolverines, and Marbled Murrelet, a seabird that nests in old growth forests and alpine slopes. The property is on a steep slope that overlooks the Monte Cristo ghost town, the site of a gold and silver mining boom lasting from 1895-1912.

The 20-acre Jasperson Lode property was purchased by The Trust in 2017, and was recently transferred to public ownership. This newest addition to the Wild Sky Wilderness sits in a bowl on the south flank of the imposing Sheep Gap Mountain, just west of the Silver Creek drainage. With the property now incorporated into the wilderness, the patchwork of land management regulations and wildlife habitat has been removed, ensuring seamless conservation across the landscape.

Protecting the Wild Sky Wilderness for Everyone

November 3, 2022- This week the Wilderness Land Trust completed the purchase of the privately owned 280-acre Greater New York Lode property in Washington’s Wild Sky Wilderness.

The Greater New York Lode is located in the heart of the Wild Sky Wilderness in the Silver Creek drainage- a place many of you may recognize from past projects. This is the seventh project we’ve completed in the drainage, which is riddled with privately owned properties and mining claims. This one drainage contains almost all of the remaining Wild Sky Wilderness private inholdings, and one-third of the private inholdings left in Washington State, making it a high priority for our work in the North Cascades region.

In addition to the ecological importance of it’s temperate rainforests, salmon spawning grounds and alpine habitat, the Wild Sky Wilderness is only an hour or so away for Seattle’s 4 million residents. Preserving this kind of close-to-home wilderness access helps make the outdoors more equitable and inclusive. Communities of color, which represent 38% of the Seattle metro area population, are 3x more likely than white communities to live in nature deprived areas 1, a statistic that is also mirrored for low-income communities. Improved outdoor access for these communities has many social and health benefits: Low-income households who have the greatest access to nature and open spaces have the lowest levels of health inequity 2.

Pursuing projects like the Greater New York Lode that help protect wilderness close to nature deprived communities is one way our conservation community can help ensure our wild places are accessible to everyone.

Want to learn more about organizations working to connect underserved communities in Seattle to wilderness? Check out Wilderness-Inner City Leadership DevelopmentThe Sierra Club’s Seattle Inner City Outings, and Outdoors Empowered Network.

Silver Creek

Jumbo Lode Acquisition | Protecting Silver Creek

September 9, 2022- This month, The Wilderness Land Trust closed on a 12-acre inholding called Jumbo Lode in the Wild Sky Wilderness of Washington. This property is located in the heart of the Silver Creek drainage. It is a steep tangle of underbrush and tall trees. At the base of the property is Silver Creek, a tributary to the North Fork Skykomish River, which provides important habitat for spawning salmon. Jumbo Lode is, admittedly, very hard to get to and would be very hard to develop. Considering just this one property alone, one may wonder why we go through the effort.

The Wilderness Land Trust prioritizes acquisitions through an internal ranking system. Some properties that are larger in acreage, close to an important resource, easier to get to and develop, or include public access rise to the top of our list of priorities. And some are part of a larger effort by the Trust. The Jumbo Lode is an example of the latter.

While the 12-acre property is smaller and far more remote than many, it is an important piece in our quest to fill in the Silver Creek drainage puzzle. The Silver Creek drainage was once cluttered with private parcels from the Washington mining era. One small parcel may not change a landscape but an entire drainage of parcels does. The Wilderness Land Trust is working hard to pick these parcels up, one by one, until the entire drainage is part of the Wild Sky Wilderness and free from the threat of mining and logging. Jumbo Lode is the 18th parcel the Trust has acquired in the Silver Creek drainage. By doing this work, we are making sure that Silver Creek remains a viable and critical part of the Wild Sky Wilderness habitat. Jumbo Lode is our latest success in this effort.

We are grateful that we have supporters who understand this work and allow us to continue it. Thank you for all you do to help us keep the promise of wilderness.

Protecting the Mount Baker Wilderness

Morning valley mist in the Mount Baker Wilderness

April 8, 2022 – The Mount Baker Wilderness is named after the fourth highest summit in the state of Washington – the iconic 10,778 ft. Mount Baker. This beautiful and rugged mountain range in the North Cascades is lush with wildflowers, huckleberries and blueberries in the summer months to support a rich habitat for bears, elk, mountain goats and deer.

In 2018, a 38-acre property within this designated wilderness was donated to The Wilderness Land Trust to safeguard its extensive natural resources. We have been working diligently to get the property ready to transfer to public ownership ever since.

The first step was to remove an old cabin on the property. This demolition took many trips to the property and the hands of many dedicated volunteers, a process that was generously supported by the previous landowner.

However, the property was still not ready for transfer because the land was also protected by a conservation easement. The United States Forest Service (USFS) cannot accept title to a property where others hold a right. In this case, the Whatcom Land Trust held a right to the property through the conservation easement.

With the help and creativity of the Whatcom Land Trust and the USFS, we found a path forward and resolved this issue.

We are so pleased to share with you that this property has now been officially transferred to the public for permanent protection as part of the surrounding Mount Baker Wilderness. Sometimes it takes several years and many steps before we can transfer an acquired property. In this case, the process took about five years, but was well worth the effort, don’t you think?

Please visit the Washington state projects page on our website for more information on our work in the Evergreen State.

Silver Creek flows through jagged rocks and lush undergrowth on its way to the Skykomish River

Protecting Silver Creek in the Wild Sky Wilderness

Oct. 1, 2021 – The North Cascades Ecosystem in Washington state is one of America’s largest expanses of wild public lands. Straddling the North Cascade Mountain range from Canada to Snoqualmie Pass, the ecosystem covers 2.6 million acres of rugged slopes, snowy peaks and lush, old-growth forests.

Silver Creek flows through jagged rocks and lush undergrowth on its way to the Skykomish River

Silver Creek flows through jagged rocks and lush undergrowth on its way to the Skykomish River

Designated in 2008, the Wild Sky Wilderness is home to precious, carbon-rich trees — unsung heroes in the fight against climate change. Unfortunately, it is also riddled with old mining claims that potentially open up the area to mining and logging.

The Wilderness Land Trust has been working diligently to acquire these claims in order to make the landscape whole. Our latest acquisition is a 39-acre parcel within the creek drainage that flows out of Silver Lake in the adjacent Henry M. Jackson Wilderness.

Silver Creek catches close to 200 inches of moisture annually, providing critical water flow for salmon that spawn in the connected North Fork Skykomish River. Our latest acquisition, the eighth in this drainage, will permanently protect vital fish habitat, and we are actively working to acquire several more properties in the near future.

Visit our Washington state projects page for more information on our work in the Evergreen State and as always, thank you for your support that allows us to continue this critical work.