Protecting Natural Processes in Colorado’s Wilderness

December 7, 2020 – Wildfires are a natural occurrence within Colorado’s forest ecosystem, paving the way for removal of dead trees and plant debris, regenerating the soil, and creating a mosaic of young and old trees that support a diversity of wildlife species. But the development of private land within designated wilderness disrupts this natural process and puts homes and lives, including firefighters, in danger as agencies direct considerable resources to suppress them.

Colorado’s Mount Massive Wilderness

As you contemplate many worthy causes to support on Colorado Gives Day this Tuesday, consider our work in the Collegiate Peaks and Mount Massive Wilderness areas. In the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness, we recently purchased 19-acres of land on spectacular Independence Pass and removed the last remaining threat of private development from this section of the wilderness. In the Mount Massive Wilderness, where Coloradans find peace in dropping a line, soaking in the sun and admiring native wildflowers, we are in the process of transferring a final inholding to the U.S. Forest Service, making this beautiful wilderness whole.

Since The Wilderness Land Trust’s first land acquisition in Colorado in 1992, we have purchased 126 private parcels of land totaling 5,868 acres to prevent development in Colorado’s designated wilderness areas and reduce the dangers inherent to wildfire season.

Thank you for your unwavering support in our work. Please join us for Colorado Gives Day on Dec. 8 or schedule your donation in advance. We couldn’t do it without partners like you.

Wilderness Land Trust Presentation on Land Acquisitions

November 19, 2020 – The Wilderness Land Trust staff recently hosted a zoom call to give supporters an inside look at the Trust’s work to protect our nation’s designated wilderness areas. The presentation offered a behind the scenes look at our current projects, including what made them successful and the challenges they faced.

This presentation is now available to the public. If you have any questions about our work, please feel free to contact us at (206) 397-5240 or via email at

A Final Piece of the Puzzle Falls Into Place

The Ferruginous Hawk is a threatened and endangered species in Washington state

November 13, 2020 – Within The Juniper Dunes Wilderness lives the northern most growth of western juniper that dates back 150 years. This land in southeast Washington state is often battered by strong winds that build upon its impressive 130-foot high sand dunes. It’s also home to the Ferruginous Hawk, a state threatened and endangered species.

Juniper Dunes is the only wilderness area in this state managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). This landscape sees about a foot of snow in the winter and summer temperatures that regularly soar above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Despite these harsh conditions, plenty of animals thrive in the Juniper Dunes, including mule deer, bobcats, coyotes, badgers, weasels, porcupines, kangaroo rats and rattlesnakes.

Your generous support made it possible for the Trust to purchase a 236-acre property – the last private inholding – in the heart of this more than 7,000-acre wilderness. In doing so, you have helped remove the threat of future development on this harsh, beautiful area.

On behalf of the entire staff and board, thank you for making this possible.

The Trust is now working through the complex process of transferring this property to the BLM and when we’re done, this wild and windy wilderness will be complete.

A Path to Wilderness

October 16, 2020 – Designated wilderness protects vital habitat for threatened and endangered flora and fauna. Every acre we acquire and transfer is part of a collective effort to remove the threat of private development and make our wilderness areas whole.

Each project is an opportunity to fulfill our vision for a healthy, diverse and unified wilderness ecosystem across the American west.

In fiscal year 2019-20, we took another step toward accomplishing our mission with the purchase of 1,495 acres of private land and the transfer of just over 354 acres to public ownership. It almost goes without saying that we could not have done this work without supporters like you and without our invaluable partnerships with landowners, agency staff, sportsmen, conservation and recreation advocates, volunteers and foundations.

The past year has been daunting to say the least. We could never have imagined that we would face the kind of headwinds that have rocked our nation and the world. But as we look out over the landscape and the more than three dozen projects currently underway at the Trust, we are grateful and energized to have you beside us on the path to wilderness.

Thank you. We encourage you to check out the successes in our latest Annual Report and share it with your family and friends. Don’t forget to let them know that you are a part of our success story.

Denise on a rafting trip

The Trust Welcomes a New Board Chair

October 2, 2020 – The Wilderness Land Trust is pleased to announce Denise Schlener as the new chair of our board of directors. Denise has served on our board since 2013, sharing her extensive experience in building sustainable and effective organizations.

Denise’s career in conservation began with the Wilderness Society where she worked toward the passage of the Alaska National Interest Lands Act. This successful effort led to important roles leading the Connecticut chapter of the Nature Conservancy, director of National Services for the Land Trust Alliance and many more.

However, Denise says her passion for wild lands started much earlier than this:

“My passion for wilderness conservation started very young with camping trips to the Adirondacks and national parks with my aunt and uncle,” says Denise. “That was the beginning of my backcountry explorations in our nation’s wilderness areas and wildlands from Alaska to Vermont and many places in between.”

Denise resides in Washington DC where she currently serves as the chief operating officer of Polaris, a nonprofit dedicated to ending human trafficking. In addition to the Trust, she is on the board of the Tregaron Conservancy, an urban land trust in the heart of DC.

We extend a heartfelt thank you to Karen Fisher for successfully leading the Trust as board chair during the past three and a half years, and are thrilled that Karen remains on our board as vice chair and treasurer.

Please continue to visit our website for the latest Wilderness Land Trust news, and thank you for your continued support of our mission and vision to keep the promise of wilderness alive.

A Win for the Wild Sky

September 17, 2020 – The Wild Sky Wilderness is part of a 2.6 million-acre wilderness complex in Washington state that straddles the Cascade Mountain Range from Canada south to Snoqualmie Pass. It is a rugged and remote landscape, characterized by steep valleys, exposed ridgetops, old-growth forest and dense vegetation resulting from 150 – 200 inches of annual precipitation. It is also home to a large number of mining claims The Wilderness Land Trust has been working to acquire for more than two decades.

Within and adjacent to the Silver Creek drainage of the Wild Sky Wilderness, the Trust has five active projects underway, and I am pleased to announce the latest acquisition of 160-acres that straddles the wilderness boundary. We originally purchased the surface rights to the property in May of 2019. At that time, the mineral rights were under separate ownership. Through a lengthy legal process, these rights have been unified with the land.

We now turn our attention to transferring the property over to the U.S. Forest Service as part of an ongoing effort to stitch together the fabric of the wilderness.

Thank you for your continued support of our work to protect the Wild Sky Wilderness, now and for future generations.

The Trust Removes Development Threat from Independence Pass

September 2, 2020 – The Wilderness Land Trust has purchased a 19-acre inholding east of Aspen just off of Highway 82 in the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness. In the last three years, the organization has purchased two other inholdings totaling an additional 19 acres and with this most recent purchase, the Trust has removed the last remaining threat of private development in this area of the Collegiate Peaks.

This 19-acre parcel is visible from the road and along a popular hiking trail. Without protection, it was vulnerable to residential development, which would have disrupted plant and animal habitat and threatened access to the trail. With a generous matching grant from a local resident and contributions from the AABC, Alpenglow, BF, Independence Pass, Iselin and Oak Foundations, as well as numerous individuals in the Aspen area, the Trust raised the funds needed to acquire this critical property.

Purchasing this land is the first of a two step process. The Trust will now work with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) to clean up the property before transferring it to public ownership. This work includes removing a metal roof, wood burning stove and other debris from in and around a cabin. Because the cabin is of historical significance, the log walls will remain. Once cleanup of the property is complete, the Trust plans to transfer the property to the USFS to be incorporated into the surrounding wilderness area.

“Our mission is to keep the promise of wilderness by acquiring and transferring private lands to public ownership that complete designated and proposed wilderness areas,” says Brad Borst, president, The Wilderness Land Trust. “The Collegiate Peaks Wilderness near Independence Pass is a special region known for its magnificent alpine landscapes. We are grateful for the generous support from local organizations and residents who jumped in to help us protect this piece of Colorado paradise.”

The Wilderness Land Trust is partnering with The Independence Pass Foundation to raise the funds needed to complete the transfer of this project. Individuals or organizations interested in helping can contact Kelly Conde at or 206-842-1214.

The Wilderness Land Trust Earns National Recognition

August 21, 2020 – Americans strongly support saving the open spaces they love. Since our founding in 1992 The Wilderness Land Trust has been doing just that – protecting more than 52,000 acres to date. With three dozen active projects stretching from Alaska to Arizona, more wilderness is on the way.

To enhance our commitment to this work, we are pleased to announce the renewal of our land trust accreditation through the Land Trust Accreditation Commission. As part of a network of more than 400 accredited land trusts across the nation, our accreditation confirms our dedication to maintaining the highest standards in land conservation to permanently protect places like the Organ Mountains Wilderness in New Mexico, Collegiate Peaks Wilderness in Colorado, and many, many more.

To achieve re-accreditation, we provided extensive documentation on the Trust’s lands program and overall organizational management, and underwent a comprehensive third party evaluation. Having our accreditation renewed means the commission is confident The Wilderness Land Trust will continue to pursue its mission with the utmost professionalism.

Thank you for your generous investment in our work and please feel free to share this good news with family and friends. We are honored that you are a part of our organization.

The Things We Value

Historic cabin in the Frank Church River Of No Return Wilderness, Idaho

August 7, 2020 – It was late afternoon when our staff emerged from Idaho’s Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness after spending the day visiting a project site. It was hot and a thunderstorm was developing overhead. On this day our team included Brad Borst, president, and Kelly Conde, lands specialist, The Wilderness Land Trust, and five U.S. Forest Service (USFS) staff from the Payette National Forest.

They drove three hours along dusty backroads earlier in the day followed by a hike in to the property. Their goal was to get a look at the remnants of several historic cabins and examine three mine adits to determine if any of them required cleanup before the property is transferred to the surrounding wilderness. Luckily, the USFS thought the buildings could remain, and the adits represented nothing more than “a whole lot of looking, and not much finding” by long ago miners, according to an agency representative.

Back at the trailhead our team dusted themselves off before settling down to review their field notes. It’s very satisfying to check off one of the numerous steps we must follow to remove another inholding from the wilderness. In fact, Kelly and Brad enjoyed discussing the next steps for this project so much they didn’t notice the long drive back to civilization.

Our enthusiasm shouldn’t surprise anyone who follows the Trust’s work. The values we embrace as an organization — a passion for wild places, a desire to protect it for future generations, a joyful determination to get the job done and respect everyone involved — runs deep within our ranks. It also ensures our success, as evidenced by more than 52,000 acres permanently protected to date.

Thank you for your generous investment in our work. We’ll keep you posted on how this project turns out, and look forward to sharing more updates from the field this summer.


Heart Lake in the Castle Crags Wilderness

Great American Outdoors Act Update

July 24, 2020 – Earlier this month, the Senate passed the Great American Outdoors Act and we are thrilled to report this week it has also passed the House. Thanks to Congress for their leadership on protecting public lands and wilderness! This brings the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) one step closer to full, permanent funding. President Trump is expected to sign it soon.

Heart Lake in the Castle Crags Wilderness

LWCF funds will allow permanent protection of the Little Castle Lake property, including pristine water, forest land and trail access to Heart Lake in Castle Crags Wilderness. Above, Aimee Rutledge, vice president and senior lands specialist, takes a swim in Heart Lake on a pre-Covid community support hike that attracted more than 40 people.

The Wilderness Land Trust depends on LWCF – the primary federal funding source for wilderness acquisitions — to purchase and protect private land within designated wilderness areas. Right now we have 33 active projects in nine states stretching from Alaska to Arizona. Each of these private parcels in wilderness threatens the surrounding wild lands with the potential for mining, logging or residential development.

LWCF funding lets us remove these threats and permanently protect vital plant and animal habitat and critical water sources so these lands can remain wild for future generations to enjoy.

Check out our recent work and as always, thank you for your continued support.