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 kelly@wildernesslandtrust.org 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.

 

Another Win in New Mexico

July 10, 2020 – Jagged spires forming one of the steepest mountain ranges in the western United States, open woodlands and seasonal streams providing critical habitat for golden eagles, hawks and owls. This is just a snapshot of the Organ Mountains Wilderness established in 2019 as part of the Desert Peaks National Monument near Las Cruces, New Mexico.

The Organ Mountains Wilderness at sunset
Photo credit: Patrick Nolan

The Wilderness Land Trust is pleased to announce it has purchased nearly 100 acres of private land straddling the boundary of the designated wilderness, including a series of mining claims that had been zoned for a future housing development. By purchasing this property, we have created a potential new access point into the Organ Mountains Wilderness for hikers, horsemen, rock climbers and wilderness enthusiasts who frequent this beautiful area.

Patrick Nolan, executive director for Friends of Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks, had this to say about our first project in the Organ Mountains: “We wish to thank the Trust for their efforts to acquire the Vetlaw properties located in Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument. This once private land will now be protected for public use for future generations.”

The Trust enjoys partnering with local advocacy organizations on land acquisition projects and we are especially grateful to supporters like you who make this happen. As always, we’d appreciate you sharing the good news.

 

 

Removing the Threat of Mining in Muir Country

June 26, 2020 – John Muir spent his life advocating for permanent protection of America’s wild places, including the Sierra Nevada in California. Aptly named for his tireless work, the more than 652,000-acre John Muir Wilderness stretches nearly 100 miles across California from east of Fresno in the north to just west of Lone Pine in the south.

Hikers atop Kearsarge Pass, John Muir Wilderness

In the heart of the wilderness atop Kearsage Peak lies the Rex Montis mine. Most hikers who regularly traverse the John Muir Trail have no idea that this privately owned gold mine sits just above them as they cross Kearsage Pass.

When active, the site contained five tunnels and shafts, a boarding house, several cabins, a dump and affiliated mining equipment that marred the surrounding landscape.

Thanks to your generous support, the threat of mining is now gone. The Trust purchased this 11-acre property in 2016 and recently transferred it to the U.S. Forest Service as a new addition to the surrounding wilderness.

Trust supporter Fred Dietrich says his dad started taking him into the Sierras in the 1960’s and he’s been backpacking there ever since. When told about this land transfer, Fred said, “I have so many great memories of backpacking in those mountains with my father. To be able to protect the Sierras and recognize Sam Dietrich who introduced me to wilderness is really important to me and my family and something we feel honored to do.”

We hope you’ll share this good news with family and friends, and visit us for additional updates on our work to permanently protect our nation’s designated wilderness areas.

 

Stitching Together Washington’s Wilderness

June 12, 2020 – Imagine a tree that took root 300 years ago, is wider than a car at its base

My recent visit to a project site in Washington’s Wild Sky Wilderness

WLT President Brad Borst on a  recent visit to a project site in Washington’s Wild Sky Wilderness

and nearly as tall as the Statue of Liberty. There are few places in the U.S. where trees have the opportunity to grow this big and this old. One such pocket is in Washington state’s North Cascade Mountains, an area known for its rich diversity of plant and animal species, including old growth forests.

Designated wilderness within the North Cascades, including the Glacier Peak Wilderness, protect old growth forest, salmon and steelhead spawning streams, critical forested watersheds and an abundance of wildlife.

The Wilderness Land Trust made its first Washington state land acquisition within the North Cascades in 1998 when we purchased 62 acres in the Glacier Peak Wilderness. Since then, we’ve acquired 17 properties totaling 946 acres in Washington state and we currently have seven active projects underway.

Our work in Washington state continues to be a priority, with nearly 3,000 acres of private land remaining within the Wild Sky, Henry M. Jackson, Buckhorn, Glacier Peak and Mount Baker Wilderness areas. These private parcels bring the potential for road and property development, mining and logging.

By systematically acquiring these private lands, we are stitching together the landscape, one project at a time, eventually making these wilderness areas whole. I encourage you to check out our project map to find out more about our work in the Northwest and other parts of the country. And if you have the time, I guarantee a trip to one of Washington’s old growth forests won’t disappoint!

 

The Team Behind Our Success

May 29, 2020 – The Wilderness Land Trust is known for its professionalism when it comes to acquiring and transferring private land over to public ownership as designated wilderness. Since our founding in 1992, we’ve permanently protected more than 52,000 acres and I largely credit our small team of highly skilled staff for this history of success. But there’s an equally critical element to this equation – our volunteer board of directors.

Craig Groves

WLT board member Craig Groves (left) and his hiking partner heading into the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness

This team of 15 professionals donate countless hours each year to guide the overall direction of the organization, review land projects, help fundraise and spread the word of our good work. While each board member brings a unique perspective based on their personal and professional experience, they all have two things in common – a passion for protecting America’s treasured wilderness and a story about how they got there.

When Craig Groves joined the WLT board in 2019, we enjoyed learning about his life’s journey, which led him to Montana after falling in love with nature as a child in southern Ohio. We also discovered he has a particular passion for the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, a special place Craig finds time to backpack into every year.

Take a few minutes to read Craig’s story for yourself. We’re confident you’ll come away inspired by the caliber of people we have on our board.

If Craig’s story motivates you to share one of your own, please send us an email. We’d love to share it!

A Jaw-Dropping Experience on Independence Pass

May 15, 2020 – Snow-capped mountains, high alpine meadows and hairpin turns are just a few experiences to enjoy on Independence Pass, located at 12,000 feet above

“I’m most at home in the upper reaches of Colorado’s high alpine country, where life barely hangs on beneath the shelter of the surrounding peaks.” – Colorado native Spencer Shaw on top of Independence Pass

sea level near Aspen, Colorado. This breathtaking region is adjacent three wilderness areas, including the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness, an area we’ve been working hard to protect for more than a decade.

This past year we transferred the nine-acre Grandview Lode to the U.S. Forest Service for inclusion in the surrounding wilderness, to be followed by the adjacent 10-acre Spotted Tail Lode. This area of the wilderness is a popular hiking spot and if you journey high enough, you’ll find access to climbing and jaw-dropping views of the Continental Divide.

We are also working to transfer a 20-acre property we acquired near Blue Lake within the Mount Massive Wilderness. This lake is just a three-mile hike from the pass, and as our young friend Spencer (pictured above) points out, it’s a perfect place to drop a line, soak in some sunshine and admire the wildflowers.

Since 1992, you have helped the Trust acquire nearly 5,900 acres in Colorado and transfer more than 5,700 to public ownership, and we look forward to sharing the details of several new projects currently under development.