Connecting People to the Land

March 8, 2019 — The North Fork Owyhee Wilderness Area is located in southwest Idaho near the Oregon border. The landscape is diverse, ranging from river canyons over a thousand feet deep to open expanses of sagebrush and grassland plateaus.

Eight years ago this week we transferred more than 600 acres adjacent the North Fork Owyhee River to the Bureau of Land Management for permanent protection. On this anniversary, we asked Rick Johnson, executive director for the Idaho Conservation League, how this project has benefitted the wilderness and those seeking to experience the land. This is what he said:

Through the work of The Wilderness Land Trust, a remarkable riverfront homestead is now open to the public and protected as wilderness. The area is a short hike from the North Fork Campground off the Owyhee Uplands Scenic Byway and is a regular stop on our Owyhee tours. We have seen cougar tracks and caught native redband trout here. The Trust has helped reconnect people to this place and created a portal into the wilderness. 

We love hearing how our work impacts wilderness and provides access for the public. Check out our website for more stories like this, and please share this with your family and friends. And, if this story has inspired you to visit Idaho, the Owyhee is stunning in the springtime.

A Bipartisan Victory for Public Lands

02.12.19 We are cheering on the U.S. SENATE for passing a public lands package that includes permanent re-authorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). From designated wilderness to national parks to neighborhood playgrounds, the Fund is a benefit to everyone in the community.

This legislation will permanently authorize a federal program to use offshore drilling revenue to enhance everything from wilderness areas and national parks to wildlife preserves, community parks and neighborhood playgrounds. Authorization for LWCF lapsed several months ago and we have been very hopeful for this outcome.

Protecting our Public Lands isn’t about politics – it’s about children, families, communities, and investing in future generations.

Congratulations to everyone who has worked diligently towards permanent re-authorization of LWCF, including Sen. Maria Cantwell, D – WA and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R – AK who introduced this bipartisan legislation.

Four Months, Four States and Seven Properties!

12.14.18  From Colorado to Washington, we took important steps over the last four months to remove the threat of development on seven properties, saving critical fish and wildlife habitat, and protecting more wilderness for anyone with a love of the outdoors.

  • In mid-August, we purchased three properties totaling 27 acres within the Weminuche Wilderness in Colorado behind beautiful Emerald Lake.
  • In September, we returned 33 acres to Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park after removing a 2,000 sq. ft. house and restoring the land to its natural state.
  • In October, we acquired the 324-acre California Condor/High Mountain/Trout Creek trail property, ensuring public access into the Santa Lucia and Garcia Wilderness areas.
  • In November, we closed on a 345-acre mining property in the heart of the Wild Sky Wilderness of Washington state and purchased a 60-acre mining claim adjacent to the Little Chetco River, the last remaining private inholding within the 180,000-acre Kalmiopsis Wilderness in Oregon.

Thank You and a Look Ahead

1.11.19  We can’t think of a better way to start the new year than by saying thank you, and to give you an early look at 11 properties – more than 1,100 acres – we plan to transfer in 2019 to the US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management for permanent protection.

In California we plan to transfer three Trout Creek properties (804 acres) to the Los Padres National Forest. Located near San Luis Obispo, this land provides vital habitat for endangered species, and ensures public access into the Garcia and Santa Lucia Wilderness areas.

In Colorado we will eliminate the threat of development by permanently protecting five properties (117 acres). This includes three mining claims above beautiful Emerald Lake and the Sally Bowman mine in the Weminuche Wilderness, as well as an 80-acre property within the proposed West Elk Wilderness.

In New Mexico we will transfer a 10-acre Ponderosa Trail property to protect part of the El Malpais Wilderness – home to elk, bats, volcanic badlands and caves.

In Oregon, we are preserving recreational trail access to the Snake River with the transfer of the McGraw Creek property (138 acres). And in Washington state we are protecting critical old growth forests by transferring the 20 acre Jasperson Lode mining claim in the Wild Sky Wilderness.

By the way, we’re just getting started. Thanks to your support, 2019 is going to be a busy year!

A Final Threat Eliminated from the Kalmiopsis Wilderness

11.30.18  We are thrilled to report we have closed on the purchase of a 60-acre mining claim adjacent to the Little Chetco River, 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. The World Wildlife Fund has labeled this land as one of the most botanically diverse areas in North America.

Our acquisition eliminates forever the threat from a tourist mining operation, and the potential removal of thousands of tons of river gravel that would have directly impacted critical spawning beds and water quality of the Chetco River drainage.

After we finish restoring this land to its natural state, we will transfer the property to the US Forest Service to become a part of the the Kalmiopsis Wilderness.

This is your success story. Share the good news and our work with your family and friends, and thank you for believing in us.

Tenacity Results in a Win for Wild Sky

11.16.18  Jon Mulford founded The Wilderness Land Trust in 1992 with a long-range mission to acquire unprotected private land within designated wilderness and return it to public ownership. He cultivated the Trust’s steady and tenacious work ethic with the understanding that some successes take time. In the late 1990’s, Jon established a relationship between the Trust and a company that owned a 345-acre mining property in the Wild Sky Wilderness of Washington state.

A sale was not imminent at that time, but in early 2000, board member Bill Pope picked up the torch and continued the Trust’s connection with the landowners. Bill says it best: “The Evergreen land was one of the largest private properties left in Wild Sky and I knew it was critical for us to protect it, no matter how long it took to make it happen.”

While it took a few more years, we are thrilled to tell you we have closed on the purchase of the Evergreen property, along with Jasperson, a nearby 20-acre property. This critical land will continue to provide clean water for spawning salmon, old growth Douglas Fir and western Hemlock, and the abundance of wildlife that call this area home. It is truly a wild place that is safe from future mining and logging, thanks to the help of our passionate supporters.

We are now working hard to transfer these Wild Sky properties to the Forest Service for permanent Wilderness protection. If you would like to help or want to know more about our work, please visit us and tell us what you think!

Join Fellow Wilderness Lovers on Nov. 27th and Dec. 4th

11.14.18

November 27, 2018 – Giving Tuesday

#GivingTuesday is a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration. Celebrated on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving (in the U.S.) and the widely recognized shopping events Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday kicks off the charitable season, when many focus on their holiday and end-of-year giving. Join fellow wilderness enthusiasts and CREATE A LEGACY!

December 4, 2018 – Colorado Gives Day

Colorado Gives Day unites all Coloradans in a common goal to strengthen the state’s nonprofits by giving to their favorite charities online. But we won’t make you wait until December, you can support our mission now to protect your public lands through Colorado Gives SCHEDULE A DONATION TODAY!  Thank you so much for supporting us and our Wilderness areas! Give where you live!

WLT Helps Save the California Condor Trail

11.2.18   The California Condor/Hi Mountain/Trout Creek trail provides public access into the Santa Lucia and Garcia Wilderness areas. But use of the trail and appreciation of the surrounding land extends beyond us humans. The land is also home to mule deer, black bear, wild turkeys, peregrine falcon, horned toad and other wildlife.

To protect this land, The Wilderness Land trust just closed on the purchase of a 324-acre property that could have been developed, cutting off access to the popular trail and disrupting local wildlife.

We are grateful for contributions from the San Luis Obispo Park and Open Space Foundation, the Backcountry Horseman’s Association, the Pacific Coast Long Riders, the Atascadero Horseman’s Association, generous donors and a Protect the California Condor Trail Go Fund Me campaign that helped make this purchase a reality.

We are keeping our Go Fund Me campaign active so we can raise the funds necessary to transfer the land to the Los Padres National Forest. If you’d like to be a part of this effort, please visit the campaign page and join us!

How a Cabin Disappeared in the Mt. Baker Wilderness

10.19.18   The one room cabin perched precariously on a narrow ridge, its dilapidated windows boasting stunning views of the surrounding Wilderness landscape. However, the cabin and its contents old furniture, mattresses, a wood stove, treated lumber and garbage – was slowly being crushed by the weight of heavy annual snowfall.

Down below, I was joined by our partners from the Bellingham, WA-based Whatcom Land Trust and several experienced backcountry contractors. Undeterred by the horizontal line of fresh snow that had appeared across the peaks of the nearby Mount Baker Wilderness, we loaded our backpacks with rechargeable batteries, chainsaw fuel, crowbars, hammers, rope and trash bags and took off up the trail.

After reaching the project site, we quickly organized ourselves into teams and, by the end of the day, all that remained was the cabin platform and a large pile of material.

The cabin site is part of a 38-acre inholding project we acquired last winter. We are now coordinating with a local helicopter service to fly the materials out of the Wilderness so we can truck them away for proper disposal. Once the parcel is returned to its natural state, we will transfer it to the Mt. Baker – Snoqualmie National Forest as a new addition to the surrounding Mt. Baker Wilderness.

As we hiked back to our trucks that evening, it struck me how this effort mirrors larger partnerships the Trust builds to successfully complete projects, even during times of increasing threats to our wild places.

Defining Wealth in the Wilderness

10.5.18  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.