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.


More Protection for the Sabinoso Wilderness

A view of the Lagartija Creek property

May 1, 2020 – Defined by sheer canyon walls, rugged prairielands and never ending skies, the Sabinoso Wilderness is a high desert paradise located in northeastern New Mexico. This remote treasure was designated as wilderness in 2009 and since 2013 we have been working to further protect it.

We are happy to report we have completed the purchase of Lagartija Creek, a 320-acre parcel of land with high desert bluffs and vistas for miles that abuts the Sabinoso Wilderness boundary. By purchasing this property, we removed the threat of private development in this special corner of the Sabinoso.

We have now purchased nearly 4,800 acres adjacent to and within designated wilderness and national conservation lands in New Mexico, including the 4,176-acre Rimrock Rose Ranch, a majority of which was donated to the Bureau of Land Management in 2017. This donation expanded the Sabinoso Wilderness by 25 percent and opened public access to it for the first time since its designation.

We are grateful to our supporters who, even during this challenging time, continue to champion our work to protect our nation’s wilderness areas. Please take the time to share our work. Now more than ever, a little good news can go a long way.


The Necessity of Wilderness

April 17, 2020 – Sunrise on a mountain peak, deer browsing in a nearby meadow, the stillness of water on an alpine lake. During a time of personal and professional upheaval for many of us, we can still count on the gift of wild places.

Wilderness is a necessity for us. It recharges our batteries, clears our minds and connects us to the rhythms of the natural world. How about you? When you step into wilderness, what fills your senses with wonder? What makes it important to you?

Even during this challenging time when many of us are unable to access the great outdoors, the Trust never waivers from its mission to remove the threat of development in the wilderness areas you love. Since our founding 28 years ago, we have permanently protected more than 52,000 acres and added 481 parcels to 106 wilderness areas now owned by you, the public.

Every parcel of land we’ve acquired and transferred has a compelling story behind it and our 2020 spring newsletter is an opportunity to share some of them with you, as well as shine a spotlight on just a few of the special people who help make it happen.

We hope you enjoy our Spring Newsletter and please share it with family and friends. After all, it is your investment in our work that makes these success stories possible.


Kelly Conde, Sawtooth Wilderness

The Trust Welcomes a New Team Member


April 3, 2020 – Please help us welcome Kelly Conde to The Wilderness Land Trust family as our new lands specialist. Kelly is an Idaho native who grew up exploring the many wilderness areas in her state. Her family vacations always required a tent and hiking boots as they backpacked the Sawtooth Wilderness, rafted the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness and flew into the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness on a mail plane. Kelly says these experiences helped her understand the necessity of wild places “where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” They also led her to a career in conservation that started with the Idaho-based Sawtooth Society followed by the Sagebrush Steppe Land Trust where she worked as their conservation manager.

Kelly is based in Pocatello, Idaho, and she will oversee our projects located throughout the Northwest, including Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming.

Thank you for your continued investment in our work, especially during this challenging time. We are grateful for the ability to continue our mission and vision to keep the promise of wilderness alive for you and future generations.


bear print in mud

The Arrival of Spring: A Message from Brad Borst, President

March 20, 2020 – Today is the first full day of spring, a season that ushers in longer days, warmer temperatures and a vibrant burst of activity as flora and fauna awaken from their long winter nap. It also happens to be my birthday.

How do I plan to celebrate?

After a dawn walk in the woods with my belligerent husky and friendly border collie (neither understand the concept of “social distancing”), I’m spending the rest of the day happily working alone from our small organizational office on Bainbridge Island. That’s how.

Right now my team and I are safe and sound, each of us working from individual locations and intensely focused on the details of several new land acquisition projects under development in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Colorado and New Mexico, and the steps we need to take in order to add them to the surrounding wilderness.

You see, even during a time of profound change that COVID 19 is bringing to our country, I hope you find some comfort in knowing that some things remain the same — spring has arrived on time, your favorite wilderness area awaits as you practice your own brand of social distancing and everyone here at The Wilderness Land Trust is diligently working to fulfill our mission.

Thank you for sticking by us, even during this difficult time. We greatly appreciate your calls and emails to check in on us, your kind words of encouragement and your generous contributions to keep us moving forward. Please send me any images of you and your family this spring enjoying that special wild place in your heart, and I’ll be sure to share them with the team.

Happy spring everyone. Thank you for sharing this special day with me.


Brad Borst, President
The Wilderness Land Trust


A Unique Ecosystem Worth Saving

March 6, 2020 – We were recently given the opportunity to preserve 1,698 acres of an increasingly rare sagebrush steppe ecosystem in the Bodie Wilderness Study Area in California.

The Bodie Hills are alive with 400 plant varieties and more than 250 species of animals.

The Bodie Hills are alive with 400 plant varieties and more than 250 species of animals. Photo credit: Bureau of Land Management

The sagebrush steppe ecosystem is at high elevation with gorgeous vistas over mountain ranges in California, Nevada and Mono Laske, a unique saltwater lake supporting endemic species. To humans, this ecosystem provides excellent opportunities for solitude, but it also provides home to approximately 400 types of plants that provide habitat, food and water for more than 250 species of animals.

Needless to say we jumped on the chance to purchase this special property in order to protect it. Surrounded by towering peaks of the Sierra Nevada, White, and Sweetwater Mountain ranges, this open space provides habitat for sage grouse, mule deer, pronghorn, black bear, mountain lion, and many other species.

We are now working to transfer this property to the Bureau of Land Management and promote long-term management of the landscape as open space. Check out additional details of our recent work in the Bodie Hills and what we’re doing to protect critical wildlife habitat in the area.



Completing a Wilderness

Feb. 21, 2020 – Nine years ago this week we completed the Kingston Range Wilderness in California by transferring the last two remaining private land parcels to the BLM for permanent protection. This land – 1,240 acres – is right in the heart of the wilderness and was being considered for a large private development when we purchased it.

This wilderness is botanically one of the most diverse areas within the California Desert. Botanists have identified 505 native plant species and 32 are viewed as endangered, rare, or limited in distribution. The only stand of giant Nolina (Desert Spoon) in the eastern Mojave Desert is found in Kingston Range and one of only three relic stands of white fir trees in the desert clings to its slopes.

What does “completing a wilderness” mean? One of the greatest threats to our globally unique, more than 110-million-acre preservation system is private land, or “inholdings.”

When a wilderness area isn’t complete, it is vulnerable to development, mining and logging. Should private land within its boundaries be developed, it would affect the surrounding wilderness and threaten vital habit. Right now, approximately 180,000 acres of private land still remains within federally designated wilderness areas in the lower 48 states.

The good news? Thanks to our unwavering supporters, we continue to steadily remove these inholdings to ensure our nation’s wilderness areas remain forever wild for future generations. In fact, since 1992 we have helped complete 16 designated wilderness areas by removing the last remaining privately held land Of course, we feel like we’re still just getting started.