May 19, 2022 – The Wilderness Land Trust (the Trust) transferred the last private inholding in the Mount Massive Wilderness to the United States Forest Service (USFS). The 20-acre Blue Lake property sits in the basin below the summit of Twining Peak east of Independence Pass and has the North Fork Lake Creek trail running through it. This property was vulnerable to mineral extraction and posed a significant threat to the surrounding wilderness.
The Trust acquired the property to remove this threat with the intent of transferring it to the USFS. With this transfer, the Mount Massive Wilderness, which includes Mount Elbert, Colorado’s highest peak, is now completely free of private inholdings and fully protected as wilderness.
“Our mission is to keep the promise of wilderness by acquiring private lands within them and transferring them to public ownership to become part of the surrounding wilderness,” says Brad Borst, president of The Wilderness Land Trust. “Our ultimate goal is to see every wilderness area free of private inholdings. The transfer of the last inholding in the Mount Massive Wilderness is a huge success for us and something to celebrate.”
The Blue Lake property is one of several parcels that the Trust has recently acquired off of Independence Pass. The group also owns the Spotted Tail, Panama, and Principal mining lodes, totaling 30 acres, near the Independence Townsite. With the partnership of the Independence Pass Foundation, these properties are ready to transfer to the USFS. That transfer will eliminate the last private land within the Pitkin County portion of the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness.
The Wilderness Land Trust was founded in 1992 by long time Aspen resident, Jon Mulford, and in the 30 years of its existence has conveyed more than 6,000 acres of formerly private land to the Forest Service and BLM in Colorado for permanent wilderness protection.
“It is very important to eliminate private land inholdings inside wilderness areas”, said Wilderness Land Trust Board Member Sara Shaw of Basalt, “because if the lands remain private land they can be developed with mineral exploration, mountain cabins and access roads which can severely compromise the solitude and natural values of wilderness, and harm wildlife.”
The Wilderness Land Trust is the only charitable organization in the nation focused solely on acquiring lands within in wilderness, wilderness study areas and proposed wilderness, and conveying them to the public for permanent wildlands protection. “Wilderness is critical to the protection of fish, wildlife and plant communities, water flows, clean air, climate stability and preserving places where the public can enjoy wild land”, said Borst. “We love the opportunity our work presents to conserve wildlands for future generations”.