Tag Archive for: biodiversity

Unifying the Bodie Hills Landscape

January 27, 2023- 

This week The Wilderness Land Trust completed the transfer of 1,698 acres of sagebrush steppe in the eastern Sierra to public ownership.

Located in the Bodie Hills, just east of Yosemite National Park, the property stretches across five parcels, dispersed throughout a large ranch holding.

The Bodie Hills have some of the highest ecological intactness and species richness in the region, and are ranked in the top 10% of unprotected BLM lands in California for biodiversity. Despite the ecological importance of the region, it is a patchwork of private property and public lands managed by the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management with three Wilderness Study Areas covering much of it. Wilderness designation efforts, such as those in the Bodie Hills, are often hindered by the presence of private land fragmenting the landscape as it creates an inability to control critical habitat components to assure the viability of a designation.

Since we began our work in the Bodie Hills in 2006, the Trust has purchased five large properties there totaling just over 7,000 acres. This is the third of them to be successfully transferred to public ownership. Thanks to the support of and partnerships with local conservations groups and tribes, we are steadily unifying ownership in the area, removing piecemeal management and fragmented habitats. It won’t be solved overnight, but the cumulative impact of almost twenty years of work and your support is moving us closer to the goal of protecting this important landscape.


How protecting wilderness is key for the biodiversity loss crisis

January 13, 2023-

We are in the midst of a global biodiversity loss crisis. Species are going extinct at a rate of 1000x faster than without human influence. Globally, wildlife populations have dropped an average of 69% between 1970 and 2018. But research has shown that protecting habitat is one of the key solutions for slowing this loss. In fact, the higher the level of protection of an area, the better job it does at conserving biodiversity.

Almost 60 years ago The Wilderness Act set forward the strongest set of protections for our public lands with a vision of maintaining our wildest places for future generations. It envisioned “an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” When ranking different kinds of protected areas around the world, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature classifies designated wilderness in the United States as a Category 1 protected area, meaning it has the highest degree of protection.

That means that protecting wilderness areas is key to combating biodiversity loss in the U.S. Wilderness areas are some of the only protected areas large enough to allow natural ecosystem processes like cycles of fire to operate in a natural state, and to allow wide ranging carnivores like grizzly bears, lynx, and wolverines the room they need to roam.

At The Wilderness Land Trust, this is one of the factors driving our work and determining where we focus our efforts to acquire and transfer private wilderness inholdings to public ownership. By removing these gaps in protection across the landscape, we can protect key habitat areas, give wildlife clear corridors to migrate and adapt to a changing climate, combat climate change by maintaining ecosystems such as forests that sequester carbon, and expand protection in biodiversity hot spots with high species richness and rare species.

When we report our recent acquisitions and transfers to you, you’ll often see properties ranging from 20 to 200 acres protected. In the scale of the 111 million-acre federal wilderness system, these small parcels may seem inconsequential. But the benefits of their protection stretch far beyond their borders. Their protection can mean the difference between a fence line blocking an annual migration route from summer to winter habitat or a septic tank leaching into one of the last spawning grounds for native trout or salmon. No matter their size, protecting them is key to conserving our remaining biodiversity. 

The Trust's Copper Glance Lode property

The Trust Celebrates its 30th With a Successful Project Where It All Began

The view from the Copper Glance Lode property

The view from the Trust’s Copper Glance Lode property

Feb. 4, 2022 – In 1992, attorney Jon Mulford worked with the U.S Forest Service (USFS) on several small land transactions outside of Aspen, Colorado. Through this experience, he discovered that private inholdings within the boundaries of federally designated wilderness were posing environmental threats to the landscape and creating management issues for the agency.

This information inspired Jon to develop a plan to acquire private properties within the wilderness designation and turn them over to public ownership. His vision was a national wilderness preservation system free from the threat of human development.

On February 6, 1992, Jon founded The Wilderness Land Trust to fulfill his vision. Since that time, The Trust has acquired and transferred 514 properties totaling 54,110 acres throughout the west, including 6,077 acres in Colorado.

The Trust's Copper Glance Lode property

The Trust’s Copper Glance Lode property

As the staff lead for projects in Colorado, I am honored to announce the purchase of our latest inholding where it all started. The Copper Glance Lode is a 10.33-acre property in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness. This parcel sits in the scenic Queens Basin and was part of the former Copper Glance mining operation. With the Trust’s purchase of this parcel, Queens Basin is now free of the threat of development.

This year, The Wilderness Land Trust celebrates its 30th anniversary. I reached out to Jon Mulford and asked him for his thoughts. His response was simple, “Keep up the good work.” On behalf of our entire staff and board, we want to express how grateful we are to our supporters, project partners, agency staff and landowners who make our mission to protect wilderness possible.

Thank you Jon, for starting us on this journey. We promise to keep up the good work.

-Kelly Conde, Wilderness Land Trust Lands Specialist

A view of Mt. Biedeman from the Trust's Bodie Hills property

The Wilderness Land Trust Adds 880 acres to the Mt. Biedeman Wilderness Study Area

View of Mt. Biedeman from the Trust's Bodie Hills property

A trail with a stunning view of Mt. Biedeman meanders through the Trust’s newly acquired Bodie Hills property

Bodie Hills land purchase means additional protection for California’s Eastern Sierra

Jan. 20, 2022 – The Wilderness Land Trust has closed on an 880-acre land purchase in the Bodie Hills, located in California’s Eastern Sierra. The Trust is now working with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and its conservation partners to permanently protect this property.

Overlooking Mono Lake and the Eastern Sierra on the south side of the Mt. Biedeman Wilderness Study Area (WSA), the Trust’s Bodie Hills property is known for its mature pinon-juniper forest and seasonal streams. The Bodie Hills link the Sierra Nevada to the high desert plains and wetlands of the Great Basin in California and Nevada. The size and connectivity of these wild lands provide a high level of resilience in the face of climate change that allow flora and fauna to thrive. Mule deer herds and pronghorn rely on this property to migrate between their winter and summer habitats. The area also has some of the densest concentrations of cultural and historic sites in the Great Basin.

“By purchasing the Bodie Hills property, we have protected this land from the threat of development and mining, preserved the resilience of the surrounding landscapes and protected access to a truly beautiful spot overlooking Mono Lake and the Eastern Sierra,” says Aimee Rutledge, vice president and senior lands specialist, The Wilderness Land Trust. “A heartfelt thanks to all our supporters and especially to the landowner and our partners – Friends of the Inyo, the Mono Lake Committee, Eastern Sierra Land Trust, DeChambeau Creek Foundation, Wildlands Conservancy and Resources Legacy Fund – for making this acquisition possible.”

“The acquisition of these lands, adjacent to the Mount Biedeman WSA, are an integral piece of the ecological connectivity of the Mono Basin and the Bodie Hills. The justification for permanently protecting this area is made significantly stronger because of unified ownership,” says Jora Fogg, policy director, Friends of the Inyo.

“The scenic beauty of Mono Lake and the Mono Basin National Forest Scenic Area is now better protected thanks to this significant acquisition. This is a great way to start the new year at Mono Lake,” says Geoff McQuilkin, executive director, Mono Lake Committee.

The Wilderness Land Trust has now completed five projects totaling more than 6,500 acres in the Bodie Hills region. However, thousands of acres of private lands still exist within and adjacent to the Bodie Hills, affecting several wilderness study areas, areas of critical environmental concern, and the Granite Mountain Wilderness. Without our efforts to purchase and protect private holdings within these public lands, these wild areas are vulnerable to gold mining, and commercial and residential development that threaten plant and wildlife habitat.

Additional Wilderness Land Trust Bodie Hills Projects

A Unique Ecosystem Worth Saving – Wilderness Land Trust

A Win for Wildlife Habitat in Eastern Sierra – Wilderness Land Trust

Lupine and cow parsnip are examples of some of the floral biodiversity found in the La Garita Wilderness in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains. Above, Paul Torrence hikes the trail to San Luis Peak in the La Garita.

The Wilderness Land Trust Honors Two Iconic Conservation Champions

By Paul Torrence, board member, The Wilderness Land Trust

Lupine and cow parsnip are examples of some of the floral biodiversity found in the La Garita Wilderness in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains. Above, Paul Torrence hikes the trail to San Luis Peak in the La Garita.

Lupine and cow parsnip are examples of some of the floral biodiversity found in the La Garita Wilderness in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains. Above, Paul Torrence hikes the trail to San Luis Peak in the La Garita.

Jan. 7, 2022 – The global conservation community and life on earth suffered a monumental loss in the closing days of 2021 with the deaths of two conservation giants – Professor Edward O. Wilson and
Professor Thomas E. Lovejoy III.

There will be scores of articles and eulogies written in many different languages about their scientific accomplishments, massive contributions to humans and the natural world, and legendary advocacy for biological diversity.

As a member of the board of directors for The Wilderness Land Trust, I honor these two tireless nature advocates and their support for our work at the Trust.

The Diversity of Life (1988) was the first book of Professor Wilson’s that I read. I was so fascinated by this book that I carried it with me on my daily trips aboard the Washington DC subway to work at the National Institutes of Health. I carried it with me again in the mid 1990s to a lecture by Professor Wilson at the National Zoo. I was one of probably 400 attendees who were awed by his articulate and profoundly thoughtful speech.

At the conclusion of his talk, I joined several dozen people who were attempting to introduce themselves to him. When the crowd finally dispersed, I was able to shake his hand and ask for his indulgence to write a passage in my book. He went a step further, spending some 10 minutes talking with me about the relationship of biodiversity and the biomedical research done at the National Institutes of Health, and then provided good counsel on available opportunities for my children as they developed their interests in environmental sciences.

A remarkably kind and generous man, he will be desperately missed. I encourage you to watch Professor Wilson’s video, Future of Life.

“Congratulations to The Wilderness Land Trust on its 20th anniversary. There is no better way to save biodiversity than by preserving habitat, and no better habitat, for species, than wilderness.”

–Edward O. Wilson, speaking in 2012 about the Wilderness Land Trust’s 20th anniversary.

A second seemingly near mortal blow to the battle to conserve biodiversity comes from the premature death of Dr. Thomas E Lovejoy, a tireless advocate for biodiversity and incredibly accomplished scientist.

I am honored to have met him and even more honored that he provided an endorsement of my book, “Molecules of Nature.” It was such a remarkable endorsement and I continue to work hard to live up to his words. Dr. Lovejoy never failed to answer my emails with the exception of a six-week period when he was in the Brazilian Amazon conducting ecological research. I figured he’d finally had enough of me, but he emailed upon his return! I encourage you to watch this video celebrating Professor Lovejoy’s work.

“For two decades The Wilderness Land Trust has piece by piece added to the long-term security not only of wilderness areas but also to the ecological security of the planet. And this is just a beginning for what the Trust can do.”

–Thomas E. Lovejoy, speaking in 2012 about the Trust’s 20th anniversary.

I felt very alone as I sat down to write this, remembering the loss of board member Jean Hocker in 2019, conservationist Michael Soule in 2020, board member Jim Babbitt in 2021, and now Professor Wilson and Professor Lovejoy. Who remains on this ride? Who will tell us to put on the brakes? Who will guide us through the next hairpin turn? And then I remembered. Professors Wilson and Lovejoy, through their writing, public advocacy, teaching and mentorship, have recruited and launched thousands of students into careers in the biological sciences, conservation policy, and biodiversity advocacy. With them resides the future of biodiversity and life on Earth.

Moreover, I have aligned and surrounded myself with free thinking individuals who have traveled different trails and come to the same place as I have: The recognition of the inherent value of the wild and all of the most beautiful and most wonderful species that share this planet.

I am grateful for my colleagues – the board of directors and staff of The Wilderness Land Trust. And I am also grateful to our members and supporters and all those who care so passionately about the community of life.

Our sister organization, Rainforest Trust, enjoyed the presence of Ed and Tom on their board of directors. One passage from a recent email from the Rainforest Trust is worth repeating here:

“Tom and Ed kept us focused on the most critical job in conservation, protecting habitat, even while many conservation NGOs lost their focus. You and I both know what they would tell us to do now — stick to the mission, stay the course, put one foot in front of the other. Act, urgently, to save species and climate. They are gone. The job is up to us.”

-The Rainforest Trust

About Professor Edward O. Wilson

Professor Wilson was a university research professor emeritus, Harvard University; twice Pulitzer Prize winner; U.S. National Medal of Science recipient; and Time Magazine’s 25 Most Influential People in America, 1995. He was also a renowned author of multiple books, including The Theory of Island Biogeography, Sociobiology: The New Synthesis, On Human Nature, Biophilia, The Ants, Consilience, The Future of Life, The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth, Half Earth: Our Planets Fight for Life.

About Professor Thomas E. Lovejoy

Thomas E. Lovejoy was a university professor at George Mason University, Biodiversity; chair, Heinz Center for Science, Economics and the Environment; founder of the PBS series Nature; a former senior advisor to the president of the United Nations; assistant secretary for Environmental and External Affairs for the Smithsonian Institution; and executive vice president of World Wildlife Fund – U.S. He also coined the term, “Biological Diversity.”

About Paul Torrence

Paul Torrence began his wilderness odyssey in 1970 when he helped scout potential wilderness areas in Shenandoah National Park in the run–up to the passage of the Eastern Wilderness Areas act (1975). He has hiked, backpacked, and climbed in wilderness from New Hampshire’s White Mountains and New York’s Adirondacks to the lush, biodiverse Southern Appalachians. Not content with only eastern wilderness, Paul has also climbed in Alaska’s Brooks Range, run the Hula Hula River to the Arctic Ocean, climbed the great volcanoes of the Cascades, traversed the high peaks of Wyoming’s Wind River Mountains and summited more than half of Colorado’s fourteeners.

For 30 years, Paul employed his PhD in chemistry to research cancer and virus diseases at the National Institutes of Health. He then became a professor at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, where he is now emeritus professor. He has published more than 200 scientific papers and edited four volumes in drug discovery and medicinal chemistry. Most recently he authored, “Molecules of Nature: Biodiversity, the Sixth Mass Extinction, and the Future of Medicine.”