Tag Archive for: Colorado Wilderness

Protecting the slopes of Mount Champion

December 1, 2023-

The Wilderness Land Trust recently acquired 275 acres on the slopes of Mount Champion, just outside Colorado’s Mt. Massive Wilderness.

Less than an hour from the Roaring Fork Valley, locals and visitors have long been drawn to Independence Pass for its panoramic vistas and recreation opportunities for all ages and abilities. Mount Champion stands tall above the pass and, while the area is a popular destination, much of the peak’s south and west faces have been privately owned and at risk of development.

This month Amy Margerum Berg, owner of 275-acres on the west face of Mount Champion, generously donated the property to The Wilderness Land Trust to be subsequently transferred to public ownership in San Isabel National Forest. The property stretches from the North Fork of Lake Creek almost to the summit and includes remnants of the Champion Mine which was active from 1907-1940 mining gold, silver, copper, and lead.

“My late husband, Charles “Chuck” McLean, had the foresight to purchase these mining claims with the intent of protecting them from development. My son, Slater McLean, and I are so proud to be donating this land in his honor. He loved this land more than anything and spent hours exploring and hiking every inch of this spectacular backcountry wilderness. He would be very happy to know that the land will now be protected forever,” says Amy Margerum Berg.

The popular North Fork Lake Creek Trail leads hikers, backpackers, and horsemen into the 30,000-acre Mount Massive Wilderness and runs through the base of the donated property. Protecting the property under public ownership will ensure public access on the trail and mitigate the management and liability concerns that have recently cut off access to several of Colorado’s 14ers. The donation also protects important wildlife habitat, spanning from streamside riparian zones to alpine meadows above treeline, and is home to bighorn sheep.

The Champion Mine South property is just up the drainage from the 20-acre Blue Lake property which The Trust added to designated wilderness last year, removing the last remaining inholding in the Mount Massive Wilderness.

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17 more Colorado properties protected!

November 17, 2023-

This week The Wilderness Land Trust completed the purchase of 17 properties totaling 162 in and around the Handies Peak and Red Cloud Wilderness Study Areas in Colorado. 

Near Silverton and Lake City, the Handies Peak and Red Cloud Wilderness Study Areas draw a wide variety of recreationists. Several of the acquired properties are located near the trailhead and trail to American Basin, one of the most iconic scenic vistas in Colorado. The Alpine Gulch Trail runs through another of the properties. These two wilderness study areas have been recommended for designation as wilderness and are included in the Colorado Wilderness Act which has been passed by the US House and awaits a Senate vote. In removing these potential future wilderness inholdings before the wilderness is designated, we are helping to avoid management conflicts, including for public access, before they arise.

The area also has significant ecological value. In addition to being home to Bighorn Sheep and the endangered Uncompahgre Fritillary Butterfly, some of the properties are within a one-mile corridor separating the proposed wilderness with the already designated Uncompahgre Wilderness. Safeguarding against development in these wildlife corridors is important in the landscape-scale protection needed to build climate resilience in our wild places. The Handies Peak WSA also includes the headwaters of the Gunnison River, Animas River, and Rio Grande, which supply drinking water to many downstream communities.

The properties are accessed by the Alpine Loop Backcountry Byway, a very popular OHV route that traverses 63 miles through the alpine on roads built during the mining boom, including over Cinnamon and Engineer Pass. The properties’ proximity to this popular motorized route put them at especially high risk for development. In fact, while visiting the properties our lands specialists saw several newly constructed cabins on other nearby private properties. Real estate prices in the area for these remote properties are considerably higher than in other parts of Colorado, and are only rising. All of this makes protecting these properties not only critical, but urgent. There are still many remaining private inholdings in the area which the Trust is pursuing. As we near the end of the year and its accompanied fundraising drive, your continued support will help move these 17 properties through the transfer process, placing them in public ownership for generations to come, and will help us to protect more private properties in the area.


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