Tag Archive for: conservation

Protecting the Mount Baker Wilderness

Morning valley mist in the Mount Baker Wilderness

April 8, 2022 – The Mount Baker Wilderness is named after the fourth highest summit in the state of Washington – the iconic 10,778 ft. Mount Baker. This beautiful and rugged mountain range in the North Cascades is lush with wildflowers, huckleberries and blueberries in the summer months to support a rich habitat for bears, elk, mountain goats and deer.

In 2018, a 38-acre property within this designated wilderness was donated to The Wilderness Land Trust to safeguard its extensive natural resources. We have been working diligently to get the property ready to transfer to public ownership ever since.

The first step was to remove an old cabin on the property. This demolition took many trips to the property and the hands of many dedicated volunteers, a process that was generously supported by the previous landowner.

However, the property was still not ready for transfer because the land was also protected by a conservation easement. The United States Forest Service (USFS) cannot accept title to a property where others hold a right. In this case, the Whatcom Land Trust held a right to the property through the conservation easement.

With the help and creativity of the Whatcom Land Trust and the USFS, we found a path forward and resolved this issue.

We are so pleased to share with you that this property has now been officially transferred to the public for permanent protection as part of the surrounding Mount Baker Wilderness. Sometimes it takes several years and many steps before we can transfer an acquired property. In this case, the process took about five years, but was well worth the effort, don’t you think?

Please visit the Washington state projects page on our website for more information on our work in the Evergreen State.

A steep granite cliff plunges into the deep waters of Alaska's inside passage.

Alaska “Fortress of the Bears” Wilderness Needs Protection

A steep granite cliff plunges into the deep waters of Alaska's inside passage.

Comprising the largest intact temperate rainforest in the world, Alaska’s Tongass National Forest is a place filled with islands and salmon streams, where towering mountains sweep down into thick old-growth forest and granite cliffs drop into deep fjords Photo credit: Ingrid Ougland

March 25, 2022 – It’s been 30 years since The Wilderness Land Trust protected its first parcel of land. Nearly 25 years later we landed in Alaska, purchasing the largest remaining private inholding in the Chuck River Wilderness in partnership with the Southeast Alaska Land Trust. The 154-acre Windham Bay parcel was transferred to the public for permanent protection almost exactly a year ago.

Together we are now working to protect more wilderness in Alaska. The Kootznoowoo (Fortress of the Bears) and Chuck River Wilderness areas in the Tongass National Forest surround the Inside Passage waterway, connecting more than 2.2 million acres of public land. The size and connectivity of these wild lands filled with coastal rivers and rare muskeg wetlands provide a high level of resilience in the face of climate change that allow grizzlies, salmon, mountain goats, wolves and humpback whales to thrive. The Tlingit village of Angoon on Admiralty Island is home to more than 500 people. Several other rural communities, including the nearby village of Kake, depend on these wilderness areas for subsistence harvests.

Old mining equipment in the Chuck River Wilderness

Old mining equipment in the Chuck River Wilderness

Within the 2.2 million acres of public land, clusters of private lands left over from old mining camps exist, threatening the surrounding wilderness with the prospect of timber and mineral extraction as well as residential development.

The Wilderness Land Trust is now working to acquire two properties to prevent cabin development along Wheeler Creek and the Chuck River in the Kootznoowoo and Chuck River Wilderness areas, protecting the salmon, grizzly and black bears that call them home. When this work is complete, a total of 33 acres of new wild lands will be added to the Tongass National Forest and permanently protected from private development, safeguarding more than 2.2 million acres of public land they impact.

Please take the time to learn more about our work in Alaska and join our fight to save this extraordinary wilderness. If you’ve already joined our Alaska campaign, thank you for your support. We cannot do this work without you.

A Muskeg wetland in the Chuck River Wilderness. These wetlands tend to have a water table near the surface and the sphagnum moss forming in it can hold 15 to 30 times its own weight in water, making it an ideal habitat for a wide variety of plant and animal species.

A Muskeg wetland in the Chuck River Wilderness. These wetlands tend to have a water table near the surface and the sphagnum moss forming in it can hold 15 to 30 times its own weight in water, making it an ideal habitat for a wide variety of plant and animal species.

A whale tail makes an appearance in Alaska

A common sight along Southeast Alaska’s inside passage.

Hercules Lode looking at Fancy Lake

More Protection in the Holy Cross Wilderness

From Hercules Lode looking at Fancy Lake in the Holy Cross Wilderness

From Hercules Lode looking at Fancy Lake in the Holy Cross Wilderness

March 11, 2022 – Today we closed on two more parcels in the Holy Cross Wilderness of Colorado. These properties, the Chance and Hercules Lodes, total 25 acres and are located on the southwest side of the wilderness.

I had the good fortune of visiting these properties with my cousin, who happens to live close by. Until that day, my cousin was unfamiliar with my job and so, as we hiked past the wooden Holy Cross Wilderness sign, I described the mission of The Wilderness Land Trust and why our work is important. I told her that, while the ground we were walking on is thought to have the highest level of land protection, there are actually significant holes in that protection.

When we reached the first of the two parcels, the flat, beautiful 5-acre Hercules Lode which runs along the east shore of Fancy Lake, my cousin was shocked.

“This is private property?!”

I explained that these pieces of private land are not only a threat because of the opportunities for cabins to be built, mines dug, trees felled.  They are a threat because they siphon off resources otherwise used to manage the surrounding wilderness. Their mere existence degrades the integrity of the wilderness area.

The good news is, The Wilderness Land Trust has a way to remove this threat and make our wilderness areas truly protected.

We’ve been at it for 30 years.

In Colorado alone, we have protected more than 6,000 acres of private land and the innumerable acres of surrounding public land with our work.

And today, we can add another 25 acres to that number.

We are grateful for all of our supporters who make our work protecting wilderness possible. We truly couldn’t do it without you.

-Kelly Conde, Wilderness Land Trust Lands Specialist

View of Mulhall Lake from Chance Lode

View of Mulhall Lake from Chance Lode

Photo of Hercules Lode which runs along the east side of Fancy Lake in the Holy Cross Wilderness

Photo of Hercules Lode which runs along the east side of Fancy Lake in the Holy Cross Wilderness

Looking down on the southeast corner of the Holy Cross Wilderness on the hike to Chance Lode

Looking down on the southeast corner of the Holy Cross Wilderness on the hike to Chance Lode

Light snow on the ridge behind a lake, as seen from the Northern Lode property

More Protection for Wilderness in Colorado

Light snow on the ridge behind a lake, as seen from the Northern Lode property

A spectacular view from the Northern Lode property

Feb. 25, 2022 – Today, The Wilderness Land Trust closed on the Northern Lode property, a 10-acre parcel on the eastern side of the Holy Cross Wilderness in Colorado. The Northern Lode is a true wilderness inholding, meaning it is completely surrounded by federally designated wilderness and will automatically become a new addition to the Holy Cross upon transfer.

I visited this property on a crisp, sunny day last October. The parcel is a three-mile trek into the wilderness area and sits just south of the 13,000-foot Homestake Peak on a steep, scree-filled slope.

As with every project site visit, this trip was a combination of pleasure and work. I got to punch through the first snow of the season, scramble up rocky slopes and soak in rugged ridgelines. I also investigated the remnants of old mining pits just off the property boundary and checked off another step towards acquisition. This trip ended up being my last wilderness hike of the year, closing another season of mountain wandering.

A snowy view of the mountains from the Northern Lode propertySo now, in mid-winter, this property sits close in my mind and makes its acquisition that much sweeter to me.

We are so grateful to all of our supporters for helping us continue this great work. To date, we have protected 6,086 acres in Colorado and are actively working on acquiring another 55 acres in this state. Please check out our current Colorado work online and stay tuned for more good news from across the western United States!

-Kelly Conde, Wilderness Land Trust Lands Specialist

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.”

June view from Hat Creek Rim Scenic Viewpoint

Welcoming the New Year with More Protected Land to Enjoy

Dec. 31, 2021 – We can’t think of a better way to close out 2021 than with the news that we’ve protected a vital property in northern California’s rugged Lassen National Forest. The 35-acre Hat Creek property connects to the proposed Lost Creek Wilderness area that totals more than 20,000 acres.

June view from Hat Creek Rim Scenic Viewpoint

June view from Hat Creek Rim Scenic Viewpoint

This stunningly unique refuge hosts two trout streams – Hat Creek and Lost Creek. By purchasing this land, we have eliminated the threat of private development so this land can continue to host deer, bear, elk, northern spotted owl and many other species.

This landscape is also part of the Klamath-Siskiyou wild area – 11 million acres of connected protected landscapes in northern California and southern Oregon that reaches from the Pacific Coast to the High Sierra. This massive stretch of land includes six designated wilderness areas that provide critical resilience in the face of climate change.

The Hat Creek property is surrounded by Lassen National Forest roadless area on three sides. By purchasing it, we have also provided a potential future fishing and hiking access point to this beautiful land.

Being outside in the wild brings us the greatest joy, especially during difficult times. And as we say goodbye to 2021 and welcome the new year and our 30th anniversary as a Land Trust, I can’t emphasize enough how grateful and joyous we are to have your support. If you are still planning to donate before the end of the year, your dollars will be matched by our board, which has generously agreed to match all gifts up to $35,000.

If you have already donated to the Trust, thank you! Your donation makes more smiles and laughter outside together possible in 2022 and beyond.

A Colorado Wilderness Holiday Gift

Dec. 17, 2021 – The Fossil Ridge Wilderness in Colorado is more than 32,000 acres of raw granite, high mountain lakes and glacier carved valleys. Along a steep ridge just below the summit of Cross Mountain sits a 183-acre property that significantly supports wildlife habitat for deer, elk, mountain goats and bighorn sheep.

A dusting of snow in the Holy Cross Wilderness

This mining claim is accessible via an old jeep road. This easy access increased the likelihood of development on the property, which is why we are thrilled to announce that The Wilderness Land Trust has closed on this property and removed these threats from the wilderness.

Northwest of the Fossil Ridge Wilderness sits the 64,304-acre Raggeds Wilderness. A 10.33-acre mining claim just outside the boundary of the designation is easily accessed by a nearby dirt road and has the flat scenic vistas that make building a significant threat. I’m delighted to tell you we have also purchased this property and removed the threat of yet another development.

Acre by acre we are fulfilling our mission to eliminate private property from within our nation’s treasured wilderness areas. Every land acquisition is an opportunity to protect vital habitat for threatened and endangered species, unify fragmented wildlands to ensure safe animal migration and conserve large, biologically diverse ecosystems across the west.

The Wilderness Land Trust is incredibly grateful to the generous supporters who make this all possible. We hope this latest news brings a smile to your face as you celebrate the holiday season.

The Holy Cross Wilderness, Colorado

More Protection for Colorado Wilderness – A message from Kelly Conde, lands specialist

Dec. 6, 2021 – The Wilderness Land Trust just closed on the Little Anne Lode in the Holy Cross Wilderness. This five-acre property may be small, but with both building and mining potential, posed a big risk to the wilderness area.

View of the Holy Cross Wilderness from the Little Anne Lode property

View of the Holy Cross Wilderness from the Little Anne Lode property

My first time in the Holy Cross Wilderness was this summer on a site visit to Little Anne Lode, which is just a short scramble above Upper Turquoise Lake. While the hike was very pleasant, it wasn’t until I made it over the ridge to the property that I understood the true, epic nature of the Holy Cross Wilderness.

I saw before me the swath of unencumbered land, made of rugged ridgelines and glacier-carved valleys that sits between the Vail Pass and Thompson Divide wildlife corridors, and serves as a critical passageway for everything from elk to Canada lynx.

What I didn’t see but knew was there were the many private inholdings that dot the Holy Cross Wilderness. Within these private parcels, minerals can be mined, houses built, trees logged. These parcels sit beside high mountain lakes, along scenic ridges and through clear tumbling streams. Their impact extends well beyond their borders, threatening the very nature of the wilderness.

My site visit was a necessary step in purchasing the Little Anne Lode parcel and protecting it from these threats. And now, with this acquisition, the incredible view above Upper Turquoise Lake will remain unchanged and the area unencumbered by mining or other development forever.

Little Anne Lode is one of nine properties we are working to acquire throughout Colorado, five of which are in the Holy Cross Wilderness. On Tuesday, Dec. 7, The Wilderness Land Trust is participating in #ColoradoGives, a state-wide giving campaign that will help fund our efforts to acquire and transfer private land within Colorado’s wilderness. Please visit our Colorado Gives page between now and midnight on Dec. 7. All donations made between now and the end of the year will be matched (up to $35,000) by our board of directors.

And stay tuned for some more good news coming out of Colorado later this month!