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The Main Salmon River winds its way below the Trust’s newly acquired property in the Frank Church – River of No Return Wilderness Photo credit: Bradford Knipe

More Protection in the Heart of Idaho

Sept. 17, 2021 – Located in the midst of a 3.3 million-acre roadless area, the Frank Church – River of No Return Wilderness, combined with the adjacent Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, is the largest contiguous wilderness area in the lower 48 states.

The Main Salmon River winds its way below the Trust’s newly acquired property in the Frank Church – River of No Return Wilderness Photo credit: Bradford Knipe

The Main Salmon River winds its way below the Trust’s newly acquired property in the Frank Church – River of No Return Wilderness. Photo credit: Bradford Knipe

Bighorn sheep, mountain goats, grey wolves, lynx, black bears and wolverines call this land home. The Middle Fork and Main Salmon Rivers slice through the designation, providing habitat and spawning grounds for native westslope cutthroat trout, endangered sockeye and chinook salmon, and steelhead trout. The rivers and tributaries of this wilderness area are critically important for the long-term survival of these species.

This week we purchased another property in the heart of the wilderness. The 38-acre Surprise Lode property is directly adjacent our previous Painter Mine property, a parcel the Trust acquired in 2014 and transferred to the Payette National Forest in 2017. The Trust has also completed projects in the Hell’s Canyon, Little Jacks Creek and North Fork Owyhee Wilderness.

Protecting this beautiful land and its varied habitat is what we live for, and we are excited to continue filling in the map in Idaho’s fabled Frank Church – River of No Return Wilderness. Learn more about our process, and thank you for your generous support of our work.

Volunteers at the cabin removal site

Volunteers Restore Colorado Wilderness

Volunteers at the cabin removal site

Hearty volunteers in the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness

Sept. 3, 2021 – The Wilderness Land Trust is deeply grateful for the invaluable partnerships formed on many of our projects and this summer was no exception. In August 2020, the Trust purchased the 19-acre Panama/Principal Lode property outside of Aspen, Colorado knowing extensive work needed to be completed on site before it could be incorporated into the surrounding Collegiate Peaks Wilderness.

To help with this effort, the Trust reached out to The Independence Pass Foundation (IPF) for help with the cleanup, but rather than just assisting, IPF took charge. Throughout the summer, Executive Director Karin Teague, along with a band of hearty IPF volunteers, made multiple trips to the property to haul out countless bags of garbage in preparation for a two-day intensive work party scheduled for mid-August.

Volunteers removing the cabin roof

Volunteers remove the cabin roof with hand tools

On August 12-13, the Trust, IPF, and the Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers (RFOV) spent two long days emptying a historic cabin of anything not considered historic by the U.S. Forest Service. This included the removal of a heavy wood stove, plywood flooring and glass windows. We also dismantled the metal roof and underlayment — all done with hand tools and carried out on foot to waiting trucks at the trailhead.

We are grateful for this energetic cleanup operation made possible by our terrific partners. If you happen to run into Karin on Independence Pass sometime, be sure to say thanks in appreciation of all her hard work!

A view of the cabin with the roof removed

A view of the cabin with the roof removed

Sunrise, Juniper Dunes

Another Wilderness Designation Now Complete

Sunrise, Juniper Dunes

Sunrise, Juniper Dunes Wilderness – Photo credit: Bureau of Land Management WA & OR

August 20, 2021 – The Juniper Dunes Wilderness is a land of extremes – from windswept snowdrifts in the winter to triple digit temperatures in the summer. But despite its seemingly harsh climate and lack of water for flora and fauna, plenty of animals thrive within its boundaries: mule deer, bobcats, coyotes, badgers, skunks, weasels, porcupines, birds of prey (including the endangered Ferruginous Hawk), songbirds and yes, rattlesnakes. The area also contains the U.S. northernmost growth of western juniper trees, which grow among the vast, windswept sand dunes.

Sand dunes, Juniper Dunes Wilderness

Photo Credit: Bureau of Land Management

Today, the Juniper Dunes Wilderness in southeast Washington state is officially 236 acres larger with the recent transfer of our property to the Bureau of Land Management. While the transition to public ownership is always exciting for us, this project is particularly significant because it means this federally designated wilderness is now complete.

Cactus in Juniper Dunes Wilderness

Photo Credit: Bureau of Land Management

 

Thank you for making all of this possible. With your generous support, we have now helped complete 17 designated wilderness areas throughout the United States, removing forever the threat of commercial, industrial and residential development within their boundaries.

 

Sunrise, Juniper Dunes

Photo Credit: Bureau of Land Management 

Sandy landscape, Juniper Dunes Wilderness

Photo Credit: Bureau of Land Management WA & OR

Sunrise Juniper Dunes Wilderness

Summertime Site Visits

Site visit photo in the Raggeds Wilderness

The Raggeds Wilderness

August 6, 2021 – Summertime is peak field season for the lands staff, particularly in the northern states where access to designated wilderness becomes possible once the mountain snow begins to melt. It’s a time to physically inspect potential new land acquisitions, as well as fulfill our annual site visit requirement for properties the Trust is working to transfer to public ownership.

For the past four weeks, land specialist Kelly Conde has been doing just that, starting with the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness in her home state of Idaho. The rugged nature of this wilderness area can present a formidable challenge while researching a property, and she got a taste of this while scrambling up a steep ridge with breathtaking views of the Salmon River below.

The following week’s adventure was all about the deep drainages and mountainous inclines found in the Wild Sky and Henry M. Jackson Wilderness areas of Washington state. According to Kelly, she “mastered the art of the vegetation belay where any bush or small tree can be used to lower oneself down a very steep slope” as she visited three potential new land acquisitions.

Moving on to Colorado, Kelly walked through the high alpine tundra of the Fossil Ridge Wilderness, endless aspen groves of the Holy Cross Wilderness and thick wildflowers of the Raggeds Wilderness. She tells us she may have seen a wolverine scampering across a 12,400-foot scree field in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness (though none have been officially documented in Colorado since 2009).

Over four weeks, 11 properties in nine wilderness areas were inspected, each unique and entirely worthy of permanent protection as federally designated wilderness.

Thank you for your generous contributions that provide the funding for our land staff to complete these site visits, a critical step in the process of protecting a wilderness area near you.

Fossil Ridge Wilderness

Fossil Ridge Wilderness (Photo credit: Kelly Conde)

Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness

Maroon Bells – Snowmass Wilderness  (Photo credit: Kelly Conde)

 

 

 

 

The view from a recent site visit in the Wilderness

Holy Cross Wilderness (photo credit: Kelly Conde)

Sabinoso Wilderness Expands by Nearly 50 Percent

Wilderness Land Trust Vice President and Senior Lands Specialist Aimee Rutledge with U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland

Wilderness Land Trust Vice President and Senior Lands Specialist Aimee Rutledge with U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland

July 23, 2021 – The Sabinoso Wilderness in New Mexico has expanded again thanks to our partnership with Trust for Public Land (TPL), the Wyss Foundation, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and the leadership of U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) staff and local public officials.

Through a land donation that included 908 acres of property acquired by The Wilderness Land Trust and TPL’s 8,947-acre Cañon Ciruela property, a total of 9,855 acres have been transferred to the BLM, marking the largest expansion of a federally designated wilderness via donation in U.S. history.

Our work on the Rimrock Rose Ranch project adjacent to the Sabinoso Wilderness opened public access to this previously land-locked wilderness area and increased the size of the federal designation by 25 percent with the first 3,600 acre land transfer in 2017. The latest addition will create a second access point for the public.

During her visit to the Sabinoso, Secretary Haaland called the wilderness “An environmental treasure for all the American people.” We couldn’t agree more with her assessment. Our sincere thanks for your generous support of our work to protect federally designated wilderness in New Mexico and across the American West. Read more about this project in the Albuquerque Journal and Santa Fe New Mexican.

U.S. Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland, Senators Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico, Representative Teresa Leger Fernandez, Santa Fe County Commission Anna Hansen, Bureau of Land Management staff, and representatives from The Wilderness Land Trust, Trust for Public Land, National Wildlife Federation, Wyss Foundation, and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation joined together to celebrate the latest Sabinoso Wilderness expansion on July 17, 2021.

U.S. Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland, Senators Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico, Representative Teresa Leger Fernandez, Santa Fe County Commission Anna Hansen, Bureau of Land Management staff, and representatives from The Wilderness Land Trust, Trust for Public Land, National Wildlife Federation, Wyss Foundation, and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation joined together to celebrate the latest Sabinoso Wilderness expansion on July 17, 2021.
Photo credit: Jerod Foster, courtesy of The Trust for Public Land

U.S. Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland cuts the ceremonial ribbon

Photo credit: Jerod Foster, courtesy of The Trust for Public Land 

U.S. Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland speaking at the event

Photo credit: Jerod Foster, courtesy of The Trust for Public Land

The Trust Removes Development Threat from Independence Pass

September 2, 2020 – The Wilderness Land Trust has purchased a 19-acre inholding east of Aspen just off of Highway 82 in the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness. In the last three years, the organization has purchased two other inholdings totaling an additional 19 acres and with this most recent purchase, the Trust has removed the last remaining threat of private development in this area of the Collegiate Peaks.

This 19-acre parcel is visible from the road and along a popular hiking trail. Without protection, it was vulnerable to residential development, which would have disrupted plant and animal habitat and threatened access to the trail. With a generous matching grant from a local resident and contributions from the AABC, Alpenglow, BF, Independence Pass, Iselin and Oak Foundations, as well as numerous individuals in the Aspen area, the Trust raised the funds needed to acquire this critical property.

Purchasing this land is the first of a two step process. The Trust will now work with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) to clean up the property before transferring it to public ownership. This work includes removing a metal roof, wood burning stove and other debris from in and around a cabin. Because the cabin is of historical significance, the log walls will remain. Once cleanup of the property is complete, the Trust plans to transfer the property to the USFS to be incorporated into the surrounding wilderness area.

“Our mission is to keep the promise of wilderness by acquiring and transferring private lands to public ownership that complete designated and proposed wilderness areas,” says Brad Borst, president, The Wilderness Land Trust. “The Collegiate Peaks Wilderness near Independence Pass is a special region known for its magnificent alpine landscapes. We are grateful for the generous support from local organizations and residents who jumped in to help us protect this piece of Colorado paradise.”

The Wilderness Land Trust is partnering with The Independence Pass Foundation to raise the funds needed to complete the transfer of this project. Individuals or organizations interested in helping can contact Kelly Conde at kelly@wildernesslandtrust.org or 206-842-1214.

The Wilderness Land Trust Earns National Recognition

August 21, 2020 – Americans strongly support saving the open spaces they love. Since our founding in 1992 The Wilderness Land Trust has been doing just that – protecting more than 52,000 acres to date. With three dozen active projects stretching from Alaska to Arizona, more wilderness is on the way.

To enhance our commitment to this work, we are pleased to announce the renewal of our land trust accreditation through the Land Trust Accreditation Commission. As part of a network of more than 400 accredited land trusts across the nation, our accreditation confirms our dedication to maintaining the highest standards in land conservation to permanently protect places like the Organ Mountains Wilderness in New Mexico, Collegiate Peaks Wilderness in Colorado, and many, many more.

To achieve re-accreditation, we provided extensive documentation on the Trust’s lands program and overall organizational management, and underwent a comprehensive third party evaluation. Having our accreditation renewed means the commission is confident The Wilderness Land Trust will continue to pursue its mission with the utmost professionalism.

Thank you for your generous investment in our work and please feel free to share this good news with family and friends. We are honored that you are a part of our organization.

The Things We Value

Historic cabin in the Frank Church River Of No Return Wilderness, Idaho

August 7, 2020 – It was late afternoon when our staff emerged from Idaho’s Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness after spending the day visiting a project site. It was hot and a thunderstorm was developing overhead. On this day our team included Brad Borst, president, and Kelly Conde, lands specialist, The Wilderness Land Trust, and five U.S. Forest Service (USFS) staff from the Payette National Forest.

They drove three hours along dusty backroads earlier in the day followed by a hike in to the property. Their goal was to get a look at the remnants of several historic cabins and examine three mine adits to determine if any of them required cleanup before the property is transferred to the surrounding wilderness. Luckily, the USFS thought the buildings could remain, and the adits represented nothing more than “a whole lot of looking, and not much finding” by long ago miners, according to an agency representative.

Back at the trailhead our team dusted themselves off before settling down to review their field notes. It’s very satisfying to check off one of the numerous steps we must follow to remove another inholding from the wilderness. In fact, Kelly and Brad enjoyed discussing the next steps for this project so much they didn’t notice the long drive back to civilization.

Our enthusiasm shouldn’t surprise anyone who follows the Trust’s work. The values we embrace as an organization — a passion for wild places, a desire to protect it for future generations, a joyful determination to get the job done and respect everyone involved — runs deep within our ranks. It also ensures our success, as evidenced by more than 52,000 acres permanently protected to date.

Thank you for your generous investment in our work. We’ll keep you posted on how this project turns out, and look forward to sharing more updates from the field this summer.

 

Heart Lake in the Castle Crags Wilderness

Great American Outdoors Act Update

July 24, 2020 – Earlier this month, the Senate passed the Great American Outdoors Act and we are thrilled to report this week it has also passed the House. Thanks to Congress for their leadership on protecting public lands and wilderness! This brings the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) one step closer to full, permanent funding. President Trump is expected to sign it soon.

Heart Lake in the Castle Crags Wilderness

LWCF funds will allow permanent protection of the Little Castle Lake property, including pristine water, forest land and trail access to Heart Lake in Castle Crags Wilderness. Above, Aimee Rutledge, vice president and senior lands specialist, takes a swim in Heart Lake on a pre-Covid community support hike that attracted more than 40 people.

The Wilderness Land Trust depends on LWCF – the primary federal funding source for wilderness acquisitions — to purchase and protect private land within designated wilderness areas. Right now we have 33 active projects in nine states stretching from Alaska to Arizona. Each of these private parcels in wilderness threatens the surrounding wild lands with the potential for mining, logging or residential development.

LWCF funding lets us remove these threats and permanently protect vital plant and animal habitat and critical water sources so these lands can remain wild for future generations to enjoy.

Check out our recent work and as always, thank you for your continued support.

 

Another Win in New Mexico

July 10, 2020 – Jagged spires forming one of the steepest mountain ranges in the western United States, open woodlands and seasonal streams providing critical habitat for golden eagles, hawks and owls. This is just a snapshot of the Organ Mountains Wilderness established in 2019 as part of the Desert Peaks National Monument near Las Cruces, New Mexico.

The Organ Mountains Wilderness at sunset
Photo credit: Patrick Nolan

The Wilderness Land Trust is pleased to announce it has purchased nearly 100 acres of private land straddling the boundary of the designated wilderness, including a series of mining claims that had been zoned for a future housing development. By purchasing this property, we have created a potential new access point into the Organ Mountains Wilderness for hikers, horsemen, rock climbers and wilderness enthusiasts who frequent this beautiful area.

Patrick Nolan, executive director for Friends of Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks, had this to say about our first project in the Organ Mountains: “We wish to thank the Trust for their efforts to acquire the Vetlaw properties located in Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument. This once private land will now be protected for public use for future generations.”

The Trust enjoys partnering with local advocacy organizations on land acquisition projects and we are especially grateful to supporters like you who make this happen. As always, we’d appreciate you sharing the good news.