Tag Archive for: Wilderness

The Best of Field Season

June 28, 2024-

With snow melting out of the high country and summer officially upon us, field season is beginning for our lands staff. Over the next few months our team will be visiting project sites in wilderness areas across the country. Site visits are an integral part of our work: they allow us to do important due diligence on prospective properties, to plan and complete restoration work to return properties to their wilderness character before transfer to public ownership, and to meet with the private landowners and partner organizations and agencies that make our work possible. Having boots on the ground not only allows us to access the specific conservation values of each property in order to maximize our impact, the stunning vistas, wildlife sightings, and moments of solitude remind us why we do what we do.

Due to the remote nature of our project sites, each visit comes with its own set of challenges and rewards. Your support makes these visits, and in turn our work, possible.

Most Rugged Access: Wild Sky Wilderness, Washington

The Trust has protected 28 properties in the Wild Sky Wilderness, and its steep terrain coupled with the thick undergrowth of its temperate rainforest have earned them a reputation for some of the most difficult to access. The many hours of off-trail bushwhacking aren’t without payoff though, as breaks in the vegetation provide incredible views of pristine alpine lakes and craggy high-peaks. Despite the challenging access, with 15 active projects in this one wilderness area, our staff is able to visit them all relatively efficiently, and is working to transfer the majority to public ownership in one package.

 

 

 

Best Company: Spring Canyon- Gila Wilderness, New Mexico

This week our staff visited the 40-acre Spring Canyon property we are working to acquire to assess its condition and characteristics. While our site visits often include partners such as agencies, local nonprofit, tribes, and technical services like appraisers and surveyors, the company on our Spring Canyon visit was notable. We visited the property with the US Forest Service on horseback, and our trusty mounts Pablo and Sino not only safely carried us across high mesas and down steep canyon walls, they brought smiles to our faces all day. Sino was recently featured in a NY Times article celebrating the centennial of the Gila Wilderness, so we were all very humbled to be in the presence of such a celebrity.

 

 

 

Most Surprising Find: Wheeler Creek- Kootznoowoo Wilderness, Alaska

Every property we work to protect has its own unique history, and oftentimes traces of that history are left behind. Our staff has found no shortage of surprising and sometimes baffling remnants deep in the wilderness, from school busses to mining equipment to metal drums full of mystery chemicals. Visiting projects to assess what restoration work will be necessary to return it to its wilderness character is an important step in our work. But the most surprising site visit find in recent memory wasn’t what we found on the property, it was finding that the property itself had grown. Throughout Southeast Alaska, as glaciers shrink the land is rising in response to the reduced weight of the glaciers in a process known as isostatic rebound. As it rises, more land is exposed above the high-water line. In completing a survey as part of our due diligence we found that the Wheeler Creek property had actually grown by less than an acre since its last survey.

Most Likely to Need Rental Car Insurance: Cougar Canyon Wilderness, Utah

Most trips into the wilderness start with a long drive on rough roads, but some really take the cake. Having largely washed out from spring runoff, the road in to our Cougar Canyon property in SW Utah made for a particularly adventurous trip in for us and our poor rental truck on our last visit. The road forms the boundary of the wilderness area and provides access to the 700-acre property. Despite the current state of the road, in the Washington County real estate market which includes both St. George and the property (and is the fastest-growing metro area in the US) the property is highly vulnerable to development. So, to the folks at Enterprise and Hertz, you have our apologies and thanks for helping us protect this special place!

This week marks the end of our fiscal year. If you haven’t already, please consider making a donation to help fund not only our summer field season, but our work all year round.

 

 

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Holy Cross wilderness expands with new transfer in Colorado

June 14, 2024-

The Wilderness Land Trust recently transferred our 22nd property in Colorado’s Holy Cross Wilderness to public ownership.

Just down the ridgeline from Homestake Peak, the 10-acre Northern Lode property straddles the Continental Divide in an area once active with mines. It sits just above the the West Tennessee Lakes basin and is a short scramble from the popular trail accessing the lakes.

Throughout the property a series of scree slopes and grassy alpine meadows are home to high alpine inhabitants like the American pika. The potato-sized pika is found in the high country throughout the rockies, typically above 8,000 ft. You may have heard their loud squeaking “EEEP” calls or seen them dashing through the talus with mouth full of grasses. In order to make it through the harsh alpine winter without hibernating, the pika will spend all summer stockpiling grass under rocks to dry, creating ‘haypiles’. It’s not uncommon for a single pika to make 25 foraging trips an hour between the talus and meadows through the summer!

The same adaptations that make pika well suited for life in high alpine also make them vulnerable to the climate change. Scientists (including many citizen science programs like the the Colorado Pika Project who rely on volunteers to collect data) are studying how the range of pika habitat is changing, in order to better understand the impacts of climate change. Protecting available habitat, like the Northern Lode property, is important to ensuring these resilient, and adorable, critters continue to thrive.

With five more properties currently held by the Trust awaiting transfer in the Holy Cross Wilderness, our impact there will only continue to grow.

 

 

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Saying thank you & farewell to wilderness legend Doug Scott

May 17, 2024-

Doug began his work in wilderness conservation just 4 years after passage of the 1964 Wilderness Act, and in the years since has helped establish and expand America’s wilderness areas and grow the wilderness community.

Doug’s fellow board members and staff shared just a few of the many ways Doug’s leadership and expert knowledge has helped The Trust over the years in this short video.

Doug holds a forestry degree from the University of Michigan, where he did his graduate research on the history and drafting of what became the Wilderness Act of 1964. Doug began his own work for wilderness preservation soon after the Wilderness Act became law. As a volunteer activist while in graduate school, a Washington lobbyist for The Wilderness Society, and northwest representative for the Sierra Club, he was in the forefront of many of the important wilderness preservation campaigns as a strategist and lobbyist, including: The Eastern Wilderness Areas Act (1975), the Endangered American Wilderness Act (1978), the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness (1980), the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (1980) and the California Desert Protection Act (1994) among many other wilderness designation statutes.  In the 1980s, Doug was conservation director and, later, associate executive director of the Sierra Club, and in 1996 he received the club’s highest honor, the John Muir Award.

In addition to the many direct contributions Doug has had growing our national wilderness, he is also one of the leading wilderness historians. He is the author of The Enduring Wilderness: Protecting our Natural Heritage through the Wilderness Act and Our Wilderness: America’s Common Ground.

As much as we hate to lose Doug from our board of directors, we look forward to many more years of friendship with Doug! So it’s not ‘goodbye’ it’s ‘see you soon’.

 

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Another gap in protection filled in the Wild Sky Wilderness

May 4, 2024-

The Wilderness Land Trust recently acquired 128 acres within Washington’s Wild Sky Wilderness, building on a years-long effort to unify protection across the landscape.

Looking at a map of the Silver Creek drainage in Washington’s Wild Sky and Henry M. Jackson Wilderness Areas tells a remarkable story of the cumulative impact we are making together in the wild places we love. It tells the story of a spectacular landscape, lush with old-growth forest, home to threatened steelhead trout spawning grounds, with a rich history of mining boom and bust that has left a patchwork of land ownership and protection across the wilderness areas.

As we revise this map we color new parcels in yellow as relationships with landowners deepen and deals to purchase their properties progress, in orange as the Trust acquires properties, and ultimately in green as they are transferred to public ownership and added to the wilderness area. It’s a wonderful sense of accomplishment as one by one we see the blank properties on the map filled in as the threat of their development is removed.

Recently we completed the purchase of the 128-acre Ramble Lode property. It was the Trust’s ninth acquisition within the drainage, and adjoins several already protected properties. With it we have filled another gap in protection in the Wild Sky Wilderness.

 

 

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Anchorage Daily News – Conservation groups’ purchase preserves additional land in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest

Alaska Beacon and Anchorage Daily News celebrate the Trust’s addition of 5 acres to Kootznoowoo Wilderness in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest.

April 16, 2024

Alaska Public Media – Conservation groups add land to the Kootznoowoo Wilderness

Alaska Public Media celebrates the Trust’s addition of 5 acres to Kootznoowoo Wilderness in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest.

April 18, 2024

Denver Gazette – A ‘holy grail’ of conservation

The Denver Gazette celebrates the Trust’s involvement in the landmark Snowmass Falls Ranch conservation project.

April 1, 2024

Meet Trust supporter Madeleine Landis

April 5, 2024-

We feel incredibly lucky to have such a wonderful and dedicated community of supporters like Madeleine. Just as wilderness draws people from all walks of life, so does our work to protect it. Enjoy this short video to get to know Madeleine and celebrate your shared love for wild places!

“I pity the world that doesn’t have wilderness, the people that don’t have it to go to. I think our society would be even worse off if we didn’t. You know, not everybody can go, but the people who do go can photograph it and write about it and share it. And I think it helps everybody. That’s my hope and belief.”

The Wilderness Land Trust recently transferred 5 acres on Wheeler Creek to public ownership in Tongass National Forest, adding it to the Kootznoowoo Wilderness. At over 17 million acres, Tongass National Forest is the nation’s largest national forest, with 35% of it designated as wilderness across 19 wilderness areas. 

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More wilderness added to Alaska’s Tongass National Forest

April 5, 2024-

The Wilderness Land Trust recently transferred 5 acres on Wheeler Creek to public ownership in Tongass National Forest, adding it to the Kootznoowoo Wilderness. At over 17 million acres, Tongass National Forest is the nation’s largest national forest, with 35% of it designated as wilderness across 19 wilderness areas.

The Tongass is often called “America’s climate forest” for the carbon it traps and stores. It role in mitigating climate change impacts is unparalleled. The Tongass is also sometimes called “America’s salmon forest’ as its waterways produce a quarter of the West Coast salmon catch, supporting both commercial fishing communities and native subsistence fishing. The Wheeler Creek property has abundant pink salmon and is also important king salmon spawning ground. Kootznoowoo, which means ‘fortress of the bears” in the native Lingít, is on Admiralty Island southwest of Juneau. Aptly named, it has the world’s highest concentration of brown bears in the world – an estimated 1,600 bears, with more than 1 bear per square mile on the island.

At only 5 acres, the Wheeler Creek property is only a drop in the vast landscape of the Tongass National Forest. But with direct boat access to the property, the wilderness inholding was likely to be developed with cabins or even a commercial lodge if not protected. Thanks to our partnership with Southeast Alaska Land Trust, there is one fewer such threat in the heart of this critical habitat.

Interestingly, land on and around the Wheeler Creek property is accreting, or accumulating. As glaciers continue to shrink, the land is rising in response to the reduced weight of the glaciers in a process known as isostatic rebound. As it rises, more land is exposed above the high-water line. When our Wheeler Creek property was recently surveyed it had actually grown (by less than an acre) since its last survey. Across the region this is creating new habitat and exciting conservation opportunities.

The Wilderness Land Trust recently transferred 5 acres on Wheeler Creek to public ownership in Tongass National Forest, adding it to the Kootznoowoo Wilderness. At over 17 million acres, Tongass National Forest is the nation’s largest national forest, with 35% of it designated as wilderness across 19 wilderness areas. 

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Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness grows near Crested Butte!

March 22, 2024-

Just 8 miles northeast of the town of Crested Butte, the Queen Basin rises to meet the ridgelines and summit of White Rock Mountain. The basin has a rich mining history, and remnants can still be found scattered throughout it. In 2022 the Trust acquired the 10-acre Copper Glance Lode property, the last private inholding remaining in the basin. Recently we transferred it to public ownership to be added to the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness.

Throughout much of Colorado’s high country, including deep in what today is designated wilderness, traces of mining history can be found, from mine shafts still framed in timbers to bits of rusted machinery and bean cans. The majority of these silver, gold, and copper mines were small-scale, and the landscapes around them have recovered quickly, wiping away most traces of their camps and wagon trails. These small operations were certainly much different than the kinds of mega-mines we see today, removing entire mountain tops and reshaping vast landscapes to access ore. But they still serve as a reminder of what could have been. Had the boom not turned to bust so quickly, or had the lasting protections of designated wilderness not been established 60 years ago, the basins and ridges of Colorado’s high country might have looked much different today, including those surrounding the Copper Glance Lode property.

Data from the Resilient Landscapes Mapping Tool

Our thinking on what these landscapes provide has also evolved. No longer are they valued primarily for the profit lying beneath their surface, but for their beauty, their recreational opportunities, and the role their ecosystems play in sustaining life. The 10-acre Copper Glance Lode property rates high for climate resilience, habitat connectivity, and landscape diversity, which means that not only does it play an important role in maintaining biodiversity and clean air and water today, but it will continue to as the climate changes.

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