Tag Archive for: Wilderness

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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New protections for Washington and California’s wild places

February 23, 2024-

Lands added to Henry M. Jackson Wilderness & Lassen National Forest

This week we are celebrating successful transfers of properties in California and Washington to public ownership! Both projects protect habitat important for maintaining biodiversity and improve connectivity across the landscape.

In northern California’s Lassen National Forest, 35 acres have been protected in an area proposed for future wilderness designation. The property provides an important connection between the proposed wilderness and Hat Creek, a trout fishery that Cal Trout and the Pit River Tribes have been working to restore. With good road access, the property was at high risk of development in the popular area for cabins and second homes just outside Lassen National Park. With the property’s addition to public lands, the road can be closed, adding to the roadless area eligible for wilderness designation.

 

 

 

The 15-acre West Seattle Lode property has been added to Washington’s Henry M. Jackson Wilderness. The property was our first acquisition in the wilderness area in 2022, which adjoins the Wild Sky Wilderness. This rugged, glaciated landscape is home to the endangered Northern Spotted Owl, Cascade red fox, pika, wolverines, and Marbled Murrelet, a seabird that nests in old-growth forests and alpine slopes. The property is on a steep slope that overlooks the Monte Cristo ghost town, the site of a gold and silver mining boom lasting from 1895-1912, and a popular hiking destination.

The Hat Creek and West Seattle Lode projects are great examples of how protecting small properties can have positive impacts that reach well beyond their boundaries.

 

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650-acre Snowmass Falls Ranch protected in landmark conservation deal

February 9, 2024-

The Wilderness Land Trust is partnering with Pitkin County in a landmark conservation deal to protect the 650-acre Snowmass Falls Ranch just outside of Snowmass Village conserving two miles of valley floor filled with aspen meadows, beaver ponds, trout streams, and public trails.

Located at the foot of the Elk Range, the majority of the property lies within the boundaries of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness. The ranch is home to diverse wilderness values: open meadows, aspen groves, spruce forest, wetlands, and riparian shrublands create a mosaic of habitat types that support a wide range of flora and fauna. It provides summer range for elk, bear, moose, mule deer, and mountain lion and hosts an active beaver complex and many bird species. A popular public trail runs through the ranch, serving as an important access point for hikers to the wilderness area. In addition to its ecological and recreation value, the ranch also holds the most senior water rights to Snowmass Creek, a significant source of water for the valley below.

This week Pitkin County purchased the property for $34 M using Open Space Program funds. The ultimate goal is to transfer the majority of the property to public ownership as National Forest to be added to the Maroon-Bells Snowmass Wilderness. This will also allow Pitkin County to recoup most of the purchase price to reinvest in other conservation and community projects. In the interest of future management and stewardship, it is possible that a small portion including existing cabins will end up in private ownership, ideally with a conservation easement. As a project partner, the Trust’s primary roles are to help determine these boundaries with the goal of maximizing the portion to become Wilderness, and to help secure LWCF funding for the ultimate transfer to public ownership.

Within the high-end real estate market of Aspen and surrounding Pitkin County communities, properties of this size are rare and highly sought after. Currently the property is largely undeveloped, with a small cluster of primitive cabins and a public trailhead on its east side, leaving the majority of it intact and connected habitat. This conservation project is only possible today because of the caring stewardship of the property by the private owners over the last 80 years—they are a wonderful example of how conservation values can be protected under private ownership. But the likelihood of another conservation-minded buyer stepping forward when the property was listed for sale was slim, and if not protected it could have been subdivided into up to six lots and developed.

Both The Wilderness Land Trust and Pitkin County have been pursuing a conservation solution for the property for many years, and the once in a generation opportunity to protect it has finally come to fruition.

Daily News-Record – Wilderness Land Trust Completes First Project East Of The Rockies

The Harrisonburg Daily-News Record celebrates the Trust’s first project east of the Rockies protecting 10 acres adjoining Virginia’s Priest Wildernss

January 24, 2024

SF Gate – California tech founder relinquishes nearly 1,000 acres of private land for public use

SF Gate celebrates the Trust’s recent transfer of 917 acres adjoining the Sanhedrin Wilderness to public ownership.

January 3

Aspen Daily News- Donation puts land east of Independence Pass summit into public hands

The Aspen Daily News celebrates the Trust’s recent acquisition of the 275-acre Champion Mine South property just outside the Mount Massive Wilderness.

December 1, 2023

Introducing the Wilderness Book Club

October 20, 2023-

Introducing The Wilderness Book Club!

With autumn leaves turning and the first frosts greeting the dawn, it won’t be long before the snow drives many of us indoors from our favorite wilderness trails. To celebrate the start of this cozy season we’re excited to introduce our new Wilderness Book Club!

Every other month we’ll select a book, non-fiction or fiction, that explores wilderness, conservation, wildlife, and adventure from a wide range of voices. You can read along and send us your thoughts and reflections about the book which we’ll share on the website for the rest of the club. You can also send us your book recommendations!

October Wilderness Book Club Pick:

The Wolverine Way

by Douglas H. Chadwick

The wolverine comes marked with a reputation based on myth and fancy. Yet this enigmatic animal is more complex than the legends that surround it. With a shrinking wilderness and global warming, the future of the wolverine is uncertain. The Wolverine Way reveals the natural history of this species and the forces that threaten its future, engagingly told by Douglas Chadwick, a biologist with the Glacier Wolverine Project.

This month’s pick was recommended by Margosia, our Director of Marketing & Communications: “I first read The Wolverine Way a few winters ago after leading some bear-aware programs with the author Doug Chadwick. All that winter while out skiing, especially in Glacier NP, I annoyed my family and friends with constant wolverine facts and stories from it. I couldn’t help it though, the book was so interesting!”

Send us your thoughts and reflections on The Wolverine Way by December 18th

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What it means to keep our wilderness wild: defining the character of wilderness

October 6, 2023-

When asked what wilderness is, many people will quote some portion of the 1964 Wilderness Act’s definition of “A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” For many of us who have spent time in wilderness, developing our own personal relationships with it, our definitions will also cross into how we have experienced wilderness, how we love to explore it, or how it makes us feel.

In the Trust’s work to protect wilderness, we often refer to wilderness character in terms of how development of an inholding would affect the wilderness character of the lands around it, or how we will work to restore lands to their wilderness character before they are transferred to public ownership. It’s a term that is often used as a catch-all for everything from ecosystem health to solitude. But the Wilderness Act actually goes on to define wilderness character with five tangible and measurable characteristics: 

Beyond defining these wilderness characteristics, the law also sets a requirement for the managing agency to maintain or improve these characteristics in a wilderness area from the time of its designation forward. In the last 15 or 20 years a standardized system for monitoring and evaluating wilderness characteristics has been developed. For each of these characteristics is a set of indicators that can be assessed for a negative change, no change, or positive change for an area year after year. These indicators range from actions authorized by the federal land manager that intentionally manipulate the biophysical environment for untrammeled character, to human-caused change to air or water quality for natural character, to the presence of inholdings for undeveloped character. Observing trends in these indicators can help to identify stewardship needs and successes. 

For the vast majority of wilderness visitors, these indicators fade into their overall experience of wilderness. We may notice signs of their change like new fire rings popping up along popular backpacking routes through the years, or our phones pinging for the first time with incoming messages as we enter a new patch of cell service on a familiar trail. But it is how wilderness exists outside of our experiences of it, in our absence, that is really at the heart of its character. It is what is left behind when we, the visitors, go: the ecological integrity, free flow of natural cycles, and the existence of a few last corners of the earth not shaped and controlled by human civilization. 

Learning more about wilderness character monitoring here.