Tag Archive for: Wilderness

Celebrating 345 acres added to Washington’s wilderness

June 19, 2023- This week the Trust transferred the 345-acre Evergreen property to public ownership, adding it to Washington’s Wild Sky Wilderness. The Evergreen property was the largest remaining private inholding left in the Wild Sky Wilderness, and with its transfer, we are one step closer to unifying protection across the landscape and conserving critical habitat. 

The Trust first purchased the property back in 2018, and since then has been working with the US Forest Service to transfer it. This timeline to acquire and transfer a project isn’t unusual, and highlights an important aspect of our work. Because it can take years for federal agencies to go through their internal process to purchase private inholdings directly, they typically can’t meet the timeline of private sellers. The Trust, on the other hand, is able to move quickly. We pride ourselves on being able to work with landowners and complete necessary due diligence, like appraisals, to ensure that they are not only offered fair market value for their properties, but that we can meet their schedule and remain a competitive option in the market.

Thanks to this public-private partnership, we are able to celebrate the addition of 345 acres of old-growth forest in the heart of the North Cascades Ecosystem to the wilderness, ensuring it will remain wild and free of development for the benefit of generations to come.

A Science-based approach to wilderness protection

June 5, 2023- You’ve likely heard us refer to climate resilience in relation to our work protecting lands in and around wilderness areas from development. Generally speaking, climate resilience is the ability to anticipate and respond to events, trends, and disturbances related to the changing climate. Climate resilience is something that can be built: we can make our communities and cities more resilient through planning to anticipate effects on our drinking water supplies, floodplains, or wildfire protection. We can also help make our natural landscapes more resilient through thoughtful management and habitat restoration. But some landscapes are also inherently more resilient on their own. Resilient landscapes tend to have high microclimatic diversity— or variation in factors like temperature, precipitation, humidity, or wind speed across the landscape— and low levels of human modification. Together these conditions provide the connected and diverse habitats that flora and fauna will need to adapt to a changing climate. 

Wilderness areas tend to rank high in both of these conditions— they are large enough to encompass diverse habitats from cool north-facing gullies to lush alpine meadows to dry sagebrush scrub, and as the highest level of protection for public lands in the US, they have little modification by humans. But understanding how climate resilience varies across wilderness landscapes is also becoming increasingly important for the Trust as we prioritize which areas and properties to protect.

The scientific community, aided by developing technologies like satellite remote sensing, has steadily been building databases of different measures of climate resilience, biodiversity, habitat connectivity, wildlife migration paths, and more. Many of these are now publicly available through tools like The Climate Atlas and The Nature Conservancy’s Resilient Land Mapping. If you’re interested in these issues, or just love maps, these tools are fun to explore and are excellent ways to learn more about your local area or wild places you love.

 

This analysis of the Silver Creek drainage in Washington’s Wild Sky Wilderness, where the Trust has completed a number of projects, shows it scores above average in resilience, connectivity, and landscape diversity. (Analysis from Resilient Lands Mapping Tool)

 

Using The Climate Atlas, we can not only see how the Bodie Hills in the eastern Sierra of California (where the Trust has also completed several projects) have high climate resilience, but also how they fit into a larger resilient ecoregion. (Mapping from The Climate Atlas).

This kind of data, along with boots-on-the-ground site visits by our staff, and partnerships with local agencies and organizations, allow us to dive deep into potential projects and understand all the conservation values at stake in their protection. Climate resilience is just one of the criteria that we evaluate potential projects on, but when we talk about protecting our wild places for future generations, it is an increasingly important one. Through a science-based approach we are able to able to ensure that your donations are being leveraged to have the greatest impact.

Welcome Torrey Udall!

April 7, 2023

The Wilderness Land Trust is excited to welcome Torrey Udall to our board of directors!

Torrey grew up in Carbondale, Colorado where he forged an early and lasting connection to the ski mountain and outdoors. Today, Torrey is the Chief of Staff of Protect Our Winters (POW), a non-profit that helps passionate outdoor people protect the places we live and lifestyles we love from climate change. There he ensures the organization’s financial management, people operations, organizational performance, partnerships, and decision-making are aligned to propel it toward its goals.

Before joining POW in 2016, Torrey worked for three years as a strategic advisor to Jim Collins, author of the international bestseller GOOD TO GREAT, and gained unique insight into the practices of building great organizations while diagnosing challenges and opportunities with Fortune 500 corporations, leading social sector enterprises, and executive teams.

Torrey is the descendant of a line of conservationists and adventurers. Torrey’s grandfather and great-uncle, Morris and Stewart Udall, each played significant roles in conserving natural landscapes throughout the United States. Torrey’s maternal grandfather, Dick Emerson, was part of the first successful American expedition to Mount Everest in 1963.

Join us in welcoming Torrey to our board of directors! We look forward to all he will bring to the organization.

Take our annual community survey!

March 24, 2023- At The Wilderness Land Trust, we work on behalf of our supporters, donors, landowners, and partners to protect our wild places for future generations. We believe it is important to hear from our community about what inspires you, concerns you, and how we can better come together to protect wilderness across the West.
Go to www.wildernesslandtrust.org/survey and take 5 minutes to complete our 2023 community survey.
Thank you!

Welcome Connie Myers!

March 10, 2023- We are thrilled to welcome Connie Myers to the Trust’s board of directors!
After earning master’s degrees from Michigan State University in both Fisheries & Wildlife Management and Interpersonal & Organizational Communication, Connie Myers worked for the US Forest Service for over 30 years. For much of that, Connie served as the founding Director of the Arthur Carhart National Wilderness Training Center where she advanced the training of nearly 27,000 agency staff and partners in wilderness stewardship and helped lead national information and education programs. She was also a founding board member of the Society for Wilderness Stewardship, and in recognition of her many contributions was awarded the USFS National Bob Marshall Wilderness Champion Award and USDA Unsung Hero Award. Connie lives in Missoula, Montana.
As is the case with many small nonprofits, our volunteer board of directors are an integral part of the organization, providing guidance, wisdom, and oversight to ensure our success. We look forward to the many contributions Connie will bring to The Wilderness Land Trust!

Protecting public access

February 24, 2023- It is not an uncommon story across the West for access to public lands through private property to be withdrawn by the private landowner. In many cases the agreements between landowners and federal or state agencies to allow public access date back decades and were established with a handshake rather than a legal easement. So, as properties change hands, passed down through a family or sold, attitudes about allowing the public on trails or along rivers can shift. In some cases this has led to trail systems being closed, shutting hikers out of a whole section of National Forest. 

Of course, as property owners, it is their right to decide how their land is used and who has access to it. So, one of the best solutions for ensuring continued public access is to work with willing sellers to purchase the property and transfer it to public ownership to be incorporated into the wilderness area. Through the years the Trust has protected public access across private inholding in this way throughout the West. Recently, projects in Colorado’s Weminuche Wilderness and Mount Massive Wilderness and Oregon’s Hells Canyon Wilderness protected popular trails, and a project in the Castle Crags Wilderness of California opened up access for climbers to a new part of the wilderness area.

Public access is just one of the characteristics of wilderness we work to protect. But for anyone who can remember their first time reaching a wilderness boundary sign on a trail or their first time seeing the night sky shining more brightly than ever before, you how powerful these experiences in wild places can be. There are people who believe wilderness is important and should be protected who have never stepped foot in it. But to experience it for yourself and form your own relationship with it is the best way to become an advocate for it. We believe that wilderness is for everyone: whether you’ve been going there your whole life or are going there for the first time; whether your family has a generations long connection with it or you are the first generation to experience it; whether you’re an expert at hiking, camping, fishing, hunting, paddling, or horse packing, or you’re a beginner. So as we work to protect public access in wilderness across the West, it truly is for everyone. 

The Value of Conservation in the Mount Baker Wilderness

February 10, 2023- The Wilderness Land Trust recently completed the purchase of 21 acres of private property within Washington’s Mount Baker Wilderness.

Within this 21-acre property, high in the alpine, sits one of the remaining 13 glaciers in the Mount Baker Wilderness. Glaciers across the North Cascades have been steadily losing volume over the last several decades. As glaciers shrink due to a changing climate, the ecosystems that depend on them become increasingly vulnerable. We must protect them from stressors like development to assure their continued resilience.

The first law of ecology is everything is connected. During their normal annual cycles of accumulation and melt, glaciers act as reservoirs of water that persist throughout the summer, creating perennial steam habitat and water sources for plants and animals. Their runoff is also important to downstream water temperatures, small variations of which can have huge impacts on the ecosystem, including salmon spawning grounds.

The value of protecting this little 21-acre property high on the slopes of the Mount Baker Wilderness flows downstream just as its runoff does. It is connected to the larger landscape around it through a web of actions and reactions, which we are a part of. A recent study found the Mt. Baker-Snowqualmie National Forest provides $30 billion worth of ecosystem services that we depend on. These are things like the clean air and clean water which sustain life. Every dollar invested in the Forest returns over $3,000 in ecosystem services, making the purchase and protection of this property a sound investment for future generations.

Enjoy the view from the Fourth of July Lode property

Unifying the Bodie Hills Landscape

January 27, 2023- 

This week The Wilderness Land Trust completed the transfer of 1,698 acres of sagebrush steppe in the eastern Sierra to public ownership.

Located in the Bodie Hills, just east of Yosemite National Park, the property stretches across five parcels, dispersed throughout a large ranch holding.

The Bodie Hills have some of the highest ecological intactness and species richness in the region, and are ranked in the top 10% of unprotected BLM lands in California for biodiversity. Despite the ecological importance of the region, it is a patchwork of private property and public lands managed by the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management with three Wilderness Study Areas covering much of it. Wilderness designation efforts, such as those in the Bodie Hills, are often hindered by the presence of private land fragmenting the landscape as it creates an inability to control critical habitat components to assure the viability of a designation.

Since we began our work in the Bodie Hills in 2006, the Trust has purchased five large properties there totaling just over 7,000 acres. This is the third of them to be successfully transferred to public ownership. Thanks to the support of and partnerships with local conservations groups and tribes, we are steadily unifying ownership in the area, removing piecemeal management and fragmented habitats. It won’t be solved overnight, but the cumulative impact of almost twenty years of work and your support is moving us closer to the goal of protecting this important landscape.

 

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.