Saturday, May 18, 2024

345 acres of critical habitat added to Wild Sky Wilderness

The Wilderness Land Trust removes 10th private inholding in the wilderness area

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Almost 60 years ago The Wilderness Act set forward the strongest set of protections for our public lands with a vision of maintaining our wildest places for future generations. But today, across the West, there are still over 180,000 acres of privately owned property within federally designated wilderness areas known as inholdings, ranging from a few acres to thousands of acres. Each one represents a hole in the fabric of wilderness protection-- a threat to the wild character and ecological integrity of the lands surrounding them. Each one carries the possibility of development and resource extraction in the heart of some of the grandest landscapes in the American West.

On May 24, the Wilderness Land Trust transferred a 354-acre property straddling the Wild Sky and Henry M. Jackson Wilderness Areas to public ownership, adding it to the designated wilderness areas. The Trust has now successfully purchased and transferred five private inholding properties to public ownership in the Wild Sky Wilderness, and has acquired another five which are pending transfer. Almost all of these properties lie within the Silver Creek drainage, which is riddled with privately owned properties and old mining claims. This one drainage contains almost all of the Wild Sky’s private inholdings, and one-third of the private inholdings left in Washington State, making it a high priority for our work in the North Cascades Ecosystem.

In addition to the ecological importance of its temperate rainforests, salmon spawning grounds, and alpine habitat, the Wild Sky Wilderness is only an hour or so away for Seattle’s 4 million residents. The Trust has also completed projects in the Glacier Peaks, Mount Baker, Stephen Mather, and Juniper Dunes Wilderness areas of Washington.

In the organization’s 31-year history, The Wilderness Land Trust has worked to keep the promise of wilderness by acquiring these private inholdings from willing landowners and transferring them to federal ownership to become designated wilderness. In this time we have purchased and transferred 540 properties totaling over 55,500 acres from Arizona to Alaska. Along the way, we’ve completed 17 wilderness areas by removing their last remaining private inholdings. With each transfer, we come one step closer to completing the vision of the Wilderness Act. Each project we work on carries the story of a place that has inspired countless people and communities, a family that has chosen to give up what is theirs to protect its future, and a vibrant, and often breathtaking, landscape supporting rich biodiversity.

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