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In the News: ‘Wild Sky Wilderness grows 345 acres, as transfer chips at private land’

From The Everett Herald: The Wilderness Land Trust transferred the 354-acre property to the U.S. Forest Service as public ownership. Located near Silvertip Peak—straddling the Wild Sky and Henry M. Jackson Wilderness Areas—the acreage will be added to the designated wilderness areas. The area is accessible to hikers via Monte Cristo, an old mining boom town off the Mountain Loop Highway.

Photo: Gunn Peak, the top of the Wild Sky Wilderness at over 6,200ft, courtesy of The Outsiders

History of the Wild Sky Wilderness

Over the course of a decade, WA Wild led a coalition of 745 local elected officials—including Congressional champions Senator Murray and Representative Larsen—businesses, conservation organizations, outdoor recreation groups, and other stakeholders to see the Wild Sky Wilderness become a reality in 2008.

Protecting over 106,000 acres of old and mature-growth forest, the Wild Sky Wilderness provides pristine habitat for endangered and other sensitive species, including the northern spotted owl, marbled murrelet, bald eagle, mountain goat, pine marten, pileated woodpecker, cougar, wolverine, lynx, and grizzly bear. These forested headwaters also support watershed health downstream and spawning grounds for salmon and steelhead.

Filling in the Gaps

Photo: Land pending transfer to the U.S. Forest Service; courtesy of the Wilderness Land Trust

Within the approximately 111.7 million acres of Wilderness across the U.S., pockets of private land that date back over 100 years land still exist. Referred to as “in-holdings” these often include mining claims, old hunting camps, and railway land grants that were grandfathered into the Wilderness areas because they existed before federal protections.

“Private land doesn’t have the same protections as the Wilderness surrounding them, so they can be developed to residential or commercial use,” said Margosia Jadkowski, a spokesperson for the Wilderness Land Trust. “…When that development happens, it can have a really big impact on the surrounding Wilderness area.”

Founded over three decades ago with the purpose of being a third party to assist in land transfers, Wilderness Land Trust looks for these properties with owners willing to sell to add to the local Wilderness, and then offers fair market value for their land. The process to then transfer the land to the U.S. Forest Service can stretch on for years, so the Wilderness Land Trust holds the plot until the full transfer process goes through—that way landowners can be compensated earlier and move on. And if the land is a true Wilderness in-holding, then that land automatically becomes part of the protected Wilderness area without requiring an act of Congress to approve the designation. 

Over the past 30 years, Wilderness Land Trust has transferred 540 properties, totaling 55,500 acres across the West.