The Wilderness Land Trust is focused on one program - acquiring and transferring private land (inholdings) to public ownership.
The National Wilderness Preservation System is a refuge for animals, plants, clean water, clean air and a foundation for 21st century conservation. It may hold the key to future conservation and the tools for adapting to global climate change. However, the system is still filled with holes, 180,000 acres of private lands that fracture the whole. Across the country there are plans to develop mines, retreats, logging operations and resorts deep within wilderness holdings, fragmenting a resource that cannot afford to be lost.
The Trust's continuing mission to eliminate these pockets of inholdings and create a seamless wilderness system is vital, echoing the spirit and intent of the original Wilderness Act. The Wilderness Land Trust is the only national organization dedicated solely to buying these lands and adding them to the National Wilderness Preservation System.
The Wilderness Land Trust is the only national conservation organization solely dedicated to purchasing privately owned lands (inholdings) within designated and proposed wilderness areas and then transferring them to public ownership to complete designated and proposed wilderness areas, or directly protect wilderness values. Since its inception in 1992, the Trust has protected 473 parcels, comprising more than 50,000 acres of wilderness inholdings in 106 designated and proposed wilderness areas. The Wilderness Land Trust is responsible for completing 16 wilderness areas by removing the last privately held lands within their wilderness boundaries (as of July 2019).
In 2018, the Trust developed a unique alliance with three timber companies, the rock climbing community and the U.S. Forest Service to protect and preserve 1,257 acres of land adjacent to the Castle Crags Wilderness in California, providing a positive economic impact for local communities through enhanced public recreation access. This newly protected land increased access to a world-class rock climbing area. In addition, nearly 1,000 acres of mature timber is now protected, as is spawning habitat in Little Castle Creek, a tributary of the Sacramento River. Threatened species like the spotted bat and the Castle Crags harebell, as well as Bald Eagles, black bear, martens, fishers and the northern spotted owl rely on this area for their habitat.
The 16,000 acre Sabinoso Wilderness Area in New Mexico was designated in 2009 and is managed by the Bureau of Land Management. However, the wilderness was completely surrounded by private property and inaccessible to the public. In 2016, The Wilderness Land Trust completed a purchase of the 4,176 acre Rimrock Rose Ranch, a private property that sits adjacent to the designated wilderness, and in 2017, the Trust donated approximately 3,500 acres of the Rimrock Rose Ranch to the Bureau of Land Management as a new addition to the Sabinoso Wilderness. In doing so, the wilderness was increased by 25 percent and public access was established for the first time since the Sabinoso Wilderness was designated.
In 2019, the Trust purchased a 324-acre property in California that protected public access to the California Condor/Hi Mountain/Trout Creek trail into the Santa Lucia and Garcia Wilderness areas. Without this purchase, this property was at risk for private development that would have cut off access to the popular trail and disrupted local wildlife.