Purchase helps eliminate development threat in Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness

Group with Aspen roots buys inholdings, transfers them to feds

The view from the Cooper Glance Lode northeast of Gothic. The private land in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness was acquired by the Wilderness Land Trust and will be transferred to the Gunnison National Forest.
Kelly Conde-Wilderness Land Trust/courtesy photo

A land trust is making strides in removing inholdings of private property from the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness and other special lands around the West.

The Wilderness Land Trust recently announced that it acquired a 10.33-acre property known as the Cooper Glance Lode in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness. The property is in Queen Basin northeast of the town of Gothic, on the Crested Butte side of the high passes from Aspen. The site is in the Gunnison National Forest. The view from the property looks out on stunning vistas of the big peaks that proliferate in the area north of Crested Butte.

Kelly Conde, lands specialist for Wilderness Land Trust, said the owner was the Ralph Michael McDaniel 2021 Revocable Living Trust. She worked with trustee Bret McDaniel on the purchase for $11,500.

“The landowners of Cooper Glance wanted the property to be part of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Area and were not super concerned about making money off of it,” Conde said. “For every property we acquire, we have an appraisal completed to determine the fair market value. The Copper Glance owners accepted our offer based on the appraisal.”

Once Wilderness Land Trust acquires private properties, it works to get them into public hands, typically the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service or Bureau of Land Management. The work is important because it removes the development potential from small islands of private property that are surrounded by wilderness lands where motorized and mechanized uses are prohibited.

The trust has acquired three parcels in the Gunnison National Forest in the last two months and is now working to transfer 204 total acres to the forest, Conde said.

Two employees of the Gunnison National Forest check out an ore car in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness below the Copper Glance Lodge.
Kelly Conde-Wilderness Land Trust/courtesy photo

Wilderness Land Trust was founded in Aspen on Feb. 6, 1992, by former resident Jon Mulford. Former Pitkin County manager Reid Haughey ran the organization for several years while it was based in Basalt. The nonprofit organization is now based in Helena, Montana. It has acquired and transferred 514 properties totaling 54,110 acres throughout the West during the last 30 years. That includes 6,077 acres in Colorado.

The organization keeps a running inventory of private inholdings throughout the lower 48 western states.

“Every other year we send a letter to the landowners of these inholdings letting them know that if they’re interested in selling their property, we are interested in buying,” Conde said. “Our last round of letters to Colorado was January 2021. The landowner of the Cooper Glance property was one of 15 to respond.”

The trust has acquired four of the 15 properties and is under contract on one more. It has offers on another two.

“Based on our inventory, there are still 23 inholdings in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness,” Conde said. “Three are owned by the county, but the rest are in private hands, so we still have our work cut out for us in the wilderness area.”

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