Conservation groups acquire private, developable land up Independence Pass |

Conservation groups acquire private, developable land up Independence Pass

A conservation group purchased 19.3 acres near the ghost town of Independence on Monday and snuffed the potential for future development of the land within the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness.

Wilderness Land Trust purchased the Panama and the Principle mining claims. They are located along an old road, now a hiking trail, which crosses the headwaters of the Roaring Fork River on the south side of Highway 82 and climbs toward Green Mountain. The land is about 13 miles east of Aspen. An old cabin was part of the acquisition.

“It’s a beautiful parcel. It’s got some gorgeous views,” said Brad Borst, president of Wilderness Land Trust. “You could see somebody buying the parcel and taking advantage of the views.”

Aspen-based Independence Pass Foundation is helping the trust raise the funds for the purchase. Karin Teague, executive director of IPF, said the acquisition is “a great success story for the Pass.”

“These are the last two developable mining claims on the west side of the Pass,” she said.

The sale closed Monday. Borst declined to name the seller or the sales amount. A special warranty deed showed Doane “Buck” Deane as the seller. The sale price was $365,000.

The deal was particularly sweet given the Wilderness Land Trust’s history. It was founded in Aspen by Jon Mulford in 1992 specifically to buy inholdings of private land within designated wilderness and turn them over to federal land management agencies. The trust has protected about 52,000 acres and added 491 parcels of land to 107 designated wilderness areas.

Mulford was president of Wilderness Land Trust for 10 years. Local resident Reid Haughey headed it for another 15 years before stepping down in 2017. Borst is the third president of the organization, which is now based in Bainbridge Island, Washington, but works all across the country.

The plan for the Panama and Principle mining claims is to sell them to the U.S. Forest Service.

“There is some work to do to get it wilderness ready,” Borst said.

The metal roof will be removed from the cabin and some materials and trash will be hauled off site with the help of Independence Pass Foundation. The roof was placed on the cabin about 30 years ago, Borst said. The Forest Service analysis indicated the walls of the cabin qualify as historic so they will remain.

The land at the base of Green Mountain was an active mining area back in the late 1800s. Many mining structure ruins and collapsed mines remain. Borst said one mining claim remains in private hands in the vicinity. It’s right on the wilderness boundary. The owners want to keep it but there is little development potential, he said.

The Wilderness Land Trust in 2017 acquired two other inholdings, the Grand View and Spotted Tail mining claims. The Forest Service has since purchased the Grand View. The parties are negotiating to get the Spotted Tail in public hands.

Wilderness Land Trust said in a statement that financial contributors to the latest purchase include the AABC, Alpenglow, BF, Iselin and Oaks foundations as well as private individuals who weren’t listed by name. Independence Pass Foundation also contributed funds. Individuals or organizations who want to contribute to the project can contact Kelly Conde at

Wilderness Land Trust has an inventory of 180,000 acres of private inholdings within federally designated wilderness in the lower 48 states.

“There’s many years of work to be done,” Borst said.

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