FAIRPLAY, COLORADO – The U.S. Forest Service, in a landmark move, has finalized the public acquisition of Mount Democrat, a prominent Colorado 14er and part of the iconic “Decalibron Loop” hiking trail, the only place in the country where you can climb four 14ers in one day.
This achievement comes after the summer’s purchase of nearly 300 acres of private land, previously owned by Earth Energy Resources LLC. The collaboration with The Conservation Fund and support from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund has been pivotal in securing the peak for public use and conservation.
Mount Democrat’s acquisition is particularly significant given the historical challenges faced by several Colorado 14ers due to private land ownership and associated liability concerns. The issue of land access has been a recurring obstacle for outdoor enthusiasts, with several peaks facing intermittent closures over the years.
Kelly Ingebritson, Colorado project manager at The Conservation Fund, expressed immense pride in this achievement, citing it as a lifetime honor. The acquisition not only secures public access to one of America’s tallest mountains but also protects vital ecological areas, including the headwaters of the South Platte and Arkansas Rivers.
However, this success story also casts a spotlight on the unresolved access issues for other peaks in the state. Mount Lincoln, a part of the popular DeCaLiBron hiking loop which also includes Mount Democrat, faces potential closure again in the upcoming season unless state laws are updated to offer more comprehensive liability protection for landowners. This ongoing issue is mirrored in the closure of Mount Lindsey, which has been inaccessible for nearly three years due to similar concerns.
The plight of these mountains underscores a broader challenge in Colorado – balancing public access with private landowners’ rights and concerns. Notable examples include the Ouray Ice Park, soon to be sold to the City of Ouray, and the Leadville 100 Ultramarathon, which traverses significant private lands.
Addressing these concerns, the Fix CRUS Coalition continues to advocate for updates to the state’s recreational use statute. The coalition’s efforts aim to provide clearer and stronger liability protections for landowners, thereby ensuring continued public access to these cherished natural spaces.
“While the protection of Mt. Democrat represents a huge win for public access, it underscores the lack of access on other 14ers like Mt Lindsey, Mt Bross, and Mt Lincoln,” said Coalition Secretary Alex Derr. “We urge lawmakers to build on this momentum by updating the Colorado recreational use statute (CRUS) during the upcoming legislative session to address the root cause of these access issues.”
What this Acquisition Represents
U.S. Senator John Hickenlooper hailed the acquisition of Mount Democrat as a high point for Colorado land conservation and accessibility, emphasizing the role of the Land and Water Conservation Funds in ensuring that Coloradans and visitors can enjoy these natural wonders for generations.
Lloyd Athearn, executive director of the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative, highlights the ecological benefits of the acquisition. With Mount Democrat now under public management, trail improvements and conservation efforts can proceed unhindered, safeguarding fragile alpine tundra and wildlife habitats.
Support Access and the Fix CRUS Coalition
The acquisition of Mount Democrat represents a significant victory for public land access and conservation efforts. Yet, it also serves as a reminder of the ongoing challenges in ensuring similar protections for other Colorado 14ers.
Readers are encouraged to learn more and support the efforts of the Fix CRUS Coalition by visiting www.fixcrus.org, contributing to the cause of preserving these iconic landscapes for future generations.