ALMA, CO — The owners of multiple mining claims on Mount Democrat, an iconic Colorado 14er, has sold them to The Conservation Fund, a national nonprofit which intends to protect public access. This development resolves longstanding access issues on Mt. Democrat. However, access to nearby peaks Mt. Lincoln an Mt. Bross, as well as Mt. Lindsey in the Sangre de Cristo mountains remains in peril due to landowner liability concerns.
Mt. Democrat is one of the four Decalibron peaks, along with Mt. Lincoln, Cameron, and Bross. It is the site of repeated access problems, with the summit of Mt. Bross closed for nearly 20 years due to safety concerns and the inability to identify and contact all of the claim owners. Access to Mt. Democrat, Cameron, and Lincoln has been lost and restored at least three separate times, all due to liability concerns on the part of the landowners.
The mining claims on these peak were first patented in the late 1880s, with many of them resulting in significant hauls of gold and silver ore. The Moose Mine in particular resulted in millions of dollars of revenue, though little of it ended up in the pockets of miners doing most of the hard work and labor.
Earlier this year, the Fix CRUS Coalition formed to advocate for a solution that strengthens Colorado’s recreational use statute (CRUS), a law that gives landowners protection if they let the public recreate on their land for free. They hope to introduce a bill next legislative session to address landowner concerns and protect access to Mt. Lindsey, Lincoln, and other hiking trails and hunting lands on private lands.
Mount Bross has several owners, including Reiber, making a potential sale more complicated.
Officials of the Conservation Fund, which buys land across the U.S., said Mount Democrat is particularly important because it provides access to other fourteeners and will help protect an area that contains the headwaters of the South Platte and Arkansas rivers.
“Buying this majestic peak is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and a model for how conservation can solve America’s recreational access issues and benefit local communities,” said Kelly Ingebritson, a project manager for the Conservation Fund.
“We are thrilled to see access to Mt. Democrat secured for future generations, said Fix CRUS Coalition’s secretary Alex Derr. “However, this underscores the kind of resources, time, and energy go into acquiring private land tracts. Especially considering the value of the mine claims on Mt. Lincoln and Mt. Bross, we know that strengthening our recreational use statute is critical for protecting iconic 14ers and places central to our state’s outdoor legacy.”
Access to Mt. Lincoln is open this year thanks to a short-term liability waiver system. It is expected to close again next summer unless a legislative solution is found this summer to provide landowners more protection.
Visit the coalition’s website to learn more and take action to support public access to all of the state’s 14ers, trails, hunting lands, and more. You can sign the coalition’s petition to urge lawmakers to take action or make a donation to support their work and help build awareness about this important issue among the public.