More Trees, Fewer Weeds

Nothing makes the board and staff of the Independence Pass Foundation happier than to see native trees, shrubs, and wildflowers thriving along the Independence Pass corridor.  They stabilize the soil on steep slopes, keeping the road clear of slides. They provide forage and habitat for local birds and mammals.  And they make the drive one of the prettiest in the world!  

Native roadside wildflowers

Native roadside wildflowers

For almost three decades the Independence Pass Foundation has been planting trees on the Pass with the help of our local schools.  Prime areas include places along the corridor where road building, road maintenance, and natural events like landslides have stripped the landscape of plants.

Aspen Middle School tree planters

Aspen Middle School tree planters

Aspen Middle Schoolers taking a well-earned lunch break

Aspen Middle Schoolers taking a well-earned lunch break

This fall, students from the Aspen Middle School and Aspen Country Day School partnered with IPF to plant Engelmann spruce and lodgepole pine in four different spots along the corridor.  The Pass would quite literally look like a different place without these kids’ efforts—our best estimate is that over 7,000 trees have been planted to date! 

Aspen Country Day tree planters

Aspen Country Day tree planters

Aspen Country Day third graders watering their newly-planted tree

Aspen Country Day third graders watering their newly-planted tree

The Pass would also look different if IPF wasn’t vigilant in its efforts to keep noxious weeds at bay.  Cautionary tales abound throughout our valley concerning the vast swaths of wild lands that yellow toadflax, Canada thistle, and other invasive species have taken over to the exclusion of native plants.  IPF’s board and staff spend countless hours every summer and fall beating back invasives and making sure the Pass retains its unparalleled diversity and abundance of native plants.  To join in the mission of restoring and protecting the ecological, historical, and aesthetic integrity of Independence Pass, please consider making a donation here.

Board and staff battling oxeye daisies

Board and staff battling oxeye daisies

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Celebrating Permanent Protection

We can’t help but celebrate! The Independence Pass Foundation moved into new territory in 2017 when it partnered with the Wilderness Land Trust to purchase and permanently protect 17 acres of prime wilderness above the ghost town of Independence, effectively fulfilling our mission to protect the ecological, historical, and aesthetic integrity of Independence Pass. 

The view from the Grandview mining claim.

The view from the Grandview mining claim.

In 2016, two former mining claims, the Grandview and Spotted Tail lodes, which sit within the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness, were listed for sale.  They carried with them the right to build a small home AND access the properties via automobile along the popular Green Mountain trail, a former wagon road that was determined to provide legal access to the properties.  Needless to say, the idea of development and cars in in this wild landscape was hugely concerning to IPF.

In a perfect example of non-profit collaboration at its best, the Wilderness Land Trust negotiated a deal with the seller and IPF helped secure funding for the purchase. The next step, now in process, is for the Wilderness Land Trust to transfer the properties to the U.S. Forest Service for inclusion in the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness, thus protecting them from development and road use for all time. 

The Independence Pass Foundation and the Wilderness Land Trust hosted a joint celebration at the site this fall.

The Independence Pass Foundation and the Wilderness Land Trust hosted a joint celebration at the site this fall.

On September 30 of this year, IPF and WLT held a joint celebration at the properties with their boards and staff.  Paul Andersen gave a thoroughly engaging talk on the Pass, including stories of the hearty souls who founded the town of Independence in the 1880s and the continuing importance of wilderness in our lives.

Participants also enjoyed seeing the rare Colorado plant, Altai cottongrass, which grows adjacent to the newly-protected properties.  Thanks to all involved in this huge win for wilderness and Independence Pass!

The elusive Colorado plant, Altai cottongrass: just one more reason to preserve and protect this special place.

The elusive Colorado plant, Altai cottongrass: just one more reason to preserve and protect this special place.

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Volunteering = Love

Since 1989 the Independence Pass Foundation has relied on the passion of people who love Independence Pass as much as we do to volunteer their time to help us maintain and enhance the ecology, beauty, and recreational opportunities available in our magnificent backyard.

 

Volunteer Tim Hall hiking Independence Pass

Volunteer Tim Hall hiking Independence Pass

This week one of those volunteers, Tim Hall, spent two days with Independence Pass Foundation scouring the corridor for trash, hauling out site poles mangled by avalanches and automobiles, and removing telephone wire dangling from long-abandoned poles along the corridor.

 

Tim removing old telephone wires from the Independence Pass Corridor

Tim removing old telephone wires from the Independence Pass Corridor

Tim removing site poles

Tim removing site poles

Of his experience, Tim reflects: “Helping pick up trash and other debris on Independence Pass was not only a pleasure, it was an honor. Like IPF, I love the Pass with all my heart. That beautiful landscape has provided me with a great deal of joy and inspiration over the years, so thank you for the opportunity to show the Pass a little of my love and appreciation. It’s the least I could do… so let’s do more!”

The fruit of the labor: Two days of work removing old telephone wires and site-poles

The fruit of the labor: Two days of work removing old telephone wires and site-poles

If you would like to show the Pass a little love by volunteering your time or helping to sponsor a restoration project, please reach out to our Director, Karin Teague, by emailing director@independencepass.org.

 

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Raising the Bar

At the Independence Pass Foundation, we take pride in our mission to protect the ecological, historical, and aesthetic integrity of the Independence Pass corridor and to encourage stewardship, safety, and appreciation of the Pass. All summer and fall, we facilitate the process of restoration, stabilization, and revegetation of this beautiful land that surrounds us.

The heavy haul.

This week, we had the honor of working with 13 sixth graders from the Aspen Community School. We found ourselves atop Mountain Boy basin at 12,500’, and the hike was just the beginning.

The hike up.

All day long, we pulled and pushed and sledge-hammered rebar out of the tundra — the consequence of a failed 1960s snow fence experiment — and hauled it out by hand for recycling; hopefully to be used in a more appropriate place than the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness! These 11-12 year olds left no question: Our kids are going to change the world for the better!

Happy rebar extractor.

The hard work of this group will protect wildlife, skiers, and hikers for years to come, and help return this pristine place to its natural beauty.  Thank you, Aspen Community School!

Truck after-party.

Truck after-party.

            

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