December 11, 2023

USDA Forest Service Acquires Strategic Property Providing Public Access to Mount Democrat Summit

This news release was originally published by the USDA Forest Service and was republished here with permission.

LAKEWOOD, Colo. — The long-standing logistical challenges stemming from limited access through private land to one of Colorado’s most majestic “Fourteeners” (a peak that rises above 14,000 feet) has been resolved. In partnership with The Conservation Fund, a nonprofit conservation organization, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service acquired nearly 300 acres leading to Mount Democrat in Colorado’s Mosquito Range.

The Conservation Fund stepped in earlier this year to buy the property from Earth Energy Resources LLC, represented by John Reiber, and worked with the Forest Service to convey the property into public ownership and management by the Pike-San Isabel National Forests & Cimarron and Comanche National Grasslands.

The purchase adds to the majestic beauty of the South Park Ranger District based in Fairplay, Colorado. Along with eliminating liability concerns, it will expand outdoor recreational opportunities considerably. Encompassing the headwaters for the South Platte and Arkansas Rivers, the Kite Lake Trailhead, key trail segments, and the entire Mount Democrat summit, the acquisition is part of the popular DeCaLiBron hiking loop. The loop includes Mount Cameron, Mount Lincoln and Mount Bross, and provides outdoor enthusiasts a unique opportunity to hike several “Fourteener” peaks in one day.

“We are excited about this land acquisition, and honored to add Mount Democrat to the Colorado Fourteeners that we manage on behalf of the American public,” said Regional Forester Frank Beum. “This opportunity would never have been possible without support from The Conservation Fund and numerous partners, and we cannot express enough appreciation to them for securing this property.”

“Protecting one of America’s tallest mountains and its headwaters for all to enjoy is an honor of a lifetime for us,” said Kelly Ingebritson, Colorado project manager at The Conservation Fund. “We are thrilled to celebrate this achievement – which was made possible by the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund – alongside the Forest Service, Colorado’s congressional delegation and our community partners.”

Many shared their appreciation for this successful outcome. Their quotes are below.

Jason Robertson, acting forest supervisor for the Pike-San Isabel National Forests & Cimarron and Comanche National Grasslands, shared his enthusiasm as well. “This is really a big accomplishment and meaningful for not just the State of Colorado, but the entire nation,” he said. “These iconic landscapes inspire imaginations and provide a place for visitors from around the world to seek solace.”

“Congratulations to all the partners who worked together to help secure public access to one of Colorado’s iconic fourteeners, Mt. Democrat. The Conservation Fund’s transfer of this land – thanks to the Land and Water Conservation Fund – will allow the Forest Service to provide public access and protect water quality and wildlife habitat in this high-use hiking and recreation area,” said U.S. Senator Michael Bennet.

“Land and Water Conservation Funds ensure Coloradans can enjoy our lands – and Fourteeners – for generations to come,” said U.S. Senator John Hickenlooper. “This is a high point win for Colorado land conservation and accessibility!”

“Supporting community-driven projects like this are exactly what the Park County Land and Water Trust Fund was meant to do,” said Park County Manager Thomas Eisenman. “Our Fourteeners are one of our most cherished local resources and we appreciate all the partners involved that worked to make this a reality. It will provide lasting benefits for our county and beyond.”

“Protecting the alpine headwaters, hiking trails and critical habitat at the Mosquito Range are goals we have supported for decades,” said Cara Doyle, executive director for the Mosquito Range Heritage Initiative. “This conservation project supports our local community, and we are thrilled to see it completed.”

“Protecting access to our state’s natural beauty and environment is one of my top priorities, and I applaud the work of the Conservation Fund for keeping Mt. Democrat and the DeCaLiBron trail open to the public,” said U.S. Representative Brittany Pettersen. “Exploring the outdoors is a key part of the Colorado way of life and these spaces should remain accessible for all who wish to enjoy them.”

“With the transfer of the Mount Democrat lands from The Conservation Fund to the Forest Service, Colorado Fourteeners Initiative can begin vital trail work on this route that has been stymied for decades due to the land being in private ownership. Fragile alpine tundra and important pika habitat will be better protected, while hikers on one of the top-five most-climbed 14er routes in Colorado will experience a much-improved trail. Thanks to the collaborative work of TCF, the Forest Service and other partners, this area has gone from obstacle to opportunity. We are all indebted to your persistence and professionalism,” said Lloyd Athearn, executive director of the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative.

Map of Mount Democrat in Colorado. Now open to the public in perpetuity.
Map of Mount Democrat in Colorado. Now open to the public in perpetuity.


Media Contacts
Donna Nemeth | USDA Forest Service | 360-951-8486 |
Josh Lynsen | The Conservation Fund | 703-908-5809 |