September 21, 2023

The Conservation Fund Solves Colorado “Fourteener” Closure by Securing Land and Permanent Public Access for Mount Democrat

PARK COUNTY, Colo. — The Conservation Fund, a leading nonprofit in U.S. land and water protection, announced its purchase of nearly 300 acres on Mount Democrat in the Mosquito Range of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. After many years of land and trail closures, today The Conservation Fund is providing a solution to a long-standing recreation issue, with plans to convey the property to the Pike-San Isabel National Forest later this year.

Mount Democrat is one of Colorado’s beloved “Fourteeners,” a mountain peak scaling above 14,000 feet. It is one of four notable peaks along the famous DeCaLiBron hiking loop, a unique place to hike several Fourteeners in one day just a two-hour drive southwest from Denver. The DeCaLiBron trail also includes Mount Cameron, Mount Lincoln and Mount Bross, and contains the headwaters to the South Platte and Arkansas Rivers.

“Colorado Fourteeners are a national treasure and we are thrilled to protect Mount Democrat,” said Kelly Ingebritson, Colorado project manager at The Conservation Fund. “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.”

The Conservation Fund purchased the Mount Democrat property from Earth Energy Resources LLC, represented by John Reiber, a retired business executive who owns mining claims across several Fourteeners. Due to liability concerns, Reiber closed public access to the land and trails in 2023, 2021 and other prior years, and is now selling the property to the Fund. During trail closures, the nearby town of Alma and other trailhead communities lost about $5 million in tourism revenue.

The Conservation Fund’s purchase includes the Kite Lake Trailhead that leads to all the DeCaLiBron peaks, land along the Mount Democrat trail, and the Mount Democrat peak itself. The conservation nonprofit will temporarily hold the property and then convey it to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service for their long-term ownership, using funding from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund. Additional funding support was provided by the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative, the Mosquito Range Heritage Initiative, Park County, Gehres 14er Fund at the Colorado Mountain Club Foundation, Morrough O’Brien Trust and Meta Alice Keith Bratten Foundation.

Mount Democrat will be open for hiking under The Conservation Fund’s ownership. In addition to permanently protecting and opening access to Mount Democrat, the conservation solution will also expand access to Mount Cameron, which is currently on public Forest Service land and had prior access issues, but is now accessible through the newly protected Mount Democrat property. The Fund’s acquisition also provides extensive environmental benefits, including protecting alpine headwaters for the two rivers that serve Colorado’s entire front range populations and habitat for endangered species such as the Canada lynx and greenback cutthroat trout.

The Conservation Fund works to protect key lands across the country that provide nature-based benefits for people, wildlife and the fight against climate change. By bringing together local partners, federal agencies like the Forest Service and private landowners, the Fund provides solutions to today’s most critical land challenges across the country. In Colorado, the Fund has conserved nearly 300,000 acres of environmentally and culturally significant land, helping protect destinations like Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Sweetwater Lake and the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site.

About The Conservation Fund
The Conservation Fund protects the land that sustains us all. We are in the business of conservation, creating innovative solutions that drive nature-based action in all 50 states for climate protection, vibrant communities and sustainable economies. We apply effective strategies, efficient financing approaches, and enduring government, community and private partnerships to protect millions of acres of America’s natural land, cultural sites, recreation areas and working forests and farms. To learn more, visit

Supporting Quotes:

“Our partnership with The Conservation Fund is paramount in securing sustainable recreational access to the summit of Mount Democrat,” said Pike-San Isabel National Forest’s Forest and Grassland Supervisor Diana Trujillo.

“These are special properties that have been part of my life for a long time, so this was a tough decision. I truly appreciate the efforts and tenacity of The Conservation Fund to complete this transaction. The view from the top of Mt. Democrat is spectacular and I believe will be appreciated by all who choose to hike the mountain. I hope hikers will be prepared for challenges, complete their assent, stay safe, keep on the trail, avoid sensitive high alpine tundra, understand the inherent dangers, and leave the mountain as they found it. My wish is that others will enjoy this place that has meant so much to me,” said John Reiber, former landowner.

“More than 10 percent of Colorado’s Fourteeners are on or accessed by private land, which has posed access concerns over the decades. Through this landmark transaction, The Conservation Fund has now taken Mounts Democrat and Cameron off that list and ensured that hikers will get to experience these peaks in every future climbing season without fear of closure. This is a huge masterstroke and one that will reverberate among Fourteener enthusiasts across the globe,” said Lloyd Athearn, executive director of the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative.

“This conservation project is what we’ve been working toward for decades. Solving the hiking access here supports our local economy while also protecting the alpine headwaters our community depends on,” said Cara Doyle, executive director for the Mosquito Range Heritage Initiative.

“Congratulations to all the partners who pulled this project together to help secure public access to one of Colorado’s iconic fourteeners, Mt. Democrat. This funding will allow the Forest Service to acquire claims from a willing seller, 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. This is a high point win for Colorado land conservation and accessibility!” said U.S. Senator John Hickenlooper.

“Colorado is home to more than half of the nation’s Fourteeners, and as a life-long Coloradan, I know how important these incredible outdoor spaces are to our way of life. I am delighted to see The Conservation Fund invest in critical efforts to conserve our beloved Fourteeners and increase access to trails at Mt. Democrat and the DeCaLiBron Loop,” said U.S. Representative Brittany Pettersen.

“With the voters’ approval to create the Park County Land and Water Trust Fund, and the leadership of the advisory Board members and past and current County Commissioners, we can achieve the exact purpose of these funds, which is to preserve our most cherished assets, our Fourteeners. Mr. John Reiber is a valued member of our community, always making every effort to keep access to Mount Democrat open for recreational uses. Partnerships such as this with private property owners, local government, the USDA Forest Service, local nonprofits, and now The Conservation Fund, made this a reality. Thank you to all involved,” said Park County Manager Thomas Eisenman.