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Mount Democrat trail and summit near Alma is now property of the USFS

Mount Democrat is part of the DeCaLiBron loop in the Mosquito Range near Alma
Summit of Mount Democrat, June 2020
Posted at 3:47 PM, Dec 11, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-11 18:39:48-05

LAKEWOOD, Colo. — About three months after The Conservation Fund acquired about 300 acres of land on Mount Democrat near Alma, it has conveyed the property to public ownership to be managed by the Pike-San Isabel National Forests & Cimarron and Comanche National Grasslands.

This resolves a long-standing logistical challenge that centered around access through private land to the 14,155-foot peak, while also eliminating liability concerns.

Mount Democrat_The U.S. Forest Service and The Conservation Fund

Previously, the land belonged to Earth Energy Resources LLC, which is represented by John Reiber. Reiber had closed access to his land over liability concerts multiple times, including as recently as March of this year.

He reopened it this summer with an innovative QR-code based waiver system in which recreators would agree not to sue if they were injured on Reiber’s property.

Summit of Mount Democrat, June 2020


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The waiver is available here.

In September, The Conservation Fund, a nonprofit that works to protect land and water across the United States, acquired the land around the Kite Lake Trailhead as well as land along the Mount Democrat Trail and the mountain’s peak. The Conservation Fund made this purchase from Reiber with the plan to work to transfer it to the U.S. Forest Service at a later time in 2023.

That happened this month.

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"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."

The acquisition includes the headwaters for the South Platte and Arkansas Rivers, the Kite Lake Trailhead, key trail segments and the entire Mount Democrat summit, according to the U.S. Forest Service. The whole area falls under the South Park Ranger District and is part of the popular DeCaLiBron loop, which, in addition to Mount Democrat, includes Mount Cameron, Mount Lincoln and Mount Bross.

Two 14ers on the DeCaLiBron Loop to reopen Friday; hikers must sign electronic waiver

Kelly Ingebritson, Colorado project manager at The Conservation Fund, said that protecting this mountain and its headwaters was the "honor of a lifetime for us."

"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," Ingebritson said.

Lloyd Athearn, executive director of the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative, added that with this transfer, the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative can begin trail work that had been on pause for decades due to the land's 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," he said. "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."

Reiber and other advocates have pushed for change to the Colorado Recreational Use Statute (CRUS), which encourages landowners to make their land available for recreational use by the public. Previously, SB23-103, which aimed to protect those landowners from liability concerns, failed.

The Fix CRUS Coalition — a group of 36 nonprofits, business and local governments that is working to make more private lands accessible for public recreation by changing the Colorado Recreational Use Statute (CRUS) — is pushing to amend the statute and provide stronger liability protections to safeguard access to private land.

The summit of Mount Bross remains closed, though there is a bypass trail to complete the loop.

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