What We Do
The mission of ESWA is to assist two US Forest Service Ranger Districts in maintaining three federally-designated Wilderness Areas, which comprise about a quarter-million acres in Eagle County and Summit County, Colorado.
An all-volunteer non-profit organization, we strive to achieve our mission with boots-on-the-ground field programs focused on stewardship of the land and education of Wilderness visitors, as well as outreach to local organizations and advocacy for selected environmental campaigns.
More specifically, we deploy about 70 Volunteer Wilderness Rangers on trails and at trailheads to engage and assist Wilderness visitors, promoting Wilderness ethics in general and Leave No Trace principles in particular. ESWA Rangers also help maintain trails and campsites in the Wilderness, and install signs on trails and at popular camping areas.
We deploy about 25 certified Sawyers who help keep trails free of deadfall trees. Together, the Rangers and Sawyers service trails and campsites deep in the backcountry, aided by pack llamas. Our WeedSpotters identify sites of invasive weeds infestations, which are then treated by professionals. With our Advocacy program, we support and promote outside projects that are broadly aimed at protecting and improving the health of Wilderness and its surroundings. Our Outreach activities include sponsorship of Rocky Mountain Youth Corps crews for construction and renovation projects, including boardwalks and bridges and partnerships with a number of non-profit organizations on projects of mutual interest. We created a memorial kiosk at the Dillon Ranger District office and we spearheaded the creation of a memorial boardwalk through a wetland on a popular trail.
We have been pursuing these objectives for more than a quarter-century. In a recent year, our Rangers engaged directly with more than 12,000 Wilderness visitors on 400 patrols covering 2,700 miles on 25 different trails, plus 3 weekend llama-assisted trips to deep backcountry sites; our Sawyers cleared 800 trees from 14 trails; our Advocates worked on behalf of a half-dozen environmental campaigns.
Read about these activities on other pages of our website.
In 1964 Congress passed the Wilderness Act. Today more than 100 million acres in the US are protected as Wilderness. What makes Wilderness special? To find out, read the Wilderness Act HERE; it's not very long and we've highlighted important parts.
After decades of Primitive Area status, in 1976 Eagles Nest Wilderness (ENW) was signed into law by President Gerald Ford, after an arduous approval process (click HERE to see some of the original documents). Holy Cross Wilderness followed in 1980, and Ptarmigan Peak Wilderness in 1993.
Located close to major metropolitan areas, all three Wildernesses have become increasingly popular with outdoor enthusiasts.
We were founded in 1994 as Friends of Eagles Nest Wilderness (FENW), when local journalist John Fayhee, after backpacking with two Forest Service Rangers in the Eagles Nest Wilderness (ENW), wrote an editorial lamenting the lack of resources to maintain and protect Eagles Nest Wilderness. After reading the article, Tom Jones, Jr., co-owner of Wilderness Sports , teamed with Fayhee and organized a public meeting, which gave birth to FENW (in 2019 our name was changed to Eagle Summit Wilderness Alliance - ESWA). Currie Craven became Chairman of the Board, Ed Adams President, Fayhee Secretary, and Jones Treasurer. Our initial attention was focused on the east (Summit County) side of ENW, and our early years are warmly documented in a personal history by Maryann Gaug - click HERE.
In 2006, we expanded our mandate to include the west side of the ENW in Eagle County, plus Ptarmigan Peak Wilderness and Holy Cross Wilderness. In 2019, we changed our name to Eagle Summit Wilderness Alliance (ESWA), the better to reflect the scope of our work in both Eagle and Summit Counties.