Guarding remote, rugged places

The Eagle Summit Wilderness Alliance stewards wilderness areas through volunteerism, advocacy & education 

A visit to Colorado’s Holy Cross, Eagles Nest, Flat Tops and Ptarmigan Peak wilderness areas will take your breath away. These gems comprise a half million acres of roadless backcountry and are home to many animals, like elk and bighorn sheep — plus pressured species like pika and Canada lynx. The preservation of this unique and vulnerable habitat is the focus of the boots-on-the-ground volunteers of Eagle Summit Wilderness Alliance (ESWA).

A small local nonprofit with a big mission – helping the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) to protect, preserve and maintain the designated wilderness areas in Eagle and Summit counties — ESWA has been active in the two-county region since 1994.

In addition to supporting and promoting Leave No Trace* principles, the organization’s non-paid wilderness rangers hike the trails and provide information, and often assistance, to fellow hikers. You’ll frequently meet them at the trailhead, where they host information tables to meet, greet and educate visitors on preparedness and wilderness ethics.

Trail maintenance and improvement is ongoing, and a big area of emphasis for ESWA. Because chainsaws and motorized equipment are prohibited in wilderness areas, the organization’s USFS-certified sawyers put their muscle behind two-person crosscut saws to help clear the hundreds of trees that fall across trails every year.

What’s more, motorized travel isn’t allowed, so wilderness access for work and recreation alike takes place on foot — whether that’s a two-footed human or their four-footed companion animals like llamas, horses and mules.

And where there are animals, there’s animal feed. So, then there’s the matter of weed-free feed. Hay, straw and mulch must be certified-free of noxious weeds before anyone stores or uses it on federal lands. ESWA educates hunters and recreationists on this important
topic, and their WeedSpotters program helps the USFS locate and treat outbreaks of noxious weeds when they do occur.

Eagle Summit Wilderness Alliance publishes a weekly “Get Wild” column in the Summit Daily, and occasional articles in the Vail Daily, to share their love of the wilderness areas and the critters and plants that call them home.

“Alpine Bank has been a fantastic supporter of ESWA,” says board chair Karn Stiegelmeier. “In February, Alpine helped sponsor our Wild and Scenic Film Festival in Breckenridge that welcomed 150 people and raised over $12,000 to support our mission.”

Karn adds that the organization always welcomes volunteers. “The work is hard, but it’s also fun and rewarding,” she says. “Come join us!”

Learn more at

Plan ahead and prepare
Travel and camp on durable surfaces
Dispose of waste properly
Leave what you find
Minimize campfire impacts
Respect wildlife
Be considerate of other visitors

About This Author


Alpine Bank Staff

Alpine Bank is an independent, employee-owned organization with headquarters in Glenwood Springs and banking offices across Colorado’s Western Slope, mountains and Front Range.

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