Colorado is considered a bellwether state in many regards. Not the least of these is the ability of a wilderness system to survive in such proximity to a highly populated region. The pressure placed upon the Indian Peaks and James Peak Wilderness Area is extraordinary with the rampant development which surrounds it.
The 73,391-acre Indian Peaks Wilderness was designated by Congress as part of the Wilderness Preservation System on October 12, 1978 and, with its new designation, it started to get even more heavily impacted by visitors. In 1980 a citizens’ forum was organized by Dr. Anne Forrest Ketchin, Anne Vickery and Jan Robertson which held round table discussions and developed 27 points of agreement among a very diverse group of interested parties. The US Forest Service agreed to most of the recommendations, and thus began a long-lasting citizen/agency partnership which is soundly in place today.
These three pioneering women founded the Indian Peaks Working Group in 1985, which would later be renamed the Indian Peaks Wilderness Alliance (IPWA). Dr. Anne Forrest Ketchin (a noted anthropologist), Anne Vickery (longtime former board chair of the IPWA), and Jan Robertson (photographer and author of "The Magnificent Mountain Women") were avid hikers, skiers and mountaineers, who shared a passion for protecting the last wild places in Colorado. Jan Robertson was interviewed about her life for the Maria Rogers Oral History Program at the Boulder Public Library (see her interview here).
In 2002, the 17,391-acre James Peak Wilderness, located just south of the Indian Peaks Wilderness, received its designation and the IPWA began supporting this area as well.
Today, volunteers with the IPWA provide visitor education, report trail conditions and hazards, monitor visitor use and adherence to wilderness regulations, sponsor public presentations on environmental issues, advocate for the wilderness through outreach, education and internship programs, and grant scholarships to undergraduate and graduate students for alpine research.
In 2022 alone, our wilderness patrol volunteers were in contact with 39,351 visitors just during the summer hiking season! Furthermore, with the Colorado population increasing by over 100,000 new residents a year, these areas have been and will continue to face an ever increasing risk of degradation due to high levels of visitation and utilization. This is where we help!
The IPWA offers a unique service to our community, our supporters, and our volunteers, as we are the only Colorado Front Range non-profit with a mission of focusing exclusively on preserving and protecting the magnificent Indian Peaks and James Peaks Wilderness Areas. We strongly believe in our core tenet that ‘We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.’ As a result, our programs provide information and education on how to preserve and protect the Indian Peaks and James Peak Areas for future generations – leaving a legacy that others can cherish.