Open House to Discuss Wild and Scenic Snake River Headwaters at Grand Teton National Park

More than three years after U.S. Sen. Craig Thomas' death one of his visions, to see portions of the Snake River in western Wyoming designated wild and scenic, is coming to fruition. Ansel Adams photo of the Snake in Grand Teton National Park, courtesy of National Archives.

A legacy of the late U.S. Sen. Craig Thomas, the Wild and Scenic Snake River Headwaters, is moving towards full fruition with an open house this week to discuss how it should be managed.

The Wyoming Republican, who died in 2007, worked for five years, meeting with conservationists, ranchers, businesses, and sportsmen to find common ground on how best to protect the historic river and its tributaries in western Wyoming.

When the Omnibus Public Lands Act of 2009 was signed into law by President Obama, Sen. Thomas' vision came to be, as the appropriately called Craig Thomas Snake Headwaters Legacy Act designated 388 miles of the Snake and its tributaries as wild and scenic.

On Tuesday officials from Grand Teton National Park, the Bridger-Teton National Forest, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will host an open house from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Snow King Resort to gather public input regarding concurrent planning initiatives by the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service for managing the newly designated Wild and Scenic Snake River Headwaters.

The meeting will include a presentation about the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and a discussion about planning efforts being launched by the federal agencies as a result of the recent designation. The National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service will develop separate, but concurrent, management plans for river segments located with their respective administrative boundaries.

Of the 388 river miles officially brought into the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System, 121 are managed by the Park Service. The rest stream through portions of the Bridger-Teton National Forest.

As required by the Craig Thomas Snake Headwaters Legacy Act, the National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service planning efforts will:

* Document the Snake River Headwaters’ boundaries and river segment classifications (wild, scenic or recreational).

* Provide for protection of the free-flowing condition of the Snake River Headwaters in keeping with the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

* Describe the “outstandingly remarkable values” which provide the unique, rare or exemplary characteristics that make the Snake River Headwaters eligible for inclusion in the system.

* Establish a management program that protects the outstandingly remarkable values, free flowing condition, and water quality of the river system.

* Address user capacity and establish the kinds and amounts of appropriate visitor use.

The designation of the Snake River Headwaters is atypical, according to the Park Service, because it encompasses an entire watershed involving 13 rivers and 25 separate river segments, totaling 388 river miles. This watershed spans areas managed by the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and a portion of state and private lands.

A public meeting is also scheduled in Bozeman, Montana, on December 2 from 5 – 7 p.m. in the Public Library at 626 E. Main Street. This session will focus on planning efforts for river segments located within Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks.