One of the West's great rivers is the Snake, which forms in Yellowstone National Park and flows on through Grand Teton National Park. While it's reputation is known, now more than 400 miles of the tributaries that feed the Snake's headwaters are being protected as part of the national wild and scenic river system.
Sue Masica, director of the National Park Service's Intermountain Region, recently signed off on a Finding of No Significant Impact for the Snake River Headwaters Comprehensive River Management Plan and Environmental Assessment that provides for the protection.
The Craig Thomas Snake Headwaters Legacy Act of 2008 added 414 miles of rivers and streams of the Snake River headwaters to the national wild and scenic rivers system. In accordance with requirements of the act, the CRMP/EA was prepared for those river segments that are managed by the National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The Bridger-Teton National Forest developed a separate but concurrent plan for U.S. Forest Service-managed segments. These comprehensive river management plans will provide long-term guidance for protecting and enhancing the entire Snake River headwaters administered by the federal agencies.
The CRMP/EA identified the outstandingly remarkable values for which the river segments were designated, including its free-flowing condition and water quality. The EA also identified goals for protecting river values, boundary delineation, development of lands and facilities, evaluation of water resource projects, instream flows, user capacity, recreational activities,and monitoring strategies. The selected action will be implemented by the superintendents of Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks and the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway, and the National Elk Refuge manager.
Under the finalized plan, 39 miles of the Snake River headwaters are open to non-motorized boating and other activities within the three national park units, offering opportunities to experience and enjoy the unique qualities of a wild and scenic river for both private and commercial users.
Infrastructure within the river corridor will be consolidated, with modest improvements such as upgrades to road access and parking at the popular Deadman's Bar landing in Grand Teton National Park.
Visitor connections with the natural world will be emphasized through interpretive opportunities and more primitive, recreational experiences in the undeveloped natural settings of the river corridor. In general, use levels will be similar to—or lower than—the existing conditions. Recreational activities will be consistent with the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, which provides for the protection and enhancement of river values.
"This plan provides numerous options for river users to enjoy the beauty and natural surroundings of the Snake River headwaters, while preserving the qualities that make it a wild and scenic river deserving of conservation and protection," said Kevin Schneider, acting Grand Teton superintendent. "We will continue to provide outstanding river recreation opportunities, while also protecting the associated geologic, scenic, cultural, and wildlife values of this river corridor for future generations."