The lands surrounding northwest Wyoming’s Snake River are often described with a litany of superlatives: all are justified given the region’s towering peaks, lush valleys, roaring rivers and extensive roadless terrain.
The Snake River itself is born near the Continental Divide in Yellowstone National Park, flows through Grand Teton National Park, and eventually becomes the main tributary into the Columbia River. This rugged country—once a stomping ground for the Lewis and Clark expedition—still harbors a healthy predator-prey system, with grizzlies and wolves hunting large herds of elk, moose, and mule deer.
With its stunning scenery, the Snake River has become a popular place to call home. Residential and resort development are its highest threat, with much of the private land being subdivided. This fragmentation threatens ecological systems such as naturally-occurring fire patterns and flooding cycles, and blocks wildlife migration corridors.
Northwest Wyoming, south of Yellowstone National Park
Two million acres
Significant expanses of cottonwood-spruce riparian woodlands span both sides of the Snake River and its tributaries. Aspen woodlands also dominate and harbor native rare plants such as the soft aster. The area also supports spruce-fir forests and populations of sagebrush—a classically Wyoming plant.
The Snake River provides secure habitat for many animals, including several federally listed threatened or endangered species such as the grizzly bear, bald eagle, Canada lynx, and wolf. Many state and federally designated sensitive species are also found here: the trumpeter swan, boreal owl, Columbia spotted frog, common loon, harlequin duck, fisher, northern goshawk, peregrine falcon, and three-toed woodpecker. The famous Yellowstone cutthroat trout and more than 100 species of butterfly inhabit in the region as well.
Why the Conservancy Selected this Site
The Snake River’s natural qualities are infinitely rarer and more precious given the frenetic pace of human activity in the West. Healthy corridors that connect the national parks, Wilderness areas and private lands that surround the river will ensure species like bighorn sheep, pronghorn, and trumpeter swans can survive. In addition, proactive fire management and renewed flooding patterns along the Snake River must be pursued if the region’s beloved wildlife is to thrive indefinitely.
What the Conservancy Has Done/Is Doing
The most important approach in this region is to build support for conservation and increased awareness of the Snake River’s ecological values. Several landowners have donated conservation easements in this region. In one innovative project, The Nature Conservancy and the Jackson Hole Land Trust joined with landowners to protect 340 acres of a long-time Jackson ranch along the Snake River.