Stretching west to east between Ketchum and Arco, the Pioneer Mountain region of central Idaho ranks among the West’s most unspoiled landscapes. Located next to the Boulder-White Clouds, the range covers a distance of nearly 50 miles and composes one of Idaho’s largest undeveloped areas. At nearly 25 miles wide in places, the Pioneer Mountains lie between the Big Wood River Valley to their west, the headwaters of the Big Lost River on their east, and Summit Creek/Trail Creek on their north.
Despite their high altitude, which results in heavy snow and great variations in elevation, there is very little timber in these mountains. The highest peak in the range is Hyndman Peak at 12,009 ft. and there are many other summits well over 11,000 feet in elevation. Sheep and cattle ranches, alfalfa fields, high mountain peaks and lakes, and large herds of elk are common sights. Throughout the summer and fall, people from all over fish, hike, horseback ride, hunt, and pursue other recreation activities in the Pioneers. From sagebrush and grasslands to the lava flows of Craters of the Moon and to the Little Wood River, the region is home for many types of wildlife, such as pronghorn, sage-grouse and wolverine, a diversity that is supported by the region's dramatic range in elevation, rivers and streams, and an untouched character.
While opposition to wilderness protection of the Pioneer range comes most loudly from recreational users such as dirt bike and snowmobilers, perhaps the biggest threat to this vast landscape is unregulated livestock grazing. Although the Forest Service has long recommended to Congress a wilderness area of about 65,000 acres. Idaho conservation groups seek a wilderness about twice as large, especially including the southern part of the range -- the Smiley Mountain, Iron Bog, Scorpion Mountain area. The Idaho Conservation League is working closely with the Pioneers Alliance—a group of local landowners, conservationists, and others—to protect the extraordinary wildlife and open space of the Pioneer Mountains. Many of the pressures faced by other large landscapes in the West have not yet been felt in the Pioneers-Craters landscape, providing a remarkable opportunity to protect these open spaces, abundant wildlife, small communities and agricultural way of life and to build an economically, environmentally and socially sustainable future.
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