The 135,840-acre Palisades Wilderness Study Area (WSA) was designated as a Wilderness Study Area in the 1984 Wyoming Wilderness Act. The BLM states that they are “required to maintain the wilderness characteristics of each WSA until Congress decides whether it should either be designated as wilderness or should be released for other purposes”.
The WSA is located in Bridger-Teton and Targhee National Forests, and is bounded on the south and east by the Snake River Canyon and U.S. 89, and on the north by Wyoming Highway 22. The WSA includes the crest of the Snake River Range and most of the major canyons on the south and east.
The 2008 Bridger-Teton National Forest Evaluation of Wilderness Potential ranked the area as 12 out of 12 in terms of wilderness potential, topping the scale in all categories evaluated including naturalness and undeveloped character, outstanding opportunities for solitude and unconfined recreation, special features, and manageability.
However, in spite of this finding, the Palisades WSA faces a number of threats.
In recent years, conservation groups have been involved in protecting the Palisades WSA from the pressure of motorized recreation and increased heli-skiing activity that goes far beyond the limits established in 1984 when the Palisades WSA was created.
The Bridger-Teton National Forest is planning a project that involves thinning, burning, and logging on a project area of over 80,000 acres, called the Teton to Snake Fuels Management Project. This proposal includes the Palisades Wilderness Study Area and two other inventoried roadless areas. This project, if completed, could forever imperil the chances of this WSA becoming truly protected as a congressionally designated Wilderness area.
After pressure from conservation groups and concerned citizens, the Bridger-Teton National Forest announced that they will be conducting a more in-depth Environmental Impact Statement instead of the Environmental Assessment originally planned for the Teton to Snake Fuels Management project.
The Palisades is a critical wildland and serves as valuable wildlife habitat, and the Teton to Snake project could alter the landscape forever.
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