Wyoming Public Lands Initiative: Palisades WSA

Mar 21, 2017

The Wyoming Public Lands Initiative is a county-level initiative to which counties can voluntarily participate in the process of creating a legislative package for the designation or release of Wyoming's 44 Wilderness Study Areas. Counties are forming advisory committees that will be expected to encompass a broad cross-section of public lands stakeholders. These committees will conduct collaborative reviews of the WSAs in their region and make recommendations to their county commissioners. These recommendations will then be included in the legislative package which will determine the fate of the WSAs.

In 1976, the BLM was mandated to inventory areas with wilderness characteristics. The agency was required to manage these "Wilderness Study Areas" to protect their wilderness qualities until they are either released or formally designated by Congress as wilderness. Currently, these areas are protected through their WSA status, and many public lands advocates are concerned that the Public Lands Initiative could start trading out releases for designations and lower levels of protection.


The Palisades are a popular year-round recreation area for the local communities that surround the area. In the winter, snowmobilers highly value the area for its high quality and challenging riding opportunities. It is also some of the most accessible and high quality backcountry skiing for skiers and snowboarders who can drive to the top of Teton Pass to access the area. In the summer and fall, it is a popular area for mountain bikers, hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts. The Palisades also are highly valued by the hunting community for abundant elk, deer and moose populations. All users love the area for the sense of wildness, solitude and remoteness that the WSA provides.

The Palisades and Shoal Creek WSAs near Jackson were created in the 1984 Wyoming Wilderness Act. The 2008 Bridger-Teton National Forest Evaluation of Wilderness Potential ranked the 135,840-acre Palisades 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. The Shoal Creek WSA is a roadless area that forms the southern front of the Gros Ventre Range, reaching to the foothills of the Hoback basin, offering an excellent untrammeled landscape close to Jackson, making it ideal for outdoor education, as well as being important midlevel habitat for a diverse array of wildlife.