Today is the 50th Anniversary of the creation of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. It coulda shoulda woulda been a national park, and enjoy better protection that the limited benefits of being a national recreation area, but at the time half a loaf was all that was possible in Idaho’s perennially weird politics.
If it were a national park, there wouldn’t be a fight right now about AT&T’s plan to put a cell phone tower right, smack in the middle of this iconic view. If it were a national park, there wouldn’t be billionaires trying to construct McMansions on the tracts of private land in the recreation area.
Those are just some of the challenges facing Sawtooth NRA in its second half century. The salmon that gave Redfish Lake its name are still critically endangered. Anthropogenic climate change is rapidly altering the ecosystem, especially at higher elevations. And people are loving Sawtooth NRA to death.
Campground reservations are effectively impossible. Parking at the iconic trailheads is overflowing. Human excrement is contaminating the alpine lakes in the central Sawtooths.
Those are just some of the challenges. Perhaps the anniversary will inspire the Forest Service and Idaho’s Congressional delegation to do something to preserve and better protect a chunk of Idaho that Idahoans and Americans patently love, and not just piss and moan about “too much federal land.”
Happy 50th, Sawtooth NRA. And many, even better, ones to come.
One thought on “Happy 50th Anniversary to the Sawtooth National Recreation Area”
The beauty and relative remoteness does rival the Tetons, Glacier, and Rocky Mt NP, and when I first moved to the area in ’79 I thought “Why isn’t this a National Park?”
But I remember hiking trails back then that were ankle deep in dust ground to flour by so many feet, and the sockeye already scarce. Not sure NPS status would have helped much, when you consider the inholdings and cell tower controversy in Grand Teton NP. The added attention would have bled over into Frank’s RONRW, the White Clouds, the Pioneers, and property in the area would have become even more elite and elusive, Ketchum would look more like Jackson, Bozeman, or Estes Park. The best protection is sometimes obscurity, but that doesn’t seem to exist anywhere in these digital days, and obscurity has its own hazard, like the cobalt mine near the Bighorn Crags.
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