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The Sawtooth NRA at 50: Our Legacy and Future Challenges

*If you registered, you have exclusive on-demand viewing access to this conference. Recordings links were emailed on May 31, 2022. 

The Sawtooth National Recreation Area was created 50 years ago to protect the iconic mountain landscapes of central Idaho. Rather than create a national park, Congress believed that a national recreation area would preserve the natural, scenic, historic, pastoral, and fish and wildlife values while also providing a recreational playground for Idahoans and the nation.

Starry sky over mountains

On Tuesday, May 24, the Andrus Center hosted a virtual event to explore how well this vision has been achieved, and to assess the protection challenges likely in store for this sanctuary of wilderness peaks, flowery meadows, and mountain lakes over the next 50 years. View the schedule.

In the morning we heard the retrospective views of speakers who have experienced much of the Sawtooth NRA history and from those who had a hand in its management. In the afternoon Native Americans, scientists, local business owners, conservationists, land managers, and government officials gave us their perspectives on the Sawtooth NRA’s possible fate over the next 50 years as it deals with existing and future challenges. The conference was recorded and will be followed by a white paper in August.

The morning speaker was Sara Dant, Brady Presidential Distinguished Professor and Chair of the History Department, Weber State University, Ogden, Utah, and author of Peak Park Politics, an article about the history of efforts to protect the Sawtooth Mountains. The mid-morning speaker was Daniel L. Stone, Policy Analyst for Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, Fish and Wildlife Department will host the lunch keynote address on Now and the Future. And the afternoon speaker was Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon who will discuss his legislative initiative to better support National Recreation Areas.

The morning discussion panel, The Sawtooth NRA at 50: How Have Things Measured Up, was moderated by Andy Brunelle, retired Forest Service Capitol City Coordinator in Boise and natural resources assistant for Gov. Cecil Andrus. The first afternoon discussion panel was moderated by Emily Wakild, Professor of History and Director of Environmental Studies at Boise State University.  Climate Change Challenges for the Sawtooth NRA. The second afternoon discussion panel: The Sawtooth NRA in the Coming Age of Mass Recreation and Cultural Change was moderated by Steve Botti, Mayor of Stanley, Idaho. The closing panel was Where Do We Go From Here?

The Discussion Panelists include:

  • Ken Paur, retired Forest Service attorney
  • Paul Ries, former Sawtooth NRA district ranger
  • Kathryn Grohusky,  Executive Director of the Sawtooth Society
  • Patricia Young, board member the Sawtooth Society
  • Cliff Hansen, Sawtooth Valley rancher
  • Craig Gehrke, former Idaho State Director of The Wilderness Society
  • Kirk Flannigan, Area Ranger, Sawtooth NRA
  • Jeff Clegg, General Manager, Redfish Lake Lodge
  • Justin Hayes, Executive Director, Idaho Conservation League
  • Angenie McCleary, Blaine County Commissioner
  • Wayne Butts, Custer County Commissioner
  • Deb Bitton, Mystic Saddle Ranch & Redfish Lake Corrals
  • Katherine Himes, Director for the James A. & Louise McClure Center for Public Policy Research

Recordings of the event were emailed to registrants on May 31st and the White Paper will become public in August 2022.