U.S. District Court Judge Lynn Winmill has overturned a 2005 Forest Service decision that granted High Mountain Heli-Skiing vastly increased use of Palisades roadless area in the Snake River Range. The 1984 Wyoming Wilderness stated that the wilderness characteristics of this area, which is on the Idaho/Wyoming border were to be protected. Winmill, chief judge of the Idaho federal district, concluded that this meant that motorized use in the area was not to increase, a point conservationists have long argued for the Palisades and other areas protected by the “wilderness study area” category by Congress.

Story in the Jackson Hole News. By Corey Hatch.

My page on the Palisades backcountry.

In the upper reaches of the South Fork of Indian Creek. Palisades wilderness study area, Bridger-Teton National Forest, Wyoming. Photo copyright Ralph Maughan

About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan's Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of "Hiking Idaho." He also wrote "Beyond the Tetons" and "Backpacking Wyoming's Teton and Washakie Wilderness." He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

3 Responses to Idaho's federal district court judge stops more heli-ski use of the Palisades Wilderness Study area

  1. Alan Gregory says:

    I hiked in this region as a teenager and college student in the early 70s. I agree with the judge’s ruling. Some outdoors people seem to have forgotten one tool of travel: their own two legs.

  2. The Forest Service has done a poor job protecting the wilderness qualities of the Palisades from motorized vehicles. Under the Wyoming Wilderness Act they are supposed to do it
    However, on the Idaho side only Big Elk Creek and Palisades Creek trails are closed to motor vehicles.
    The Forest Service argues that motor vehicle use is transient, its marks will disappear as soon as the area is designated Wilderness.
    In fact, the heli-skiing is stressing the mountain goat population and may be the cause of their decline.
    Dirt bikes, but mostly ATVs, get in the high basins, which are a wonderful show of tall forbs in mid-summer, many of them tender tall flowers, and they drive around in them, ruining the view for everybody. The soil is erodible, and so these scars don’t go away over the winter.

  3. Bob caesar says:

    Chalk up one for the gipper, errrr…dipper:-)


November 2006


‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey