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The Wyoming Range

Trout Unlimited
Photo courtesy of Trout Unlimited

Since 2004, NOLS has been involved in a group effort to protect this large stretch of wilderness from future development. We have achieved huge successes, but there is still work to be done!

Stretching south for over 100 miles from Jackson Hole in western Wyoming, the namesake Wyoming Range has long been a key destination for NOLS courses, local backcountry enthusiasts, and sportsmen. As the southern arm of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, these mountains provide abundant habitat for diverse species including elk, moose, mule deer, lynx, black bear, and three native species of cutthroat trout.

The forests, alpine valleys, granite core, and remote feel of the Wyoming Range combine to provide inviting and mellow terrain for backcountry travel. With easy accessibility from NOLS Rocky Mountain and NOLS Teton Valley, these mountains are a key year-round wilderness classroom, catering to 14- and 15-year old Adventure Course students in the summer, and backcountry skiing and winter camping courses in the winter.

When oil and gas development began to threaten traditional classroom routes in 2004, NOLS helped form a coalition of conservation groups, outfitters and guides, and representatives from various economic sectors in the state to promote an idea that would set the range aside from additional oil and gas development. What began as a defensive effort that was focused on slowing down pending oil and gas leases steadily evolved into a movement with a vision.

Trout Unlimited
Photo courtesy of Trout Unlimited

Spearheaded by two groups, Sportsmen for the Wyoming Range and Citizens Protecting the Wyoming Range, the initiative sought to pass legislation that would prohibit any future oil and gas development in the entire Wyoming Range, forever.

Introduced by Senator John Barrasso in October 2007, the Wyoming Range Legacy Act eventually became part of the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 and was signed into law by President Obama on March 30, 2009.

While there is ongoing administrative work to be done with the Forest Service to affirm the Act’s intent, the vast majority of the mountain range is now off-limits to oil and gas development. The passage of this bill was heralded across the state as verification of the idea that some places can be set aside, and that balance can be achieved between energy development and wilderness landscapes in the Rocky Mountains.

NOLS has led courses in the Wyoming Range for decades. In the summer, 14- and 15-year-old adventure courses head into the Wyoming Range from NOLS Teton Valley. In the winter, semester students learn the basics of ski touring, cold weather camping and avalanche assessment.

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