50th Anniversary of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area Honors Years of Community Efforts to Preserve and Protect Public Land


Header image provided by the Sawtooth Society

It’s not by accident that over the last 50 years the Sawtooth National Recreation Area (SNRA or Sawtooth NRA) has remained beautiful and open to the public.

It was made possible five decades ago on August 22, 1972, when two senators from Idaho, Frank Church and Len Jordan, championed a bill that became Public Law 92-400. It designated the 756,000 acre Sawtooth National Recreation Area (SNRA or Sawtooth NRA) to, “Assure the preservation and protection of the natural, scenic, historic, pastoral, and fish and wildlife values, and to provide for the enhancement of recreational values associated therewith.”

Since then, it’s been well cared for by several entities and remains under management by the National Forest Service. Current Area Manager, Kirk Flannigan, took on the role in 2015. He and previous Area Managers have worked hard to build relationships with the staff, nonprofits in Woodriver Valley and Sawtooth Valley, elected officials, Blaine and Custer counties, and the city of Stanley to address whatever issues arise. Together, they’ve helped control destructive insects, coordinate and execute prescribed burns, manage commercial logging, clear trails, support fisheries and wildlife populations, and purchase scenic easements.

What Events Are Happening During the Sawtooth NRA’s 50th Anniversary?

2022 marks the 50th Anniversary of the designation of the Sawtooth NRA. In honor, a Sawtooth NRA working group has been formed and several events have been planned this year with a special focus on August 19-22. “We have an incredible opportunity to celebrate the true gem of Idaho’s public land during [this] 50th anniversary,” says Kathryn Grohusky, Executive Director of the Sawtooth Society and a member of the anniversary’s working group.

The events are meant to recognize successes, raise awareness of ongoing threats, explain how the community can assist the SNRA, educate why the land should continue to be federally preserved, and facilitate discussions about what efforts should continue or be enacted for posterity.

The following gatherings have been announced:

August 4, 2022 - Sawtooth Society’s Sagebrush Soirée

The Sawtooth Society, established by Bethine Church, is celebrating its Silver Jubilee (25th anniversary) this year with the Sagebrush Soirée . Tickets are available on the Sawtooth Society’s website for the event featuring a night of cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, a sit-down dinner, a silent auction, live music, and a rolling pledge to support the preservation and protection of the Sawtooth NRA. The evening will also include recognition of Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson, for his protection and conservation efforts with an inaugural “Champion of the Sawtooths” award.

August 19, 2022 - SIHA’s Forum and Lecture Series

The Sawtooth Interpretive and Historical Association (SIHA) was established the same year as the Sawtooth NRA and is likewise celebrating its 50-year history of providing educational programs and materials. It will kick off the weekend with the SIHA Forum & Lecture Series: Sawtooth NRA 50th Anniversary Forum to recognize how bipartisan and grassroots efforts worked together to establish the SNRA.

August 20, 2022 - SNRA - Community Celebration

A community celebration is planned for neighbors and friends of the Sawtooth NRA to honor the past 50 years of preservation and look forward to the future. The Sawtooth NRA Community Celebration will feature several guest speakers and will be held at Pioneer Park.

August 20, 2022 - Sawtooth NRA Employee Reunion

Official invites and additional information will be provided for a Sawtooth NRA Employee Reunion event.

August 22, 2022 - An Evening with Outdoor Idaho

Staff and friends of the award-winning TV series, Outdoor Idaho, will be hosting a retrospective look at stories and videos they’ve collected about the Sawtooth National Recreation Area over the last few decades. The event is called, “ An Evening with Outdoor Idaho ” and will be at the Redfish Lake Visitor Center.

August 2022 - Idaho Artist John Horejs and Gallery 601

This year, when you purchase an exclusive Fine Art Giclee Paper or Canvas of the painting “Stanley Morning Lake” by Idaho artist John Horejs from Gallery 601 , 20% will be donated to the Sawtooth Interpretive and Historical Association (SIHA). Additionally, the artist will hold a meet and greet in August.

A photo of a lake surrounded by trees and mountains

How Can We Continue to Preserve the Land for Another 50 years?

While there isn’t a set agenda currently identified for the next 50 years, there are several issues Grohusky identifies as ongoing threats to the SNRA: catastrophic wildfires, increasing recreational pressure, and increasing development pressure. Flannigan adds that there is an immediate need for additional Forest Service staff to provide quick responses to public needs and to further protect this valuable resource.

Frank Church believed generations of people could continue to have accessibility to explore, experience, and appreciate the acres of Idaho wilderness by working together. Grohusky agrees and says regarding the Sawtooth Society, “We believe the solutions to protect the SNRA from threats involve the entire community. So, we are asking the community to be more engaged in preserving and protecting the SNRA during the 50th anniversary.”

A photo of a forest with mountains towering in the background

How Can You Help Preserve the Sawtooth NRA?

In addition to attending the events, you can help keep the momentum of advocacy for the 50th anniversary celebrations by supporting these local nonprofits who are active stewards in preserving the SNRA:

National Forest Foundation: Donate

Sawtooth Interpretive and Historical Association: Donate , Volunteer , Purchase a Walkway Brick

Sawtooth Society: Volunteer / Donate to the Austin Kraal Memorial Volunteer Program , Adopt a Trail , Fund a Trail , Get a Goat License Plate , Attend Sagebrush Soirée

Idaho Dark Sky Alliance: Donate

Idaho Conservation League: Become a Member , Shop , Donate , Volunteer

Learn More About the SNRA 50th Anniversary

To discover more information about the 50th anniversary, sign up for newsletter updates, submit a host application, and attend events, check out the Sawtooth NRA 50th Anniversary website . If you plan to camp during the celebration, make sure to read our blog about recreating responsibly, and remember to make your camping reservations in advance to ensure your campsite.

Written by Amber Hawton-Hill