Headwaters Worth Protecting

 

Riparian zones: Wyoming's ecological arteries

The Snake River Corridor is an example of a riparian zone.

Riparian means near water, and its often used to refer to land surrounding a lake, river, or wetlands. In Wyoming water can be hard to find and riparian areas are relatively scare.

Due to the presence of water within riparian zones these areas often serve as arteries of an ecosystem. Riparian habitat is sought after by animals for food, water, and shelter.

Life Giving Waters: Life Giving Habitat

The Snake River Corridor is the largest riparian corridor in the valley of Jackson Hole.

Viewed from atop the Teton Mountain Range, the Snake River Corridor spans the length of the Jackson Hole valley. During fair-weather months, from Jackson Lake to the Snake River Canyon this “Wild and Scenic” river corridor stands out as braided strands of lush vegetation, a green oasis of life in an otherwise dry sagebrush sea.

Jackson Hole’s high elevation and dry climate make the fresh water found within the Corridor an invaluable resource. Its riparian zone serves as an ecological artery which provides critical habitat for birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians.   

As it flows south, from its headwaters in southern Yellowstone, the Snake River provides nutrients to its floodplains, islands, and gravel bars. These natural features span the Snake River Corridor and are lined with cottonwood trees, willow, spruce, aspen, Douglas fir.

This native vegetation the river creates links together valuable sections of habitat and provides shelter and forage for moose, bear, elk, beaver and more. 

 

of migratory bird species

Rely on riparian areas in Teton County, mostly along the Snake River.

Wyoming Species of greatest need

Depend on riparian areas for survival.

%

Wyoming land area

Classified as riparian habitat

%

Of species in Wyoming

Depend on riparian habitat for survival

A Mecca for Recreation 

The wild habitat and pristine waters of the Snake River Corridor are a draw not only for wildlife but for recreational users as well. Oftentimes these two are related. For example, the Snake River in Jackson is one of the last remaining native Cutthroat Trout strongholds in North America.

River users like boaters and anglers can be powerful advocates in working to protect riparian habitat. Everyone from visitors to elected officials has a role to play.

Can we strike a balance between conservation and recreational use? Our economy

It will take building broad coalition to ensure the Snake River Corridor remains pristine and intact for future generations to enjoy and for wildlife to thrive.

 

Did you know?

Riparian habitat such as that found within the Snake River Corridor makes up a tiny fraction of Wyoming’s surface area but is disproportionately important for the survival of most species?

River otters are an example of one such species, reliant on clean water and protected river habitat to thrive. 

An Expanding Human Footprint

Nearly 80% of Wyoming’s wildlife species rely on riparian habitat at some point during their lives. However, riparian habitat makes up less than 2% of the State’s overall landscape, making protection of riparian zones critical for wildlife.

In the arid West, human infrastructure is also closely tied to riparian habitat. Many of our roads, towns and cities are built in proximity to waterways, drawing us into conflict with wildlife for resources this rich habitat provides.

Increased stresses from climate change, agriculture, resource extraction and an ever-growing human footprint make protecting the West’s riparian habitat all the more urgent. Many bird species use the Snake River Corridor to migrate from as far away as South America. Wherever the origin, wherever the destination, this river corridor is a crucial artery for wildlife traveling into and beyond the boundaries of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

Can we learn to coexist responsibly with wildlife in riparian areas? 

Do we have the foresight and the will, to safeguard what precious little riparian habitat remains?

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