Wildland Spotlight : Dunoir SMU
Updated: Aug 3
The Dunoir Special Management Unit (SMU) is a uniquely protected 28,000 acre wildland on the Shoshone National Forest, located in the upper Wind River Valley of Fremont County, northwest of Dubois, Wyoming and adjoining the Washakie and Teton Wilderness areas. The Dunoir SMU and surrounding roadless areas provides over 37,000 acres of prime grizzly bear habitat, lynx and wolverine habitat, and important migration routes and winter habitat for bighorn sheep. The Dunoir has long been recognized by residents, agencies and outfitters as critical to maintaining the local elk herd and its historic migrations, and today might be best known for its abundant grizzly bear presence. The scenic view of the Dunoir - the green valley headwaters of Dunoir Creek under the rising Ramshorn Peak - provides the well-known and well-loved backdrop for the town of Dubois. Today the Dunoir SMU provides a low-elevation, easily-accessible frontcountry wilderness-quality experience found few other places.
“(The alternate 11,000 acre recommendation) amounts to little more than a rocks and snow wilderness proposal. While such high altitude lands are of wilderness caliber, they are representative of only one type of wilderness terrain, one terrain that is of little use to humans or wildlife during many months of the year. The great value of my Dunoir proposal however is that it protects a diversive, forested and relatively low elevation drainage which is of immeasurable importance to wildlife and non-motorized recreation use year round.” - Representative Teno Roncalio, 1978 Congressional Record Testimony (at H3222,) in support of his bill designating the Dunoir Washakie Wilderness Addition
A brief history : recent designations and protections
1964: Wilderness Act passed, Washakie Wilderness proposed.
1972: The Washakie Wilderness bill (PL 92‐476) becomes law, designating the Washakie Wilderness and creating the Dunoir Special Management Unit (SMU), and gives the USFS 5 years to make recommendations as to the “highest and best use” of the Dunoir SMU. The law states the SMU “shall not permit harvesting of timber or public or private vehicular use of any existing road” until that time.
1978: Logging proposals threaten to open the entirety of Dunoir basin to road building and prevalent clearcutting practices seen across the Upper Wind River Valley. Public meetings are held to discuss the “highest and best use” of the Dunoir SMU, with 63 of 80 locals in favor of wilderness recommendation. The Forest Service determines the entire Dunoir basin worthy of wilderness protection, approved by the Secretary of Agriculture. The resulting Dunoir wilderness bill fails to make it through Congress and the SMU status of 1972 remains unchanged.
1984: The Wyoming Wilderness Act passes, retaining the Dunoir SMU 1972 legislative protections - keeping the area just the way it is.
2000s: Snowmobiling and mountain biking in the Dunoir become more visible issues; contrary to the exclusion of “vehicular” use in the SMU and the 1978 Forest Service recommendation that the Dunoir be placed under “immediate wilderness designation.”
2004‐2015: The Wyoming Wilderness Association works to protect the wilderness quality of the Dunoir SMU and the original intent of the Dunoir’s protections through the Shoshone Forest Plan revision.
2015: The Shoshone's final Forest Plan attempts to allow mechanized vehicles in the Dunoir SMU, but WWA and local Dunoir supporters win an objection to uphold the clear language of the area’s original protections. The Dunoir is once again clearly protected and clearly managed for non-vehicular use in the final forest plan.
Current threats and opportunities
As currently managed under its original special management designation, the Dunoir SMU retains its wilderness character and provides critical frontcountry low-elevation wildlife habitat for the full suite of the Greater Yellowstone’s most iconic wildlife. In a time where the surrounding Togwotee and Wind River frontcountry are experiencing increasing and diversifying recreation pressure, the Dunoir SMU's protected status provides a quiet haven for migrating, wintering and resident wildlife. Equally unique, the Dunoir SMU continues to provide a well-loved, easily-accessible, wilderness-quality day trip experience for hikers and horsemen in Fremont County.