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Your Wild Backyard

A Conservation Strategy for the Gallatin Range Event

 

From the towering Hyalite Peaks near Bozeman to the Madison River valley near West Yellowstone, the verdant and diverse Gallatin Range forms the spine of an unbroken roadless wildland of over a half million acres, unsurpassed in rugged beauty and teeming with native fish and wildlife. The wild Gallatins are a vital component of the world-renowned Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE).

All that separates the 325,000 acre Southern Gallatin backcountry within Yellowstone National Park from the Northern Gallatin Range, a 200,000 acre roadless wildland within the Gallatin National Forest, is a line on a map. In other words, despite management by two different federal agencies, the Gallatin Range is one contiguous roadless wildland.

Unfortunately, all is not well. Yellowstone's Southern Gallatin backcountry is threatened by new government proposals to de-emphasize conservation. An explosion of motor vehicle abuse by snow machines, motorcycles, and four-wheel all terrain vehicles (ATV's) has already disrupted and degraded many parts of the Northern Gallatins, where future proposals for industrial logging and road building are likely. In other words, we are slowly and tragically losing one of America's premiere unprotected roadless wildlands. But you can help to reverse this trend!

Thanks to the late Senator Lee Metcalf, in 1977 Congress enacted S-393, the Montana Wilderness Study Areas Act. In this legislation (along with 9 other national forest wildlands), 150,000 acres of the Northern Gallatins were designated as a Wilderness Study Area (WSA). WSA's are to be managed to maintain at least the level of wilderness character that existed in 1977, until Congress either designates areas Wilderness or specifies other uses.

Despite the law, under Forest Service management, motorized abuse and associated resource damage have proliferated, both within and outside the official WSA. Wilderness character has declined. Also, an illegal logging road was bulldozed into the heart of the WSA in the Rock Creek drainage, and the Forest Service made little attempt to fix the damage. Nor was there any attempt to prosecute the perpetrators. Clearly, the rich and wild Gallatins need permanent protection!