Why Wilderness?

Throughout the northern Gallatins, including the WSA, increasing numbers of off road motorized recreationists have damaged the land, stressed wildlife, and shattered the silence. Erosion, stream sedimentation, destruction of native vegetation, soil compaction, an increasing profusion of unmanaged user-created motor trails, wildlife harassment, poaching and the probable disruption of denning wilderness-dependent species such as lynx and wolverine are documented problems. Also, as increasing numbers of hunters on ORV's easily penetrate formerly remote areas, quality hunts via foot and horseback become elusive. Tougher restrictions including shorter seasons and reduced hunting opportunities will inevitably result.

Off road vehicles also are documented to import noxious weed seeds and they create perfect substrates for weed germination by denuding vegetation and exposing soil. Although there are recent indications that the Forest Service has recognized the off road motor vehicle problem by proposing minor restrictions in some parts of the range, this unique wildland deserves full protection from damaging uses, not a bit here and a bit there.

In addition, without Wilderness designation, large-scale logging proposals with associated roads, timber landings and heavy machinery are nearly inevitable. History has proven, time and again, that public wildlands lacking statutory protection almost invariably become utilized for industrial resource extraction and development.

Even in the Southern Gallatins, within Yellowstone, the future of the area's unique wilderness character is increasingly tenuous. No backcountry is safe from potential ill-advised new roads and development. A recent government proposal for all national parks would de-emphasize conservation in favor of motorized recreation and constructed amenities. This argues for statutory Wilderness designation both for the Southern Gallatins and for the rest of Yellowstone National Park's superb backcountry, too. This is why we propose a unified unbroken Gallatin Range Wilderness of 546,000 acres, including both the National Park and National Forest sections of this magnificent mountain domain.