• A hunter walks through the mist inside the Absarokee-Beartoth Wilderness. Photo by Jack Ballard

    Montana wilderness areas continue to lure adventurers, support local businesses

    Story and photo by JACK BALLARD

    In 1964, Congress passed the Wilderness Act, bringing an eclectic mixture of previously designated primitive areas in the United States under a single umbrella of protection in the National Wilderness Preservation System, or NWPS.

    The Act originally created 54 wilderness areas in 13 different states. Of the original areas, five were located in Montana, giving the Treasure State claim to 9 percent of the original wildernesses.

    However, as a percentage of the total acres initially protected, Montana’s share was much more significant. Of the 9.1 million acres protected as wilderness by Congress in 1964, about 2.5 million of them (nearly 30 percent) were located in Montana.

    Of the 54 original wilderness areas, many commentators believe the Bob Marshall was the crown jewel. In the 1930s, three districts in the Flathead National Forest were given wilderness-like protection.

    These districts combined to form the 950,000 acres in the original Bob Marshall Wilderness. Subsequent additions to the Bob Marshall and the creation of the adjacent Scapegoat and Great Bear Wildernesses now comprise a 1.5 million acre expanse of contiguous Wilderness known as the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex.


    The Montana Wilderness Association is hosting a handful of events to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, including the Wild 50th Fest Sept. 5-7 in Seeley Lake.

    The organization is hosting events across the state to celebrate the anniversary. Events include everything from hikes to festivals with music and educational displays.

    The Wilderness Association’s website has the full schedule, along with information about the Wilderness Act and all of Montana’s designated wilderness areas.


    To read the entire story on the Wilderness Act at 50, find this issue on newsstands now. To read more about Montana all year, subscribe now.

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