A Vision for the Gallatins
Finishing Lee Metcalf's Legacy
Home to grizzly bears, wolverines, elk, and other important species, the Gallatin Range is the largest unprotected landscape sharing a border with Yellowstone National Park. With ten peaks over 10,000 feet in the Gallatin Range alone, it’s easy to see why the Custer-Gallatin is the most visited national forest in Montana.
But the Gallatin Range is more than just a recreational hotspot. It’s also an essential source of clean water for nearby towns, a refuge for wildlife, and a place for the residents of some of Montana’s fastest growing communities to find solitude. That’s why securing lasting protection for the wildlands of this magnificent mountain range has been an unwavering goal for MWA since its founding over a half-century ago.
What's at Stake?
The Gallatin Range offers endless opportunities for climbers, skiers, hunters, and anglers along with miles of trail for horseback riding, mountain biking, and hiking. Photo by Roger Jenkins
At the heart of the Gallatin Range is the 155,000-acre Hyalite-Porcupine-Buffalo Horn Wilderness Study Area (WSA). But look just beyond the WSA and the Range has tens of thousands of acres of rugged, roadless country. Combine that with Montana’s climate, and you’ve got a recipe for world-class recreation opportunities for hikers, climbers, skiers, bicyclists, and sportsmen.
Wildlife as William Clark Saw It
There are few places left with nearly the full complement of species that were here 200 years ago. The Gallatin Range supports a wide variety of species including grizzly bears, moose, mountain goats, wolverines, and the occasional lynx. Portions of the Range also provide critical winter range for big game like elk and bighorn sheep.
Wild and Scenic Headwaters
Several eligible Wild and Scenic Rivers have their headwaters in the Gallatin Range, including the Gallatin River, a favorite haunt of local anglers and paddlers. And snowfields in the high peaks of the Range’s northern front supply 85% of Bozeman’s drinking water.
A Unique History
A petrified forest and fossils from an ancient sea are just a few of the extraordinary discoveries you can make in the Gallatin Range. These mountains tell a story of fire, ice, and water that dominated this landscape thousands of years ago.
Protecting Montana's Recreation Economy
Outdoor recreation supports 64,000 jobs, generates $5.8 billion in consumer spending, and provides $1.5 billion in wages and salaries in Montana. Park and Gallatin Counties share in this bounty. In Park County alone, over $8,000 (23%) per capita of the average resident’s income is related to protected public land.
Why Protect the Gallatin Range Now?
Photo by John Todd
Lured by the unique combination of economic opportunity and outdoor adventure, communities around the Gallatin Range—including Bozeman, Belgrade, and Big Sky—have nearly tripled in size since Congress designated the WSA in 1977.
As more and more people come to live, work, and play next to our beautiful mountains and clear rivers, Montana’s dwindling wild places face growing pressures and demands. Pressure on water resources to quench the thirst of our growing communities will increase, and we will continue to see a rise in public land use by both motorized and quiet recreation enthusiasts. Without protection for the wildlands of the Gallatin Range, we risk turning the last best place into just another place.
Moving Forward: Hope for a Fragile Heart
Our vision is simple: build community-wide support to protect the wild Gallatins, from Hyalite Canyon in the north to the border of Yellowstone National Park in the south. It’s a campaign to protect blue-ribbon trout streams, open space, and a clean, clear supply of drinking water. It’s a commitment to safeguard our most iconic wildlife, including some of southwest Montana’s largest elk herds. And it’s a plan that will unite a community of interests, from hikers to bikers to horsemen and women, so that future generations of Montanans can experience this landscape as it is today.
For more information on what we are doing to protect the Gallatin Range and to find out how you can get involved, contact Sally Cathey.