The Kootenai

(MWA photo)

Clear Rivers, Big Trees, and Wild Weather

Local stakeholders have recently struck a historic agreement that would greatly expand wilderness in this beautiful and mysterious corner of the state.

The 2.2 million acre Kootenai National Forest is a special place: strikingly beautiful, biologically rich, and a little bit mysterious. Because it's so off the beaten path, many Montanans know as much about this area in the far northwest corner of the state as they do about Idaho or Alberta. It’s home to clear rivers, big trees, and wild weather that drops up to 100 inches of rain every year. Some call it an inland rainforest.

Communities like Libby, Noxon, and Trout Creek have long relied on the mining industry operating on surrounding public lands. Traditionally, the Kootenai was known as the timber basket of Montana. These days, however, timber production is down significantly. 

Now, both the land and the communities are in need of new solutions.

Montanans know that by working together, we can manage our forests, provide jobs for struggling rural communities, and conserve and restore key wildlife habitat and blue ribbon headwaters. Seven years ago, that’s exactly what the Kootenai Forest Stakeholders Coalition set out to do. Business owners, local elected officials, and community members began working to find community-based common ground that will provide jobs in the front country while protecting the solitude of the backcountry.

In late 2015, the Kootenai Stakeholders agreed to a forest-wide proposal that establishes guidelines for timber management, creates areas for motorized and non-motorized recreation, and designates 180,000 acres of new wilderness.


The Compton Crags, in the heart of the Scotchman Peaks, as seen from the top of Mt Vernon (photo by Philip Hough)

The historic agreement means wild, roadless lands in the Yaak (such as Grizzly Peak and Gold Hill West), additions to the Cabinet Mountain Wilderness, and the majestic Scotchman Peaks would be protected for future generations, and areas such as Mount Henry and Northwest Peak would be managed for quiet, human-powered recreation. Click to see a map illustrating how this agreement would protect these special places in the Kootenai.

More importantly, this agreement means that the communities of Lincoln County, Montana are moving beyond past conflicts and working together to protect watersheds, secure big game habitat, and maintain a sense of solitude – and mystery – that makes the Kootenai so special.

Montana Wilderness Association is doing what it does best – working everyday with Montanans from all walks of life on a realistic, practical strategy for communities like Libby and Troy, while forever protecting pristine backcountry. It's time to put the past behind us and work together for a better future for the Kootenai National Forest. MWA, along with diverse citizens of the Kootenai, are doing just that.