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Feb 24 2014

Celebrating 50 Years of Wilderness across Northwest Montana

From the Bull River to the Yaak, Montanans are coming together to celebrate our Wilderness Heritage this summer

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We know how to celebrate our wilderness heritage in Northwest Montana.

From the Cabinet Mountains to the Mission Range to the Bob Marshall Wilderness Country, wilderness lands are part of why we live here. Indeed, many of us moved here specifically for the open spaces, rugged mountains and ridgelines, rich wildlife, and clean, clear mountain lakes and streams. Our wilderness lands help drive our economy, provide fresh water and wildlife habitat, and allow us to experience a sense of freedom and adventure that is the envy of the nation. 

We’re so damn lucky to live here that once in awhile we just have to step back and celebrate. Fortunately, the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act provides us with the perfect reason.

In Libby, we’re working with our partners, Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness to share stories of first-hand wilderness experiences. We invite you to enjoy these moving personal stories through our Voices in the Wilderness Project, which are archived at Conserve Montana after first appearing in The Western News.

There’s also no shortage of parties and celebrations planned in Lincoln County. We hope you can make a trip to the Cabinets or Yaak and join us!

July 11-13 - The U.S. Forest Service, Montana Wilderness Association, Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness, Cabinet Back Country Horsemen, Cabinet Resource Group and Yaak Valley Forest Council will gather for three days and two nights of 50th celebrations at Bull Lake Rod and Gun Club on Highway 56 between the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness and Scotchman Peaks. Activities include history displays, ranger and lookout stories, kids activities, hikes, music, food, horseshoes and special programs, including the music of Jack Gladstone and a visit by former Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer.

July 19-20 – The Yaak Valley Forest Council is bringing back the Yaak Wilderness Festival! The event will be held at the unforgettable Yaak River Tavern and Mercantile and will feature live music, family activities, craft vendors, wilderness hikes, and more.

August 23 - Libby is celebrating the Cabinet Mountain Wilderness at Riverfront Park! The celebration will feature a tremendously fun and talented cowboy-yodeling band, Wiley and the Wild West starting at 7pm. An art show, outdoor games, video presentations, educational displays and great food will keep visitors entertained earlier in the day.

In the Flathead Valley, we also have several fun activities leading up to a celebration in September. For instance, we’re working with the Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation to host a Wilderness Speaker Series at Flathead Valley Community College. The theme is “50 Years of Wilderness: What will the next 50 look like?”

September 20 – An event we’re calling “Go Wild” will celebrate the solitude, beauty and wildness of Montana’s most treasured landscapes. Join us for wilderness education, educational displays, live music, food and hands-on activities for the entire family from 10am to 3pm at the Flathead County Fairgrounds Expo Building in Kalispell.  The event is hosted by the Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation, Back Country Horsemen of the Flathead, Flathead Audubon, Flathead National Forest, Glacier Institute, Glacier National Park, Headwaters Montana, Hungry Horse News, Montana Wilderness Association, Montana Conservation Corps, USFS Nine Mile Pack string, Swan View Coalition and the Sustainability Fund.

What’s the take-home here?

No matter where you are in Montana, get out and take advantage of the events and activities associated with the 50th Anniversary. We have much to celebrate and we look forward to seeing you in Northwest Montana this summer.

- Amy Robinson is the Northwest Montana Wilderness Campaign Director for the Montana Wilderness Association.  She writes from Whitefish, MT.