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Pine Creek Lake. Photo by Walker Stole
Feb 05 2020

A Pivotal Moment for the Great Burn

Write a comment telling the Forest Service to keep this special place wild

The Great Burn, also known as the Hoodoo Roadless Area, is a 275,000-acre Recommended Wilderness on the Montana/Idaho border. It’s known for its gorgeous high alpine environment, including jewel-like alpine lakes in deep basins, abundant wildflowers, and a large population of mountain goats that constantly surprise and delight hikers.

The Great Burn is one of the largest roadless areas in the Lower 48. It’s amazingly wild, providing critical habitat for mountain goats, wolverines, Canada lynx, dispersing grizzly bears, and other wildlife. 

But, as the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest undertakes its forest planning process, the future of the Great Burn is up in the air. 

What’s at stake

Unfortunately, the Great Burn’s native mountain goat population, not to mention its wild solitude, is threatened by some of the options the Forest Service has recently put forward for consideration in the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest’s forest planning process.

In the new forest plan, the Forest Service has proposed opening 53,000 acres of the Great Burn to snowmobiles.

Additionally, it has proposed to shrink or eliminate the Great Burn Recommended Wilderness. 

The introduction of motorized travel into the Great Burn would have vast negative impacts on the sensitive mountain goat population. Moreover, a decision to shrink or eliminate the Recommended Wilderness in the new forest plan would open up the Great Burn to road building, timber harvest, and other threats that would forever alter the character and quality of one of our nation’s most impressive roadless areas. 

It’s critical that citizens like you speak up and tell the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest that we need to keep the Great Burn as wild as possible. 

Write a comment to the Forest Service today

The Nez-Perce Clearwater in Idaho - why is MWA involved?

Because what happens on one side of the state line can have a dramatic impact on what happens on the other. 

The Great Burn Recommended Wilderness stretches nearly 100 miles along the Montana/Idaho border, and is part of a 1.2 million-acre swath of roadless areas in western Montana and eastern Idaho.⁠ Roughly 152,000 of the Great Burn’s 275,000 acres are in Idaho, and all of those acres are managed by the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest. They’re more isolated and difficult to access than the Montana side of the Great Burn, which makes them excellent wildlife habitat and a perfect destination for quiet backcountry recreation. 

Of course, wildlife isn’t aware of state boundaries. To animals, the Great Burn is one contiguous wild landscape that provides them with what they need, whether they’re in Idaho or Montana. That might change, however, as a result of this planning process.

If the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest plan allows for winter motorized access and shrinks or eliminates the Recommended Wilderness, it will increase the chances that the Lolo National Forest considers, and possibly implements, the same sort of changes for the Great Burn in Montana.

What’s going on with the forest planning process?

In December, the Forest Service released a draft of the revised Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest plan. The current plan has been in place since the late 1980s, and it is likely that this new plan will last 20 to 30 years.

We oppose the Nez Perce-Clearwater’s recommendation to allow winter motorized access in the Great Burn and its decision to consider shrinking or eliminating recommended wilderness.

We have until April 20 to submit comments to the Forest Service to keep the Idaho side of the Great Burn as wild as possible. Your comment is critical for maximizing the likelihood the Forest Service will designate the Great Burn as wilderness.

Submit your comment today

If you’d like to learn more about how the Forest Service developed the Wilderness, and Wild and Scenic Rivers, sections of Nez Perce-Clearwater Forest draft plan, this 10-minute video is a good place to start.

How to get involved

MWA and the Forest Service will be hosting numerous meetings regarding the forest planning process across western Montana where citizens can learn more about the plan and provide feedback directly to Forest Service staff.  

Nez Perce-Clearwater Forest Plan MWA Workshop – Saturday, Feb. 22 from 9 - 10 a.m. at GoodWorks Ventures, 129 W. Alder St., Missoula

Learn about the details of the draft forest plan, and join us at the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest public meeting in Missoula immediately after.

Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest Public Meetings

These meetings are an opportunity to ask questions about the plan and provide your input directly to Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest staff.

  • St. Regis – Friday, Feb. 21 from 6 - 8 p.m. at St. Regis Community Center, 230 Lobo Loop
  • Missoula – Saturday, Feb. 22 from 10 a.m. - noon at Northern Rockies Training Center, 5765 W. Broadway (Pintler Conference Room)
  • Hamilton – Saturday, Feb. 22 from 3 - 5 p.m. at Bitterroot National Forest Supervisor’s Office, 1801 N. First St.

Can’t make the workshops or want more details to guide you in writing your comment? Check out our brief commenting guide to learn some key points that you can include. 

Write a comment to the Forest Service today

Together we can make it clear to the Forest Service that a wild, non-motorized Great Burn provides the best and most sustainable opportunities for wildlife, habitat, and recreation well into the future for both Montana and Idaho. 

Erin Clark
Western Montana Field Director

Erin builds community support for the protection of western Montana's wild mountains and valleys, from the Bob Marshall to the Bitterroot to the Great Burn. She's a lifelong winter seeker and skier. When snow is hard to come by, she enjoys trail running and botanizing.
Email Erin