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Pine Creek Lake. Photo by Walker Stole
Nov 12 2015

The Gift of the Gallatins

The range is what makes Bozeman special. Let’s keep it that way.

Around MWA, Featured

Last Tuesday, many residents in southwest Montana woke up to the first blanket of snow covering their yards and pathways. Despite the cold temperature, the change in season sparked a warm tinge of excitement. As I admired the snow-covered Gallatin Range that morning, I was reminded again of how lucky the residents of Bozeman are to live so close to that special place.

Whether we hike, fish, camp, mountain bike, or snowmobile, the Custer Gallatin National Forest is a special place. But it’s more than just a recreation getaway. The Gallatin Range is a critical source of clean water, for both the native trout that live in its streams and the human communities who live in its valleys. The mountains provide habitat for a wide range of wildlife, including unique western species like wolverine and bighorn sheep. From the wildlife perspective, there is really no boundary between the Gallatins and Yellowstone National Park.

For some out-of-staters, hiking in the Gallatin Range is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. For us, it’s our backyard. But, southwestern Montana isn't immune from change. Gallatin County is one of the fastest growing counties in the West. Those of us who moved here (or those of us who chose to stay) did so because the way of life offered here is rare and worth protecting. If we want to retain the special values of the Gallatin Range and the freedom to use and enjoy these public lands, we must think ahead and plan accordingly. If we fail to do so, living here is not going to be as special anymore.

The good news is that there is currently a community-wide effort to map out the future of the Gallatin Range. It’s called the Gallatin Community Collaborative. Even though the GCC has members who cover the full political spectrum, they were able to unanimously agree on the values that make the Gallatin Range special, values that we all want to see passed on to future generations.

These values include:

  • Maintaining the ecological integrity of the range, including making space for all wildlife species
  • Maintaining the wild, untamed character of the range
  • Keeping opportunities for recreation for people of all stripes to enjoy the Gallatin Range
  • Maintaining the economic value the Gallatin Range represents for surrounding communities and Montana as a whole
  • Building healthy, constructive conversations and relationships among the people who use and enjoy the Gallatin Range and want to do so responsibly

Today, there are 310 million Americans. As our country grows, wild, pristine places like the Gallatin Range will only grow more valuable and rare. We all have our own experiences in the Gallatin Range. For me, the Gallatin Range offers a necessary reprieve from the hustle and bustle of life. It is a place I enter to find peace, walk at nature’s pace, and experience the beauty this world can offer.

Please contact me at scathey@wildmontana.org for ways to get involved in the Gallatin Community Collaborative. You can also contact me to learn about ways to get involved in the upcoming forest plan revision, beginning January 2016.

- Sally Cathey, MWA southwest Montana field director