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Pine Creek Lake. Photo by Walker Stole
Nov 10 2014

The Great Burn Requires Great Protection

The future of one of the wildest places in the Lower 48 is at stake, and it needs your voice right away.


Stretching between Lolo Pass and Lookout Pass in the Northern Bitterroot Mountains along the Idaho-Montana border, the Great Burn spans an area as large as Glacier National Park, encompassing some of the wildest roadless country left in the Lower 48. From its ancient groves of western red cedars to its sprawling alpine meadows, the Great Burn provides crucial habitat for elk, mountain goats, and wolverines, and offers some of the best alpine access for hikers and horse-packers in the Northern Rockies.

A forest plan revision now under consideration threatens to diminish the greatness of the Great Burn by putting snowmobiles in its wildest area.

The Great Burn is named for the Great Fires of 1910, which burned nearly three million acres in two days and changed the way the U.S. Forest Service fought fires for the next century. One hundred years earlier, Lewis and Clark made their way through what would become the Great Burn as they traversed the Rocky Mountains en route to the Pacific. And for thousands of years until then, the Great Burn was territory of the Nez Perce Tribe and other indigenous peoples.

At the heart of the Great Burn is the Hoodoo Roadless Area, an immense, 252,000-acre wildland that consistently ranks as one of the areas most deserving of Congressional Wilderness designation. Portions or all of the Great Burn have been proposed for Wilderness designation in no fewer than sixteen Wilderness bills carried by Idaho and Montana legislators, with the support of the Montana Wilderness Association and our close partners at the Great Burn Study Group. One of those, Montana’s 1988 statewide Wilderness bill, passed both houses of Congress but was pocket vetoed by President Reagan over petty partisan politics, the only example of a Wilderness veto in the history of the Wilderness Act.


Bear grass in the Great Burn.

For more than four decades, the U.S. Forest Service has been recommending Wilderness designation for the area between Fish Creek and Hoodoo Pass in the magnificent Great Burn. That designation could be undone with the release of the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest's proposed Forest Plan revision. The revision threatens to put snowmobiles in one of the wildest places in the Lower 48.

The Great Burn needs your voice now more than ever.

Please send a comment to the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest by Friday, November 14 and help keep the Great Burn wild!

Email your comments to fpr_npclw@fs.fed.us

You can also snail mail them to:

Forest Plan Revision
Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests
903 3rd Street
Kamiah, ID 83536

Share your favorite story about the Great Burn and please put the following comments into your own words:

Please maintain the 40-year legacy of recommended Wilderness in the Great Burn by selecting Proposed Action Option A for the Hoodoo (Great Burn) Roadless Area and adding the Bighorn-Weitas Roadless Area to Recommended Wilderness status.

Only Option A for the Hoodoo Roadless Area guarantees traditional, quiet recreation opportunities, critical winter habitat for sensitive species like mountain goats and wolverines, and connectivity for grizzly bears and other species between the Great Burn, the Cabinet-Yaak, and Crown of the Continent ecosystems.

Eliminate Option B, which creates a motorized recreation management nightmare for the Nez Perce-Clearwater and Lolo National Forests by carving unenforceable boundaries in recommended Wilderness.

Thanks for Keeping It Wild!