Guest Column

Protect the Whitefish Range

The northern end of the Whitefish Range opposite Glacier National Park contains a number of spectacular wildlands

The Flathead National Forest contains some of the wildest and most spectacular landscapes anywhere in the country. While some forests are well known for their ability to grow timber, others are a major source of forage for livestock, the one thing that the Flathead National Forest does better than any other forests are that it possesses wild country. There are few other forests in the country with so much spectacular wildlands as the Flathead.

There remain some substantial unprotected wildlands that deserve wilderness designation. It is an area that I have visited many times over the years. I relish the autumn when the western larch turn gold, and the deep green of summer when the North Fork of the Flathead River flows so clear.  I have spent many winter days in the area tracking wolves. There is no better place in Montana to spend one’s time than camping, hunting, hiking, fishing, and just plain absorbing the beauty of nature than in the northern Whitefish Range.

The northern end of the Whitefish Range opposite Glacier National Park contains a number of spectacular wildlands that surround Mount Hefty, Mount Tuchuck, and Mount Thompson Seton. I have hiked in all these areas, and over the years spent considerable time in the North Fork drainage.  It is one of my favorite parts of Montana.

There has been a long-time interest in protecting the Whitefish Range. As early as  1925 a half million acres was proposed for wilderness designation by Fortine resident Winton Weydemeyer. In 1932, the Forest Service set aside 450,000 acres as a “primitive area’, a precursor to the 1964 Wilderness Act.

The Mount Hefty, Thompson Seton, and Mount Tuchuck were among the areas included in a 1988 Montana Wilderness bill which was pocket vetoed by President Reagan. The northern Whitefish Range was again included in the 1994 Montana Wilderness Act passed by the House.

These wildlands are home to a full complement of native wildlife rare or extirpated elsewhere including grizzly bear, lynx, wolverine, and wolf, as well as important spawning habitat for endangered bull trout and west slope cutthroat trout.

These roadless areas are also the wellsprings of clear, cold water for the Wild and Scenic designated North Fork of the Flathead River.

One of the ways to demonstrate that America is great is to protect what is unique and special about the American landscape. There are no more deserving wildlands for wilderness designation in Montana than the northern Whitefish Range.

The northern Whitefish Range wildlands have been waiting for almost 100 years to be Congressionally protected as wilderness. It’s about time we act.

Please lend your voice to those supporting wilderness designation for these fine wildlands.

George Wuerthner is an ecologist who has published 38 books, including Montana Magnificent Wilderness.