The Five Ecosystems

The Wild Northern Rockies are a unique place in the American landscape. This is the largest wildland region south of Canada, with virtually all of the native plant and animal species that were here at the time of the Lewis & Clark Expedition. Vast public wildlands provide habitat for wildlife populations found nowhere else, including grizzly bear, gray wolf, woodland caribou, anadromous salmon and trout, and a host of lesser known species. People from around the world visit and enjoy Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks and the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area. These public lands provide us with clean water, spectacular scenery and unmatched hunting and fishing opportunities. They sustain our economy and define our quality of life. Our public wildlands are threatened as never before. Congress and the Administration have suspended environmental laws on our National Forests and the timber, mining and oil industries are having a heyday.

Glacier/Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem

The core of this ecosystem is Glacier National Park and the Bob Marshall Wilderness. America’s largest bighorn sheep herd scales the peaks here and grizzlies still roam the prairies along the Rocky Mountain Front.

Old growth forests in the Swan and Mission Ranges shade pristine bull trout spawning runs. The gray wolf is making a comeback here, alongside the largest grizzly population in the lower 48 states.


Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem

Yellowstone’s world-famous geyser basins, vast forests, abundant wildlife, and blue-ribbon trout streams form the core of this great ecosystem. Glaciers and permanent snowfields cloak the rugged Teton and Beartooth Mountains.

Diverse habitats range from cactus deserts to alpine tundra. Wildlife includes the grizzly bear, our nation’s last wild bison herd, endangered trumpeter swans and nearly 50,000 elk.


Greater Salmon-Selway Ecosystem

This ecosystem is one of the most rugged, remote areas in America. At its heart are the Frank Church-River of No Return and Selway-Bitterroot Wildernesses.

Several species of salmon and the steelhead trout still swim from the Pacific Ocean to spawn in the high mountain tributaries of the Salmon and Clearwater Rivers. Biological and landscape diversity is great, ranging from rocky, dry canyons to wet forests of ancient cedars.


Greater Cabinet/Yaak/Selkirk Ecosystem

The wettest region of the Wild Rockies, this ecosystem contains its last major stands of low elevation ancient forests. The Long Canyon area harbors the oldest living cedars in America.

Woodland caribou still roam these mountains, joined by the grizzly and the endangered Coeur d’Alene Salamander.

Towering spires and remote, lake-filled basins define the Cabinet, Selkirk, and Purcell Ranges.


Greater Hells Canyon/Wallowa Ecosystem

The Hells Canyon of the Snake River—the deepest river-carved canyon in the world—forms the core of this mostly vertical ecosystem.

America’s largest elk herd roams the old growth ponderosa pine and larch forests beneath the high peaks of the Wallowa and Seven Devils Mountains.

The region abounds in cultural and archeological sites. The Imnaha River Chinook are among the largest salmon in the nation.