The Montana Portion of NREPA

Bitterroot Divide Complex

The Bitterroot Mountains stretch along the Idaho Montana border for hundreds of miles.

The highest peaks are included in the 1.3 million-acre Selway Bitterroot Wilderness, but other lovely wild country along or near the Bitterroot Divide and adjacent lands should be included in any state wide wilderness bill.

Sheep Mountain

Along the Idaho border, south of I-90 is the 68,000 Sheep Mountain/State Line Proposed Wilderness. More than 70 inches of precipitation, most of it as snowfall, supports forest of mountain hemlock, a rare species in Montana.

An essential corridor for wildlife moving north and south from the Cabinet to the Bitterroot, the area features some small lakes, and heavy forest cover.

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Great Burn

Moving south along the Idaho border, south of Superior, Montana, in the Fish Creek headwaters, lies the 275,000-acre Great Burn Proposed Wilderness.

Straddling the northern Bitterroot Mountains along the Idaho-Montana border, the Great Burn is named for the 1910 fires that swept across these slopes leaving alpine-like terrain dotted with snags. However, the lower elevation valleys still harbor some huge western red cedars. The lush vegetation and numerous cirque lakes make for scenic hiking.

It is increasingly threatened by off-road vehicles. The Great Burn has been included in many previous wilderness bills introduced into Congress and hopefully some day will achieve wilderness protection.

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Selway Bitterroot

South of Missoula is the Bitterroot Valley. Friends of the Bitterroot are one of the local wildlands advocacy groups promoting wilderness preservation on both sides of the Bitterroot Valley.

Adding an additional 123,000 acres to the sprawling 1.3 million-acre Selway Bitterroot Wilderness along the Bitterroot Front would bring the wildlands boundary down closer to the valley floor.

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Bluejoint

West and south of Darby on the Idaho-Montana border, is the 70,000 Bluejoint Proposed Wilderness. Most of the Bluejoint drainage was burned by wildfire and is reforested with even-aged lodgepole pine forests.

It is one of the wilderness study areas protected by S.393, passed in the 1970s by the late Senator Lee Metcalf and includes several geologic features including a volcanic plug at Castle Peak and Rock Arch near Jack the Ripper Creek.

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Allan Mountain

Adjacent to the Bluejoint and encompassing the headwaters of the West Fork of the Bitterroot River along the Idaho-Montana border, lies the 150,000-acre Allan Mountain Proposed Wilderness. (We’ve also seen this spelled Alan or Allen).

Allan Mountain includes the spectacular 100-foot Overwhich Falls and provides a critical link between the Bitterroots and areas to the east in the Big Hole drainage.

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Scotchman’s Peak Wilderness

Directly across the Bull River, to the west of the Cabinet Mountain Wilderness and straddling the Idaho-Montana border, lies the 88,000-acre proposed Scotchman’s Peak Wilderness.

Surprisingly, for this area where logging has fragmented so much of the lower elevation forests, the Scotchman’s Peak area has remained roadless from valley bottoms to the summit of its glacier-scoured peaks.

Like the Cabinet Mountains, the Scotchman’s Peak area is heavily forested with low elevation Pacific Northwest species like western red cedar, and western hemlock, including the famous giant Ross Creek Cedars.

Friends of Scotchman’s Peak has worked for decades promoting this area. http://www.scotchmanpeaks.org/

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