Friends of the Bitterroot

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Bitteroot Mountains
Bitterroot Mountains
Bitteroot Mountains
Bitterroot Mountains


by Darleen & John Grove

Under the 1964 Wilderness Act, we have an opportunity to move forward and formally designate wilderness protection for all of the last vestiges of remaining roadless wildlands in the Northern Rockies.

It will take a common vision and leadership to achieve this goal. We believe that common vision is to assure the sustainability and integrity of our nation’s watersheds.

As we read the articles and comments of many on this issue, (including Jon Tester, Max Baucus, Dennis Rehberg and many many other Montanans), there are numerous important issues being raised. However

the most important reason for protecting our remaining roadless/ wildlands is watershed protection. That, we believe, must be the paramount concern that unites us all.

The issue is not whether or not a wilderness bill is introduced by easterners, westerners or locals, it is not whether we have a collaborative process to promote, it is not whether we can reach a balance among competing interests, it is not about “access”, nor is it about compromise and tradeoffs. The issue is how we will forever assure the protection and preservation of our wildland creeks, streams and springs, the source of an abundance of clean water for our communities, agriculture, recreation and wildlife.

Sound scientific studies and evidence indicates climate change and its attendant implications, will have dramatic effects on this most basic resource of all, water. Water is and will be the most precious commodity in our lives. The quantity and quality of this resource will be of particular importance. Recently Forest Service Chief Gail Kimbell spoke of climate change and water. “As I said, climate change is linked to water - to declining snowpacks, retreating glaciers, and changing patterns of precipitation and runoff. The evidence shows that we are entering a period of water scarcity not seen in our previous history. This is another concern, I have heard again and again around the country: dwindling supplies of pure, clean water.”

Federal lands encompass the last remaining roadless/wilderness areas in our nation, which produce the cleanest and best sources of water. (Eighteen percent of the nation’s water supply originates on national forest land.) They are unaltered watersheds. Scientific information tells us they are the most productive. They are the headwaters of such rivers as the Yellowstone, Gallatin, Beaverhead, Madison, Big Hole, Flathead, Deerborn, Smith, Sun, Marias, Blackfoot, Rock Creek and the Bitterroot. They are the very source of the Columbia and Missouri Rivers. These headwater streams facilitate the recharge of our groundwater resources. It has been well documented by the Forest Service and other land management agencies, that many human caused disturbances, such as those associated with logging, mining, and motorized off road vehicle use, cannot be accommodated without significant adverse impacts to forest streams. History has shown us such uses cannot be adequately controlled within our political system.

For the long term health of the land which equates to an adequate and clean water supply, all of the remaining national forest roadless wildlands of the Northern Rockies must have formal wilderness protection under the Federal 1964 Wilderness Act. That can, in our opinion, best be achieved by passage of the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act (NREPA). It is a proposal written in Montana, by Montana Conservationists. We urge all Montanans and the Montana Congressional Delegation to fully support this bill.

John D. Grove, Forester, USDA Forest Service, retired 1985. For 55 years he has worked on conservation issues on our public lands.

Darlene L. Grove, has worked on watershed issues with the League of Women Voters and local watershed groups for the past 37 years.