Happy Birthday Mission Mountains Tribal Wilderness!


Mission Mountain Range Flathead Indian Reservation
Mission Mountain Range - Flathead Indian Reservation; Photo copyright Colin Ruggiero

First tribally designated wilderness in the country is 30 years old!

You talk to any Montanan about the most beautiful, breathtaking view in the state, and most would put the Mission Mountains in the top 10. It is an amazing moment when you are driving north up Highway 93 and then crest Ravalli Hill  and see the Mission Mountains rise up from the valley floor into a vista so breathtaking that you wonder if it’s real.

Grizzly Bear (Photo by U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
Grizzly Bear (Photo by U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
These amazing mountains and all of the wildlife that call them home have been protected by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribe (CSKT) and yesterday, the Tribe held a celebration to mark the 93,000 acre Mission Mountain Tribal Wilderness turning 30 years old . This is no ordinary wilderness. In 1982, the CSKT Tribal Council voted to establish the nation’s first tribal wilderness area. The Mission Mountains Wilderness designation was the first designation of its kind by any Tribe .

Germaine White, the information and education specialist for CSKT’s Natural Resources Department explained to the hundreds that gathered for the celebration that the vote was extremely courageous because that that time, the acreage of the wilderness was around a quarter of the Tribes land. And, with that designation, the Tribe voluntarily gave up any activity that could have generated revenue for the Tribe including logging and other development.

Hikers in the Mission Mountains Tribal Wilderness Area
Hikers in the Mission Mountains Tribal Wilderness Area
Now, 10,000 of its 93,000 acres now designated as a Grizzly Bear Management Zone. It is closed to humans during times of the year that are important for the Grizzly Bear, when grizzlies to the area to eat lady bugs, berries and moths after their long hibernation.

The Mission  Mountain Wilderness is just one of the reasons, the National Wildlife Federation recognized the CSKT’s with a National Conservation Award in the government category on May 17, 2012.

Congratulations CSKT from all of us at the National Wildlife Federation!


As William Blake said,

Great things are done when men, women* and mountains meet.

*my addition