Montana Wilderness Association

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The Montana Wilderness Association was founded in 1958 by Montana volunteers and is governed by a state council of citizen volunteers from across the state, elected by the membership. As a community-based organization, it works at the local level through seven chapters and field offices in Bozeman, Choteau, Dillon, Great Falls, Helena and Kalispell. Each chapter is governed by a local board of directors.

Background and directives[edit]

Since 1958, the Montana Wilderness Association has worked to protect Montana’s wilderness, wildlife habitat, and traditional recreation opportunities.[1] The organization was instrumental in the passage of the 1964 Wilderness Act and in the designation of every Wilderness area in the state, like the Bob Marshall, Scapegoat, and Absaroka-Beartooth Wildernesses. It also helped win Wild and Scenic designations for the Missouri and Flathead rivers, and National Monument status for the Upper Missouri River Breaks.


The Montana Wilderness Association was founded in 1958 by Ken and Florence Baldwin. The grassroots organization’s mission was to preserve wilderness and influence policy on public land management. Initially the association contained a group of individuals all with the goals to protect the heritage of Montana land and the proper management of public lands. The group was inspired by similar wilderness oriented individuals and associations around the nation at the time. John Muir has recently founded the Sierra Club and was very active in protecting Yosemite; Aldo Leopold wrote about the ethics involved in conservation and was a co-founder of the Wilderness Society; Bob Marshall wrote several essays about conservation in forestry publications and was also a founder of the Wilderness Society. The MWA is the nation’s premiere Wilderness grassroots organization and was significantly influential in the passing of the Wilderness Act by Lyndon Johnson in 1964. With the passing of this Act came the designation of the Montana’s first Wilderness. The state and nation’s first was the Bob Marshal along with the Cabinet Mountains, the Gates of the Mountains, the Selway-Bitterroot, and Anaconda Pintler.[1]


1958 – Ken and Florence Baldwin found Montana Wilderness Association. The MWA was the nation’s first state organization centered around protecting wilderness and the proper management of public lands[1]

1964 – President Lyndon Johnson signs Wilderness Act creating Montana Wilderness Areas such as the Bob Marshall, Cabinet Mountains, Gates of the Mountains, Selway-Bitterroot, and Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness.[1]

1972 – Congress designates the Lincoln-Scapegoat Wilderness proposed by MWA members. This marks the first time an area is recommended by someone other than the U.S. Forest Service. Because the MWA activists proposed the idea this wilderness is also known as the “first citizen’s wilderness.”[2]

1976-1978 – MWA members secure designations for the Great Bear, Rattlesnake, Absaroka-Beartooth, Mission Mountains, Welcome Creek, UL Bend, Medicine Lake, and Red Rock Lakes areas.[1]

1981 – Montana Wilderness members counterattack the “Bomb the Bob” attack along with other National conservation groups, a plan to retrieve oil and gas from the Bob Marshal Wilderness. The Bob Marshal is host to a large percentage of remaining grizzly bears in Montana and is a large elk habitat as well.[3]

1983 – Lee Metcalf Wilderness is designated. This Wilderness protects much of the diverse Yellowstone ecosystem along with a large portion of the Madison mountain range.[4]

1984 – A proposal called “Montana Wilderness Axe” introduced to protect only 750,000 of Montana’s six million acres (24,000 km²) of national forest is shut down with help from MWA members[1]

1988 – The last wilderness bill passes Congress but President Reagan pocket-vetoed the bill. Reagan vetoed the bill as a favor to elect Senator Conrad Burns.[1]

1994 – MWA members lead an attempt at another Wilderness bill. Montana representative led the way and the bill passed in the House. Conversely, neither senator supported the bill and it was not considered in the Senate. Democrat Max Baucus and Republican Conrad Burns were senators at this time.[5]

2003 – Members again lead an act to protect Wilderness Study Areas. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court stated the U.S. Forest Service has a legal obligation to keep the wild character of seven wilderness study areas in Montana. The Lewis and Clark National Forest proposed a controversial Rocky Mountain Front Travel Plan which would allow motorized travel in the area. However, the MWA helped generate, tally, and analyze 7600 comments on the plan and it was dumped.[6]

2007 – The MWA participated in Blackfoot Cooperative Landscape Stewardship Pilot Project, a plan that added 87,000 acres (350 km2) to the Bob Marshal/Scapegoat/Mission Mountains Wilderness complex.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Wild Montana: Accomplishments,, Retrieved March 2010
  2. ^ "Scapegoat Wilderness." Montana Discovery Foundation. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Mar 2010.
  3. ^ "70 Years of Conservation." Documents for Small Businesses and Professionals. N.p., 03 Mar 2010. Web. 18 Mar 2010.
  4. ^ "The Lee Metcalf Wilderness." Forwolves. N.p., 16 Nov 2006. Web. 18 Mar 2010
  5. ^ "Baucus's Historic 6th Term Begins." Montana. N.p., 06 Jan 2009. Web. 18 Mar 2010.
  6. ^ "Rocky Mountain Front." Sierra Club. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Mar 2010.
  7. ^ "Landscape Proposal." Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Project. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Mar 2010.l

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