The Mountain Range
The Gallatin Mountain Range is a pristine chain of mountains, meadows, forests and creeks framed to the east by the Yellowstone River, the Gallatin River to the west, the Hyalite front-range flanks the north and it extends into Yellowstone National Park at the southern end. Rising from the forested plateau of Yellowstone, the range quickly becomes a jagged and fractured landscape creating a quiet refuge for endangered and threatened wildlife. A link in the Yellowstone to Yukon chain, the range is also a corridor allowing movement of genetic diversity from more isolated populations in Yellowstone to blend with wildlife in the greater Northern Rockies Ecosystem.
The Gallatin Range simultaneously acts as quiet home, resilient safe house, migration corridor and, more recently, backyard playground for the communities of Bozeman, Livingston and Big Sky. The Gallatin Mountains have become more loved and more widely traveled by the booming populations of the surrounding communities, creating an opportunity and an intensifying need to proactively plan for the wild future of the ecosystem as well as the people who recreate with in it.
What is a Wilderness Study Area?
The Montana Wilderness Study Act of 1977 set aside nine outstanding places in Montana for evaluation and eventual designation as Wilderness. This federal law directed the Forest Service to manage each area “…so as to maintain their presently existing wilderness character…” until Congress determines their fate. The Forest Service is charged with managing these areas for their primitive nature which allows for hiking, backpacking, hunting and fishing, horseback riding, trail running, wildlife watching, and many other recreational activities. After thirty years, seven of these wilderness study areas still remain unprotected.
Hyalite-Porcupine-Buffalo Horn (Gallatin Range) WSA
The Hyalite-Porcupine-Buffalo Horn (Gallatin Range) is a 155,000 acre Wilderness Study Area located between Bozeman, MT and Yellowstone National Park. Sitting within the largest unprotected inventoried roadless area directly adjacent to Yellowstone, it contains critical habitat for the Northern Yellowstone Elk Herd, grizzly bears, wolves, wolverine, lynx, big horn sheep and many other wildlife species. It also serves as a recreational hub for the communities of Bozeman, Livingston, Gardiner, Big Sky and West Yellowstone Montana.
Since 1977, the WSA has increasingly been used by a variety of recreation types and has since become one of the most beloved mountain ranges in Southwest Montana. Due to population growth in the valley, technological advances in motorized equipment and the advent of mountain bikes, many modes of travel that were not using the area in 1977 and are not compatible with Wilderness designation have begun using area with unsustainable expectations. It is now time to come together as a community to decide how to best protect the Gallatin Range and create a system of trails within that meet the needs of the modern recreating public.