Environmental Initiatives

Media Inquiries

If you are a journalist and would like additional information, please visit the Media Contacts page.

Media Contacts

Subscribe to News Feeds

Pew offers news delivered to your desktop via RSS feed. Subscribing is easy. To learn more or get started, follow the link below.

Subscribe to News Feeds

For The Record

When Pew’s work is questioned or criticized we respond through letters to the editor or op-eds.

Read Pew's Responses

Featured Wilderness: Rocky Mountain Front

Other Resource

Publication Name

Your Wilderness -- April 2012

Grizzlies Still Roam the Front

There is a place in the United States so remote, so wild and untethered by man, so much like it was when the Blackfeet traversed its great expanses, that grizzly bears mark the beginning of each spring by awakening from their slumber to leave their mountain dens and roam the open plains of grass in search of deer and elk exactly as their ancestors have done for millennia. This year, March was the month when Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front officially awoke.

Moving west across the Great Plains, one encounters what appears to be an impenetrable wall of rugged granite. Often snowy, always imposing, “the Front,” as it’s simply known locally, is part of the Rocky Mountains that run several hundred miles south from the Canadian border. Here, where the plains meet the peaks, herds of elk and deer, antelope, wolves, and grizzly bears provide a snapshot of the American West before sprawl and development. Whether by accidents of history or the oppressiveness of the near ceaseless wind, this area has escaped the sprawl of similar places such as Denver and Boulder. For this gift, we can all be thankful.

This landscape so inspires and awes that it introduces the Montana State Constitution: “We the people of Montana, grateful to God for the quiet beauty of our state, the grandeur of our mountains, the vastness of the rolling plains….” Perhaps nothing can more accurately describe the Front than “quiet beauty.”

The Front’s awakening this year came a little sooner than expected. Mother grizzlies with cubs were spotted earlier than normal in several places, including the Blackleaf Canyon Wildlife Management Area just west of the small community of Choteau. Adult males usually precede mothers with cubs, leading biologists to believe that some hungry guys have already left their dens. They are now following the icy bottoms of the Sun and Teton rivers and numerous other small streams that flow onto the plains, in search of much-needed protein.

Montanans have long recognized the importance of protecting the Front, even decades before passage of the Wilderness Act. The mountain peaks to the west of the prairie sit within three designated wilderness areas, the Bob Marshall, the Scapegoat, and the Great Bear. The first was established as one of the original wilderness areas in 1964, but enjoyed agency protection going back to 1930s. The Great Bear was the last designated, in 1978. Together these areas are known as the Bob Marshall wilderness complex and cover more than 1.5 million contiguous acres.

Today, Montanans are pursuing the next stage of protection. Building on the successful 2006 effort to safeguard the area from oil and gas development, the Montana Wilderness Association and others worked with local ranchers to craft a proposal to designate lands along the confluence of the mountains and plains. The Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act, sponsored by Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), would protect more than 275,000 acres using a mix of wilderness and special management designations.

Our forebears had the foresight to recognize how valuable the Front’s “quiet beauty” would be to future generations. Montanans continue to honor their heritage, and the state’s wilderness ethic, by working to ensure that we are not the last to experience the Front’s windswept grandeur. Their hard work ensures that there will always be a place, so wild and special, that grizzly bears are still free to wake up each spring and lumber out onto the prairie.

Where to Hike

Great hikes abound on the Rocky Mountain Front. One of the best with easy access west of Choteau is Blackleaf Canyon. The canyon is part of the state’s Blackleaf Wildlife Management Area, and is excellent habitat for elk, grizzlies, bighorn sheep, among other species. (The area is closed to human use from December to May to protect winter range for wildlife.) The hike up the canyon is moderate to difficult, and typically snow-free only in summer.

Always take the necessary precautions when hiking in grizzly country.

Hiking information and directions can be found here.

Information on rock climbing can be found here.


Related News and Resources

  • Tell Congress to Protect More Wilderness

    • Action Alert
    • Apr 09, 2014
    Take action: Urge your members of Congress to support more wilderness protections this year!


  • Tennessee Wilderness Act Takes Key Step Toward Passage

    • Other Resource
    • Apr 08, 2014
    The Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry approved the Tennessee Wilderness Act (S. 1294) on April 8, 2014, sending it to the full Senate for action.


  • Spotlight On: A Wild Earth Day!

    • Other Resource
    • Apr 04, 2014
    On April 22, 2014, people from coast to coast will take action, both large and small, as caretakers of the Earth. Here are a few events around the country in which wilderness advocacy groups are taking the occasion of Earth Day to engage with their communities and spread the message of stewardship.


  • Congressional Update: March Came in Like a Lion

    • Other Resource
    • Apr 04, 2014
    March roared in with two significant public lands victories that together protect nearly 35,000 acres of American shoreline, marking the first action to preserve wilderness by the 113th Congress.


  • Adding Wildness to Wildness in California's San Gabriel Mountains

    • Other Resource
    • Apr 04, 2014
    The Pew Charitable Trusts is working with this local coalition and Congresswoman Judy Chu on legislation to expand protection of the San Gabriel Mountains—both rugged and sublime—for generations to come.


Sign In

Member Sign In

Forgot Password?
Submit Not a Member? Join!

Forgot Password?

Send Password Not a Member? Join!

Change Password

(All Fields are required)
Send Message
Share this on: