|Current Protection||Management Agency||Total Area|
|Proposed Wilderness||United Sates Forest Service||546,000 Acres|
The Gallatin Range is the largest unprotected roadless area in Montana and a key part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. The Gallatin Range portion of the Custer Gallatin National Forest stretches 50 miles from Yellowstone Park north to Bozeman including the popular Hyalite Canyon area.
The Forest Service identified some 251,700 aces in its Wilderness Inventory Polygon 28 which includes the Hyalite-Porupine-Buffalo Horn WSA, but it is not all inventoried as a roadless portion of the full Gallatin Range Roadless area which extends south into Yellowstone National Park and takes in over 546,000 acres.
The Custer Gallatin National Forest appears to use the “purity” argument to disqualify many areas from its recommendations saying there is noise from highway traffic, a municipal watershed, or a few cabins or other structures that do not conform to the Wilderness Act. This argument is used to exclude tens of thousands of acres from its recommendations.
The Gallatin Range higher elevations feature glacially carved cirques, and grassy ridges. There are a lot of open grassy valleys and slopes which are exceptional wildlife habitat, particularly the Porcupine-Buffalo Horn Drainage where thousands of elk winter. Three drainages - Mol Heron, Tom Miner, and Rock Creek - that flow from the Gallatin Range are considered essential Yellowstone Cutthroat trout habitat by Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks. The Gallatin Range also supports Grizzly Bear, Wolf, Mountain Goat, Wolverine, Bighorn Sheep, Moose, Mule Deer, and potentially wild Bison.
The largest petrified forest in the world is found at the headwaters of Porcupine, Rock, Tom Miner, and Buffalo Horn drainages. Commercial and amateur collectors have ravaged this world-class complex. Wilderness designation would help to halt this tragic damage.
Since 1977 approximately 155,000 acres have been protected as the Hyalite, Porcupine and Buffalo Horn Wilderness Study Area. In total there are about 230,000 acres of potential wilderness, but the Custer Gallatin National Forest has only recommended about 85,000 in two units and proposes that the Buffalo Horn drainage be designated a backcountry area. The Buffalo Horn drainage is the most important wildlife habitat in the entire Gallatin Range - if any area should be wilderness it is this drainage.
Also many roadless drainages in the Gallatin Range were left out of wilderness recommendations including the upper portions of Cottonwood, Sourdough, Trail Creek and others.