The Wilderness Institute at The University of Montana invites citizen monitors to help collect scientific data this summer from two wilderness study areas in the backcountry of the Lewis and Clark National Forest in central Montana.
The Citizen Science monitoring program will take place in the Big Snowy Mountains and Middle Fork Judith River Wilderness Study Areas. This year’s effort is in collaboration with the Lewis and Clark National Forest and completes the institute’s initial efforts to record the conditions in each of Montana’s seven congressionally designated wilderness study areas.
Experienced trip leaders will guide small groups of volunteers on backcountry trips throughout the study areas to gather data on invasive species, recreation impacts and wilderness character. The trips range from three to five days and will be held throughout July and August.
Trip locations and dates are:
- Friday-Monday, June 29-July 2, Heart of the Middle Fork Judith: Explore pristine tributaries in the heart of the Middle Fork Judith River WSA.
- Saturday-Monday, July 7-9, Peaks in the Little Belts: Enjoy stunning panoramic views from high peaks in the Little Belt Mountains.
- Friday-Monday, July 13-16, Ridges and Canyons of the Middle Fork: Traverse the high ridges and deep canyons of this spectacular river country.
- Friday-Tuesday, July 20-24, Greathouse Peak and Beyond: Explore the backbone of the Big Snowy Mountains and summit Greathouse Peak.
- Thursday-Monday, Aug. 2-6, Big Snowy Mountains Ridge Walk: Traverse the scenic spine of this island range, ice caves, creek canyons and more.
- Friday-Sunday, Aug. 10-12, Peaks of the Big Snowy Mountains: Summit Lost Peak and Lime Cave Peak while exploring the Big Snowies WSA.
- Friday-Monday, Aug. 17-20, Crystal Lake and Devil’s Chute Cave: Take in Crystal Lake, Devil’s Chute Cave and Crystal Cascades waterfall.
The U.S. Forest Service is tasked with maintaining the wilderness character of these areas but doesn’t always have the manpower to assess how the areas are faring, according to the institute’s Citizen Science Program Director Catherine Filardi. Since 2009, the institute has partnered with the Forest Service and local communities to document on-the-ground conditions in Montana’s wilderness study areas.
“Agencies struggle to get a handle on what’s going on across these large landscapes with fairly limited budgets, and citizen monitors can help fill in those information gaps by being the eyes and ears on the ground,” Filardi said.
“This year’s trips will visit two island ranges in central Montana while covering every trail mile within the two study areas,” Filardi said. “It’s a great way to get into the backcountry with a fun group of people while collecting information needed to care for these landscapes.”
This is the Wilderness Institute’s eighth year running Citizen Science projects in designated wilderness and wilderness study areas. During that time, the program has worked with more than 300 volunteers to conduct monitoring and restoration in seven wilderness areas and five wilderness study areas in Montana and Idaho.
Funding for the project is provided by the National Forest Foundation, the Forest Service and the Cinnabar Foundation.
More information about the Citizen Science Program and trip details is on the Wilderness Institute website at http://www.cfc.umt.edu/wi/citizen_science.html. To sign up for a trip, call 406-243-5361 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Western Montana, Dailies, Lewistown, Bozeman