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Wilderness, water, and quality of life in the Bitterroot ValleyAuthor(s): Kari Gunderson; Clint Cook
Source: In: Watson, Alan; Sproull, Janet; Dean, Liese, comps. Science and stewardship to protect and sustain wilderness values: Eighth World Wilderness Congress symposium; September 30-October 6, 2005; Anchorage, AK. Proceedings RMRS-P-49. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. p. 537-544
Publication Series: Proceedings (P)
Station: Rocky Mountain Research Station
PDF: Download Publication (410 B)
DescriptionThe Bitterroot Valley is located in western Montana, U.S.A. Most of the Bitterroot Range above the Bitterroot Valley is protected as wilderness, and is a source of much of the water that flows down and through the valley floor. With an annual precipitation of only 12.3 inches, the Bitterroot Valley is classified as a high desert environment. Today the quality of life in the Bitterroot Valley is high, and it is deeply connected to the water resources and naturalness of the mountain landscape. To provide water for orchards, food crops, and hay, farmers constructed dams in the Bitterroot Mountains in the late 1800s and early 1900s. They were built to capture spring runoff from snow melt and store it until late July and August when flows in the Bitterroot River and its tributaries are usually too low to support irrigation and water-based recreation. In 1964, 251,443 acres (101,755 ha) of the Bitterroot Range were classified as wilderness. Special provisions in the Wilderness Act allowed continued operation and maintenance of these dams for existing uses. When dam repairs are undertaken periodically, there is intense discussion on the appropriateness of using heavy equipment, the type of repair to be implemented, and, sometimes, even whether to do the repair at all. The dams have substantial influence, both upstream and downstream, on the biological integrity of this wilderness ecosystem, but the influences may be considered tradeoffs with human needs for the same resource. This study attempted to develop an understanding of the ecological, economic, social, and cultural values associated with wilderness dams in the Bitterroot Valley.
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CitationGunderson, Kari; Cook, Clint. 2007. Wilderness, water, and quality of life in the Bitterroot Valley. In: Watson, Alan; Sproull, Janet; Dean, Liese, comps. Science and stewardship to protect and sustain wilderness values: Eighth World Wilderness Congress symposium; September 30-October 6, 2005; Anchorage, AK. Proceedings RMRS-P-49. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. p. 537-544
Keywordswilderness, biodiversity, protected areas, economics, subsistence, tourism, traditional knowledge, community involvement, policy, stewardship, education, spiritual values
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