Scenic USA - Montana

Deerlodge National Forest

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Deerlodge National Forest - Montana

Photo by Paula Krugerud
Paula Krugerud Photography

     America's 26th President, one of the few honored on Mount Rushmore, is often considered the conservation president. During his term, Roosevelt was able to add 150 national forests, five national parks, 51 Federal bird reserves and 18 national monuments. The nation's forestland quadrupled in size to nearly 200 million acres. Up against land grabbers and special interest groups, Roosevelt and his new National Forest Chief, Gifford Pinchot, moved quickly to save 16 million acres of timberland before a 1907 agriculture bill passed through the Senate. Now remembered with countless references in our parks and forests (ten in all), Roosevelt managed to secure nearly a quarter billion acres of priceless forests and national treasures during his presidency.
     Now part of the massive Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest in southwestern Montana, Roosevelt's Big Hole Forest Reserve was another success story in American conservation. Ranchers and early environmentalists were appalled at the rate in which the forestland around the Anaconda Copper Mine had been disappearing. These clear-cut tracts were decimated with erosion and smoke from the copper smelters. After several trips to the area, Roosevelt worked through the bureaucratic red tape and added the largest national forest in Montana.
     The small Deerlodge section, about one and a quarter million acres, is huge by eastern standards. Dominate tree species include ponderosa pine, spruce, juniper and a variety of fir. Although hard to believe, nearly a third of the land has no forest at all, but is covered in sparse grassland, cactus and sagebrush. Now a large attraction for bow and rifle hunters, the Deerlodge Forest supports large herds of elk, mule deer, moose, bighorn sheep, pronghorn and black bear. Rare species, such as the grizzly bear, lynx, arctic grayling, bull trout and bald eagle make their home in this national forestland thanks to Teddy Roosevelt.

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