Mountains and Rivers Without End

Ronni Flannery photo

Ronni Flannery photo

The Great Burn Recommended Wilderness

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High in the northern Rocky Mountains on the Montana/Idaho border, there is a geography unlike any other. 

Named for the Big Burn of 1910, this 275,000-acre landscape bears the ecological fingerprint of fire and its abundant legacy. Marked by old-growth forests, wide-open meadows, crystal streams and jaw-dropping vistas, it is an unprotected treasure at the heart of the largest wildlands complex in the continental United States. 

This is the Great Burn Recommended Wilderness, the primary focus of our mission. We also work to conserve a larger landscape surrounding the Great Burn in Montana and Idaho, totaling 1.8 million acres.   

With the exception of active populations of grizzly bears, all the native plants, fish and wildlife, from the smallest plant to the largest predator, still thrive here.  The Great Burn contains high-quality habitat for elk, mountain goats, grizzly bears, gray wolves, lynx, fishers, wolverines, marten, and native fish whose habitat is almost gone elsewhere—as well as dozens of other important animal and plant species. Many of these are sensitive or only persist in the northern Rocky Mountain region.  

The Great Burn and surrounding wildlands are being pressed on all sides by forces of human activity. These irreplaceable resources are worthy of the highest protection. 

Learn more about where we work and what we do

2 National Forests

1.8  million acres

Unlimited beauty 

Our Mission

The Great Burn Study Group works to protect wildlands and wilderness in the northern Bitterroot Mountains in western Montana and northern Idaho through advocacy, collaboration and on-the-ground stewardship. We are the only organization dedicated solely to this place. 

In western Montana and Idaho, unmitigated uses threaten the ecological integrity of wildlands in the northern Rocky Mountains. The U.S. Forest Service is the most powerful influence in conservation outcomes in our mission area. For years, however, the agency has been too financially stressed to carry out its mission adequately. 

Climate change is forcing land managers and conservationists to take a bigger-picture view. Congress is not able to meet public land policy needs effectively. And gridlock in Washington, D.C. promises policy uncertainty.

For over forty-five years, GBSG has met these challenges and effected real protection through a lean, focused program of work. We combine rigorous on-the-ground stewardship and place-based knowledge with practical, proven advocacy strategies.    

Learn more about our programs and approach


National Geographic Society has called the Great Burn Recommended Wilderness "...quintessential wilderness...a gem of wild beauty." 


Our Beginning

Original GB Bus Enhanced .jpg

The Great Burn Study Group was founded in 1971 by a group of university students who fell in love with a place. Their summer project was documenting the resources, plants and animals of a little-known wild area called the Great Burn in the northern Rocky Mountains on the border of Montana and Idaho.

Out of this summer project, the Great Burn received the highest possible rating for inclusion in the national wilderness preservation system. A generation of wilderness advocates was born. And an organization took root with a continuing focus on education, advocacy, and building community around shared love of place.

As a 501(c)3 nonprofit, GBSG has achieved a remarkable list of successes protecting a single landscape with a lean, effective organization. 

Learn more about GBSG's achievements

UM students to Kid Lake, NFCNF to clean campsites and gen'l monitoring  2016.1.jpg

Make a difference


Get Involved

For over forty years, GBSG has relied on the strength of community to preserve public lands and influence positive change.

We value every partner and every volunteer. We know that people are busy and every hour matters. Here are some of the ways you can participate: 

Explore volunteer opportunities

View upcoming events on our calendar

Discover resources and information about the wildlands advocacy

Contact us with questions, ideas, or just to say hello.