These mountains and the four great surrounding valleys were considered home by ancient peoples and have seen more than 10,000 years of continuous inhabitation, including by Sacagawea's orginal family.
Today, other than the seemingly omnipresent cattle, the Lemhis remain mostly wild country. Rich in archeological sites, the area features caves that have yielded the remains of sabertooth tiger, dire wolf, collared lemming, camel and 40 other species. Hundreds of sites have not been studied, yet they receive almost no protection from trampling cattle, off-road vehicles and logging.
Another threat is an increase in tourism and potentially poor decisions by federal agencies about the amount of development that should be allowed in the area. Development should be limited to a limited number of interpretive structures to enhance the public's experience.
The Sierra Club is leading outings into the area to show folks the Lemhi pass and valley in a way that highlights the Lewis and Clark experience and what's been lost - and what's left - of what the explorers saw 200 years ago. The Club is also advocating government acquisition of lands adjacent to routes that Lewis and Clark traveled along the Salmon River drainage next to the new Sacagawea Interpretive Center to be built in Salmon, Idaho.
What you can do: Contact the Beaverhead/Deerlodge Forest District and let them know that excessive development threatens the character of Lemhi Pass. Call (406) 683-3900, or write to:
Janette Kaiser, Forest Supervisor, 420 Barrett St., Dillon, MT 59725-3572.
For more information on the Club's work, contact Jonathan Stoke at (208) 344-4805.
Photo courtesy Ralph Maughan.