Citizen Science Opportunities on BLM Wilderness Study Areas

This summer we are partnering with the BLM Miles City Field Office to support incredibly unique landscapes that include native prarie ecosystems, the Lewis and Clark Nat'l Historic Trail, and unique rugged geography of three different Wilderness Study Areas (WSAs)! 

Terry Badlands BLM Wilderness Study Area | Register for this trip

June 8-13, 2017 (Thursday through Tuesday)

Difficulty: Car camping with some rugged on-trail hiking and off trail navigation

The Terry Badlands Wilderness Study Area, located in the far easter portion of the state near the town of Terry, Montana. This WSA is made of 42,950 acres with a road, the Calypso Trail, bisecting the rugged landscape.  Colorful, banded cliffs overlook the rolling prairie vegetated with range grasses, native wildflowers, brushy plants such as sage, yucca, & greasewood, and scattered juniper.  One of the nation’s most easterly stands of limber pine is found in the northwestern portion of the WSA.  The Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail (Yellowstone River) is part of the eastern border of this WSA.

Billy Creek and Seven Blackfoot Wilderness Study Areas  |  Register for this trip

June 22-27, 2017 (Thursday through Tuesday)

Difficulty: Car camping with rugged day hikes through off trail backcountry

Billy Creek WSA (3,450 acres) and Seven Blackfoot WSA (20,250 acres) are located approximately in the eastern part of Montana near the town of Jordan.  These WSAs bound each other as well as the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge.  The rugged topography is made of steep slopes exposing geological layers millions of years.  Ridge tops and creek bottoms both offer growth of trees; that contain moderate stands of ponderosa pine and juniper.  Elk, deer, hawks, owls, and a variety of songbirds find their home in this rugged landscape. 

Learn more about 2016 past trips:

Sleeping Giant WSA and Cow Creek, Antelope Creek and Woodhawk WSAs

Last summer we will took small groups of volunteers into several Wilderness Study Areas (WSAs) within the Missouri River Breaks National Monument as well as the Sleeping Giant/Sheep creek formation norht of Helena. Volunteers worked with experienced field leaders to evaluate for wilderness character. They learned about monitoring methods, recreation impacts, invasive species, native plants, and the natural history and wildlife of this majestic landscape. B

Overview of Program

The Wilderness Institute’s (WI) Citizen Science Program is enlisting citizen volunteers to implement monitoring in Montana’s Bureau of Land Management Wilderness Study Areas (WSAs).  The BLM is required to manage WSAs as to not impair the areas’ wilderness character. Decreasing agency resources limits BLM’s ability to monitor and evaluate resource conditions. The BLM manages 32 WSAs in Montana.  Priority WSAs for inventory have been identified by Dave Lefevre, National Landscape Conservation System Program Lead, BLM Montana/Dakotas State Office.  WI working collaboratively with the BLM will engage citizen scientist to inventory these WSAs over a five year period.


A pilot study was conducted in fall 2014 with the Missoula Field Office and generated preliminary baseline results for two BLM Wilderness Study Areas — the Hoodoo WSA and the Wales Creek WSA. During this pilot study, we used GPS-based protocols to collect information on mobile units with two crews of 9 student volunteers from the University of Montana. This allowed us to test the protocols with a group of untrained, citizen scientists as well as use the opportunity for education and outreach with the University of Montana Wilderness and Civilization program.

Projected location and five-year timeline

2014: Pilot- Missoula Field Office – Two WSAs
2015: Compete Missoula Field Office – Two WSAs and begin Upper Missouri River Breaks – Five WSAs
2016: Butte Field Office – Three WSAs
2017: Miles City Office – Six WSAs
2018: Malta Field Office – Three WSAs