The Spiritual Value of Montana Wilderness

jewel basin montana by katie brady flickr

The wilderness of Montana is vast and majestic, and spiritually satisfying to the soul. The lofty mountains, rushing rivers, sparkling lakes, and emerald forests are beautiful to behold. Perfect for exploring on foot, Montana offers landscapes that photographers love to capture and are often featured in outdoor magazines. Thanks to effective environmental laws, this wilderness has thrived for the past half century, without mining companies digging up the land for natural resources.

The Love and Protection of Wilderness Land

The Wilderness Act passed 50 years ago, in 1964. Providing legal protection to millions of acres of forested areas in the country, this monumental act of conservation gave birth to the National Wilderness Preservation System. As a result, untamed landscapes like Montana’s are still full of life, continuously beckoning people who love the outdoors. To further protect U.S. wilderness areas, Congress recently passed the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act. Conservationists consider it a less-than-perfect bill, but it adds to the progress of ongoing conservation efforts.

Wilderness areas are a part of our country’s heritage, and have value beyond whatever they may hold in gas or oil. The U.S. economy can remain strong without cutting down trees and mining the land. Unfortunately, there are many other areas in the nation that have been damaged or destroyed due to irresponsible land development. It is good to know that many forests will remain untouched, protected by the Wilderness Act and other conservation bills.

The Spiritual Impact of the Wilderness

It is not just the love of nature that is responsible for preserving the wilderness. There is a spiritual element that people feel in the untamed landscape. The late environmental advocate John Muir once said, “The forests of America, however slighted by man, must have been a great delight to God; for they were the best he ever planted.” There is a certain spiritual consciousness people experience when they are immersed in vast natural surroundings like the wilderness of Montana.

One doesn’t need to be religious to appreciate the spiritual significance of the great outdoors. Away from the hustle of the job, and with electronics turned off, nature stimulates the senses and pacifies the soul. The pristine waters and tall trees are miles away from all the worry and commotion, located in peaceful places where one can forget all the demands of life. For this reason, many enjoy camping in the Montana wilderness, and I can only imagine what it must look like at night, staring up at the clear sky and seeing millions of stars.

“Nature Is My Church”

Daniel Spencer, an environmental studies professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison notes the spiritual beliefs of his students. “They’ve left formal religion behind,” he says, “and connect that spirituality with the land. It’s more of: ‘Nature is my church, where I feel closest to God’.”

The wilderness of Montana and the many other wilderness areas of the country have value far beyond what can be put on a price tag. In a time when we are dealing with the pressing issues of climate change and pollution, seeing untouched forests makes us appreciate conservation efforts. Being immersed in nature does the mind, body, and spirit good. The natural landscapes offer a way to reconnect to ourselves, and help to show us our place in creation. The sights, smells, and sounds reinvigorate us, and there is so much to learn from natural surroundings. By preserving the wilderness, we are preserving a great educational resource.

The recent passage of the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act, and other bills adding to the conservation efforts that started with the Wilderness Act 50 years ago, are reasons to celebrate as we leave the old year behind and enter the approaching new year. This is positive news, affecting not just the residents of Montana, but all of us. It is welcome knowledge that our wilderness areas have a long, healthy future ahead, not only for people, but for the many creatures and their habitats that will also be protected.

montana wilderness by phil price flickr

(Image note and source: Montana Wilderness by PhilPrice, Flickr)

(Top Image note and source: Jewell Basin, Montana, by Katie Brady, Flickr)
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About the Author

Gina Merlino is a freelance writer who cares about environmental issues. She has a Bachelor's in Philosophy, a Master's in Engaged Humanities, and is an avid reader of the news. You can find me on Twitter.