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Earlier this month, Montanans who like to hunt big game, catch wild trout and just plain get away from it all celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act and the Bob Marshall Wilderness.
Most Montanans are too young to remember when spectacular Montana land last was protected as wilderness. That event was in 1972. A true grass roots movement succeeded in adding the Scapegoat Wilderness along the Rocky Mountain Front to the nation’s wilderness treasury.
Wilderness areas protect watersheds vital to agriculture, communities and fisheries.
Bill Cunningham poses members of his packrafting trip for a photo at the takeout above Meadow Creek Gorge.
After a 70-mile trip through the Bob Marshall Wilderness earlier this month, Bill Cunningham loads up his pack for a shuttle ride from the trailhead.
With his hiking boots hanging around his neck, Cunningham wades through Youngs Creek in the Bob Marshall Wilderness, followed by Erin Madison.
After two hard days of hiking and packrafting, Cunningham takes a dinner break along the banks of Youngs Creek in the Bob Marshall Wilderness.
Studying a topographic map and his GPS, Cunningham relaxes in a meadow below Hole in the Wall Cave.
The sun breaks over the rim of the mountains along the South Fork of the Sun River in the Bob Marshall Wilderness earlier this month.
Wilderness areas are important habitat for species like this mule deer doe, as well as elk, grizzly and black bears.
With a mustard packet in one hand and some turkey jerky in the other, Cunningham takes a break for a lunchtime snack along the Youngs Pass trail.
Folded into a tiny packraft, Cunningham starts out his 56-mile float on the South Fork of the Flathead River drainage by launching on Youngs Creek with fellow packrafter Chris Solomon.
Big Salmon Lake is the largest lake in the Bob Marshall Wilderness. Peaks from the Swan Range loom in the background.
Wildflowers bloom in an avalanche chute in the Bob Marshall Wilderness as a haze of wildland fire smoke hangs over the mountain tops.
Youngs Creek provided cool relief to Cunningham and his fellow backpackers as they trekked into the Bob Marshall Wilderness.
Journalists Chris Solomon and Erin Madison snap photos of Bill Cunningham posing in front of the sign that marks the Bob Marshall Wilderness boundary.
At age 71, Choteau's Bill Cunningham is still hard at work trekking into remote wilderness areas and advocating for the preservation of more wildlands. He marked his 71st birthday on a 100-mile trek in early July.
Whitewater wasn't his cup of tea, but Cunningham still enjoyed a 56-mile float down the South Fork of the Flathead River in a packraft. To read more about packrafting, see today's Outdoors section.
Cunningham has spent much of his life exploring remote areas of the Bob Marshall Wilderness. Here he outlines the route he took on a 100 mile trip in July. The scab on his left hand came from a fall during that outing.
Cunningham, at right, talks about wilderness with his fellow packrafters, from left, Jared White, Erin Madison, Scott Bosse and Chris Solomon, while relaxing in camp.