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The fresh snow on the mountains notwithstanding, Saturday’s summer solstice opens a packed calendar of 50th anniversary activities for the Wilderness Act of 1964.

Blackfeet musician and elder Jack Gladstone starts a statewide tour at the “Longest Day of Wilderness” celebration in Bozeman’s Lindley Park Pavilion. The free gathering runs from 2 to 8 p.m. with fly-fishing demonstrations, cross-cut saw contests and arts and crafts for children. Gladstone will perform and tell fireside stories about Montana’s wildest places starting at 6 p.m.

After that, barely a weekend goes by that doesn’t feature a hike, picnic, concert or seminar respecting the Wilderness Act. In Montana, that includes 3.4 million acres in 15 federally designated wilderness areas (including five within an hour’s drive of Missoula), wild and scenic rivers and national monuments, inventoried roadless areas and wilderness study areas.

The Montana Wilderness Association has released its 52nd annual Wilderness Walks schedule and book for 2014. It features outings suitable for family picnics or multi-day epics and is available here wildmontana.org/our-work/programs/wilderness-walks/2014-wilderness-walks/. Other commemorative productions expected this summer are a new map of the Scotchman-Cabinet mountain areas of northwest Montana, a 50th Anniversary beer brewed by Stevensville’s Wildwood Brewing Co. that’s due to reach shelves in July, and a new map of the Great Burn proposed wilderness on the Montana-Idaho border. That map should be published by early September.

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June 28: The Lolo National Forest sponsors the Mountain to Meadow half-marathon and 5K fun run, which rambles through the scenic high country around Lolo Pass Visitor Center. For more information or to register see discovernw.org/mm5/merchant.mvc?ScreenPROD&Product_CodeFUNRUN2009.

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July 11-13: MWA’s Flathead-Kootenai Chapter joins the Bull Lake Rod and Gun Club between the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness and Scotchman Peaks. Enjoy history displays, ranger and lookout stories, kids activities, hikes, music, food, horseshoes and special programs from Gladstone and former Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer. The event is co-hosted by the Montana Wilderness Association, U.S. Forest Service, Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness, Cabinet Back Country Horsemen, Cabinet Resource Group and Yaak Valley Forest Council. For more information visit bit.ly/fiftywildyears.

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July 19-20: The Yaak Valley Forest Council is hosting the Yaak Wilderness Festival at the Yaak River Tavern and Mercantile featuring live music by Tim Snider, Alan Lane and the 17-Mile Band, Caroline Keys and Friends and Wild Honey. On Sunday, hikers can join trips to Grizzly Point (moderate-strenuous) or Hoskins Lake (easy). For more information visit yaakvalley.org/wilderness-festival-2014.html.

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Aug. 16: Riverfest in the Root gathers fans of the Bitterroot River to clean banks and celebrate with live music, splash zone, food, drink, raffles and prizes at Kiwanis River Park, Hamilton. More info at brwaterforum.org.

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Aug. 16: The Coalition to Protect the Rocky Mountain Front will host its annual barbecue at the Choteau Pavilion in Choteau. Enjoy good food and friends, outdoor activities, and entertainment by Gladstone. For more information contact Casey Perkins at cperkins@wildmontana.org.

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Aug. 21: The U.S. Forest Service Region 1 and Montana Wilderness Association Shining Mountains Chapter co-host Missoula’s weekly Downtown ToNight event in Caras Park to celebrate the 50th anniversary with live music, local food and beer, and kids activities. For more information contact Zack Porter at zporter@wildmontana.org.

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Aug. 23: Libby celebrates the Cabinet Mountain Wilderness at Riverfront Park featuring live music from Wiley and the Wild West at 7 p.m. Earlier in the day enjoy an art show, games, displays and food. For more information visit bit.ly/fiftywildyears.

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Sept. 5: The Montana Wilderness Association’s big party takes place in Seeley Lake with a three-day blow-out. This event will be free, open to the public, and will include hikes, tours, activities, speakers and great entertainment, featuring the Mission Mountain Wood Band on the night of Saturday, Sept. 6, in the park near Lindey’s Prime Steakhouse. Hikes planned for the weekend include Morrell Creek, Girard Grove, Glacier Lake, Crescent and Heart Lake, Crystal Lake, Lake Dinah, Sunday Mountain, Rumble Lakes and more. Enjoy free tours of Pyramid Mountain Lumber, the USFS Nine Mile pack string and a special viewing of the USFS movie “Untrammeled,” as well as songs and stories from “Montana’s Blackfeet Troubadour,” Gladstone. For more information, contact Laura Parr at lparr@wildmontana.org or (406) 443-7350 ext. 110.

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Sept. 10-12: Wilderness Act 50th Anniversary Conference at UM. Speakers including former U.S. Rep. Pat Williams, D-Mont., Holmes Rolston of Colorado State University, and Debbie Lee of Washington State University, who will discuss past successes and future challenges, with a special focus on the roles played by Montana and its citizens. For more information see umt.edu/ethics/events/ or Mansfield Center.

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Sept. 13-14: MWA’s Island Range Chapter meets at the Fort Peck Interpretive Center at 9 a.m. Saturday to visit the Sand Arroyo area’s unusual geologic formations and fossil beds. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has designated Sand Arroyo an “Area of Critical Environmental Concern” in part because of its paleontological values. Hike leader Doug Smith from Dagmar will talk about the areas geologic, historic and paleontological values. After the hike, the group will travel back to the Interpretive Center for a barbeque and entertainment by Montana’s award winning troubadour, Gladstone.

On Sunday, participants will travel to the Burnt Lodge area, located southwest of Glasgow. The portion of Burnt Lodge on BLM land, (14,000 acres) is managed as a wilderness study area, while the remaining 21,000 acres extending into the C.M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge is a proposed wilderness area. The hike will be led by BLM recreation planner Kathy Tribby. This remote area provides spectacular river breaks, topography with scattered stands of ponderosa, lodgepole, junipers and Douglas fir. The eroded terrain offers exposed sandstone, sheer walls and castle-like formations for the sightseer. Be sure to bring plenty of water and a lunch. Hikers have the option of staying at the Fort Peck campgrounds, Rock Creek Marina or at the Fort Peck Hotel.

Pre-register for this event on the Eastern Wildlands Chapter map at wildmontana.org/walks.

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Sept. 11, 19, 25 and 26: Enjoy a 50th anniversary wilderness lecture series at the Western Heritage Center in Billings organized by the Eastern Wildlands Chapter of MWA. All lectures start at noon and will highlight different aspects of wilderness, their significance, and how we relate to these places culturally, historically, and scientifically. For more information contact Cameron Sapp at csapp@wildmontana.org.

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Sept. 19: The Helena-headquartered Wild Divide Chapter of MWA takes over the state Capitol building from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. for tales of wilderness around the campfire, mule pack string demonstrations and hands-on outdoor-related exhibits for kids young and old. For more information contact John Hagengruber at jhagengruber@fs.fed.us.

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Sept. 20: “Go Wild” at the Flathead County Fairgrounds from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., featuring wilderness education, displays, music, food and hands-on activities for the entire family. Event co-hosted by Montana Wilderness Association, Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation, Back Country Horsemen of the Flathead, Flathead Audubon, Flathead National Forest, Glacier Institute, Glacier National Park, Headwaters Montana, Hungry Horse News, Montana Conservation Corps, USFS Nine Mile Pack string, Swan View Coalition and the Sustainability Fund. For more information contact Amy Robinson at arobinson@wildmontana.org.

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Sept. 20: Missoula’s Wilderness 50th Picnic takes place in McCormick and Silver parks, with family friendly activities for all ages, local food and live music featuring Rob Quist and Gladstone. For more information on these events contact Zack Porter at zporter@wildmontana.org.

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Reporter Rob Chaney can be reached at 523-5382 or at rchaney@missoulian.com.

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