This course takes place in the Northern Rockies region of North America, on successive explorations of the Rocky Mountain Front and Blackfeet Reservation in Montana, followed by visits to the Glacier-Waterton International Peace Park along the U.S.-Canadian border. From there students will go to the ruggedly wild Purcell Mountain Range in British Columbia, Canada before returning to kayak the Flathead River through the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Indian Reservation in Montana. Throughout the course, students and instructors visit a variety of communities, meet with guest speakers, and tour sites relevant to the course curriculum. The course begins and ends in Missoula, Montana.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, this course has followed a U.S.-based itinerary in response to restrictions around crossing the U.S.-Canada border. The alternative itinerary begins and ends in Missoula, Montana with successive explorations of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem in southwest Montana and the Crown of the Continent landscape in Montana’s Northern Rockies. The course will resume its explorations of British Columbia and Alberta once our public health situation allows us to do so safely.
Permitted activity takes place in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, Yellowstone National Park, Helena-Lewis & Clark National Forest, and the Lower Flathead River.
12 Total Semester Credits/18 Total Quarter Units:
All courses offered through the Wild Rockies Field Institute are accredited through the University of Montana and the School for Extended and Lifelong Learning. Each Wild Rockies Field Institute course is approved and supported by University of Montana departmental leadership and faculty.
The “Wild Rockies: Conservation Across Boundaries” semester offers four independent courses, each worth 3 semester credits, for a total of 12 credits earned for successfully completing the program.
Quarter System Students:
For colleges and universities on the quarter system, each of the four courses is typically worth 4.5 quarter system units, for a total of 18 units upon successful completion of the program.
Block System Students:
At institutions where one course is equal to one credit, each class (e.g. NRSM 311) within a WRFI course is typically equal to one credit.
Wild Rockies: Conservation Across Boundaries Course Description
The Wild Rockies: Conservation Across Boundaries Semester entails a combination of expeditions, meetings with guest speakers, and site visits. The course is split into four sections, each lasting between 9-12 days. Approximately two-thirds of the course is spent in the backcountry, traveling across the landscape. When the group is not traveling in the backcountry they will visit small towns and meet with a variety of local citizens, land managers, biologists, elected officials, recreationists, and ranchers. These guest speakers expose students to diverse perspectives on the landscapes and cultures of the area.
The days between sections are also used to re-supply the course with food and other supplies. Typically, students have the opportunity to receive mail, check email, take showers, buy personal food and do laundry between each section. There is a course recess approximately half way through this course in which students and instructors get a brief break from the rigors of traveling and academics.
Section One: Rocky Mountain Front, Montana | Backpacking & Site Visits
Students begin their explorations backpacking in the Bob Marshall Wilderness of Montana, one of the largest wildernesses in the continental United States. Afterwards they visit with guest speakers along Rocky Mountain Front to contextualize local conservation efforts and concerns.
*Section One (U.S.-based alternative): Snowcrest Mountain Range, Montana | Backpacking & Site Visits
Section Two: Alberta, Canada | Backpacking & Site Visits
In Alberta, the group will combine backpacking in the stunning Castle-Crown Wilderness with meetings and site visits focused on conservation biology, Canadian natural resource management policy, and habitat connectivity.
*Section Two (U.S.-based alternative): Yellowstone National Park, Montana | Backpacking & Site Visits
Section Three: British Columbia, Canada | Backpacking & Site Visits
The third section of the course takes the group into the wild and rugged terrain of the British Columbian coastal mountain range to see first-hand how proposed development impacts the ecology and communities of the region.
*Section Three (U.S.-based alternative): Bob Marshall Wilderness and Glacier National Park, Montana | Backpacking & Site Visits
Section Four: Mission Valley, Montana | Kayaking & Site Visits
From the wilds of the Canadian Rockies, students will return to Montana to kayak the Flathead River through the working landscapes of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Reservation. Here students will learn about traditional ecological knowledge and tribal efforts to conserve grizzlies, trout, and water in a very human landscape.
In addition to the academic topics mentioned above, throughout the course students learn and cultivate skills of wilderness travel, minimum impact camping, orienteering, and natural history.
Four weeks of remote coursework prior to the course start date entail introductory readings and 1-2 short writing assignments in preparation for the field component of the course. These readings address the basics of regional flora, fauna, geology, and cultural history of the Northern Rockies. The two weeks of remote coursework after the field section of the course ends provides students with the opportunity to finish their final assignments, engage in peer review, and participate in reflective exercises.