Montana’s state parks: 75 years, 54 parks and growing
By KRISTEN INBODY and ERIN MADISON
The Montana State Parks system came into existence 75 years ago on Feb. 23, 1939, when the Montana Legislature passed a law creating the Montana State Parks Commission to conserve “the scenic, historic, archaeological, scientific and recreational resources of the state.”
However, during the first couple of decades of its existence, the commission did little to advance state parks in Montana.
“State Parks in Montana started 75 years ago but it had languished to say the least,” said Ron Holliday, who served as Montana State Parks director from 1976-83. “It was a branch of the Highway Department, and it was truly a stepchild.”
Montana State Parks saw a major expansion when the parks department moved and became part of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, now Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
The Lewis and Clark Caverns can be given credit for sparking the passage of the initial legislation to create a state parks commission. The bill was passed after the federal government asked Montana to take over management of the Lewis and Clark Caverns, which President Theodore Roosevelt declared a national monument in 1906.
Want to know more about the parks featured in Kristen and Erin’s story? Explore the interactive map below and click to find out more about these parks: First People’s Buffalo State Park, Lewis and Clark Caverns, Bannack State Park, Madison Buffalo Jump State Park, Makoshika State Park, Milltown State Park, Smith River State Park, Medicine Rocks State Park, Painted Rocks State Park and Rosebud Battlefield State Park.
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