Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Name


Department or School/College

Department of Geography

Committee Chair

Paul Wilson

Commitee Members

Anna Klene, Woodam Chung


GLO notes, historic vegetation, historic range of variation, Public Land Survey field notes


University of Montana


The late 1800s Bitterroot Valley, Montana, landscape and settlement patterns were summarized and mapped using the General Land Office (GLO) surveyors' field notes. Surveyors' observations of six townships from Hamilton to the Stevensville vicinity were examined in several ways. A total of 3321 points of ecological and geographic information and 422 miles of vegetation were mapped from the field notes. Surveyor information, vegetation composition, tree abundance, vegetation spatial structure and distribution of vegetation types were characterized in a multi-part historic vegetation data assemblage of point, line and polygon feature classes. Aquatic, topographic and cultural aspects of the area contributed to the historic landscape configuration. A GLO land cover classification was derived using surveyors' terminology and crosswalked with current land cover classes. The culmination of this research produced historic vegetation maps and evaluations, summaries of historic cultural, topographic and aquatic features and an unpretentious comparison of GLO vegetation to current land cover. GLO vegetation along all section lines compared to current land cover revealed differences between historic and current vegetation conditions. Highest differences were decreases in Upland Timber and Prairie-No Timber, and increases in GLO Field and Bottomland Timber near-equivalents. The current conditions of land that surveyors described as GLO Upland Timber and Prairie-No Timber were reported. The methodology applied to the Bitterroot Valley could be used to map extensive areas of Montana, providing quantitative and descriptive observations of a pre-satellite landscape.



© Copyright 2012 Karen M. Shelly