Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge

Fish and Wildlife Service, Montana.

 "If you travel much in the wilder sections of our country, sooner or later you are likely to meet the sign of the flying goose — the emblem of the national wildlife refuges. You may meet it by the side of a road crossing miles of flat prairie in the Middle West, or in the hot deserts of the Southwest. You may meet it by some mountain lake, or as you push your boat through the winding salty creeks of a coastal march. Wherever you meet this sign, respect it. It means that the land behind the sign has been dedicated by the American people to preserving, for themselves and their children, as much of our native wildlife as can be retained along with our modern civilization. Wild creatures, like men, must have a place to live. As civilization creates cities, builds highways, and drains marshes, it takes away, little by little, the land that is suitable for wildlife. And as their space for living dwindles, the wildlife populations themselves decline. Refuges resist this trend by saving some areas from encroachment, and by preserving in them, or restoring where necessary, the conditions that wild things need in order to live." (Rachel Carson, USFWS 'Conservation in Action' series)

Early in the Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) process, the planning team and public identified the refuge’s unique qualities or special values—characteristics and features of the refuge that make it special, valuable for wildlife, and an integral part of the Refuge System: 


"In evaluating Lee Metcalf, it is not difficult to project what rewards his...service in the Congress will bring to America in the years ahead. He was a tireless champion of preserving and protecting our Nation's natural heritage for succeeding generations to use and enjoy. This gentle man from Montana loved the Earth and all its living creatures." Senator Jennings Randolph of West Virginia

Lee Metcalf wrote in 1961: "There is no clearer lesson in history than that men and nations underwrite their own destruction as they violate the inexorable laws of nature-and unwisely use and waste basic resources…America's ghost towns, once thriving communities, are tombstones to dead resources. They are monuments to exploitation in lumbering, grazing, commercial fishing and farming...men and interests who had a reason for doing so have fought conservation with bitterness and in many cases with success. The war is raging still, and it is yet very far from being won."

He was a long-time member of the Migratory Bird Commission. During his tenure therein, the Commission purchased 525,000 acres of land to create 43 National Wildlife Refuges (Mavericks: The Lives and Battles of Montana's Political Legends by John Morrison and Catherine Wright Morrison). The lands that now make-up Lee Metcalf NWR were part of the purchases made. 

Biographical Directory of the United States Congress records that Lee Metcalf was "a Representative and a Senator from Montana; born in Stevensville, Ravalli County, Mont., January 28, 1911; attended the public schools; graduated from Stanford University in 1936 and received a law degree from Montana State University Law School; admitted to the Montana bar in 1936 and commenced the practice of law; member, State house of representatives 1937; assistant attorney general of Montana 1937-1941; in December 1942 enlisted in the Army, attended officers’ training school, was commissioned, went overseas in 1944, and participated in the Normandy invasion and the Battle of the Bulge; after V-E Day was concerned with the care and repatriation of displaced persons; helped in drafting ordinances for the first free local elections in Germany and supervised the free elections in Bavaria; discharged from the Army as a first lieutenant in April 1946; associate justice of the Montana supreme court 1946-1952; elected as a Democrat to the Eighty-third Congress; reelected to the three succeeding Congresses (January 3, 1953-January 3, 1961); was not a candidate for reelection but was elected in 1960 to the United States Senate; re-elected in 1966 and 1972 and served from January 3, 1961, until his death; co-chairman, Joint Committee on Congressional Operations (Ninety-third and Ninety-fifth Congresses); died in Helena, Mont., January 12, 1978; cremated; ashes scattered in one of his favorite areas in the wilderness of the State of Montana."

The Refuge was renamed in Senator Metcalf's honor on August 16, 1978. A public tribute was held July 29, 1979 in a ceremony on the Refuge. Robert L. Herbst, then Assistant Secretary of the Interior, addressed those in attendance. The black and white photos on this webpage are from the ceremony.

Papers from Lee Metcalf are physically housed by the Montana Historical Society Research Center Archives (Helena, MT); an online detailed finding/descriptive aid. Further comprehensive biographical material can be found in the following books: Mavericks: The Lives and Battles of Montana's Political Legends (John Morrison and Catherine Wright Morrison); Metcalf of Montana, How a Senator Makes Government Work (Richard D. Warden); Lee Metcalf: Democratic Senator from Montana (Peter J. Petkas). A magazine article, "Consider Lee Metcalf, the Invisible Senator", from The Nation (May 10, 1971) by Robert Sherrill also details Senator Metcalf.

Nearby Activities


Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge is located 25 miles south of Missoula, Montana, and 2 miles north of Stevensville. From I-90, take U.S. Highway 93 south about 30 miles to Stevensville. At the Stevensville cut-off road (269), turn east. Travel 1 mile to Eastside Highway 203 and turn east. Travel э mile to Wildfowl Lane and turn north. The Refuge is 2 miles from the intersection. The Refuge headquarters is located in the town of Stevensville. From Main Street, turn west on 3rd Street. The headquarters is located in the Kohl Office Building (Suite 107).

Additional Information

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