The Flathead National Forest is one of the major timber-producing Forests in the Northern Region. There is little grazing.
Homesteaders depended on the National Forest for grazing a few head of cattle near their holdings. The first permits for grazing in what is now the Flathead National Forest were issued in 1909. A total of only 88 head of cattle were grazed under permit that year. The largest number of cattle on permit for any one year was 2,000 head in 1953. In 1963, there were about 750 head of cattle grazing under permit.
About 1,400 horses grazed in the Forest in 1924; this is the first record of the number of horses. The largest number was the 3,500 horses grazed in 1932. In 1963, there were 2,500 horses; 1,700 head were under free use.
Because of windfalls and the absence of desirable plants, grazing of sheep in this Forest has never been attractive to local ranchers. However, there were several sheep allotments in the Forest at one time: the Whitefish range; the Swan range east of Swan Lake, including Quintonkon Creek on the South Fork; an area between the Middle Fork and Bear Creek; and some others. The first recorded sheep grazing was in 1909, when 250 sheep were grazed in paid permits. Sheep grazing reached a peak in 1917 with a total of 18,000 head. The last band of sheep to graze in the Flathead was 2,750 in 1943 in the area between Bear Creek and the Middle Fork. Today, there are no sheep grazed in the Flathead National Forest.