Working cooperatively with landowners, local communities, and state and federal agencies, Vital Ground addresses the issue of habitat fragmentation head-on by permanently protecting crucial lands for the benefit of grizzly bears and other wide-ranging wildlife.
Vital Ground places special emphasis on protecting specific key landscapes. One is private lands where grizzly bears currently live or into which they could extend their range, especially in spring and fall when habitat requirements expand due to reproductive and pre-hibernation activities. A second is private lands located near public lands or already-protected private lands; and a third is lands connecting grizzly bear ecosystems. Vital Ground’s programs include three initiatives to protect crucial habitat in the Swan Valley and Cabinet-Yaak areas of Montana, and Selkirk Mountains of northern Idaho.
Because of the mounting threat rural development poses to essential habitat for grizzly bears and other wildlife in the region, Vital Ground is augmenting its private lands conservation efforts through the Strength of Connections Campaign. The goal is to protect habitats in a way that will allow grizzly populations living in the lower 48 states to connect with more robust populations in southern portions of Alberta and British Columbia. This would ultimately give grizzlies access to the northern end of the Selway-Bitterroot ecosystem, the largest wildland complex south of Canada, which is currently unoccupied by grizzlies.
To date, Vital Ground has helped protect and enhance nearly 600,000 acres of crucial wildlife habitat in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Alaska, and British Columbia. The organization’s dedication to conserving grizzly bear range goes beyond saving a single species. When there is enough “vital ground” to sustain an umbrella species like the grizzly, a multitude of other animals, plants, and fragile ecosystems benefit as well.