Vital Ground evolved from a unique relationship between a man and a bear. In 1977, a Kodiak brown bear cub born in captivity arrived in the lives of Doug and Lynne Seus, professional animal trainers. Dubbing him Bart, the Seuses raised the cub from a six-pound ball of fuzz to a 1,500-pound adult bear and trained him for work in the film business. Bart quickly became a beloved member of the Seus family and developed a lifelong bond of trust and loyalty with Doug.
Bart loved the applause of film crews as much as his salmon and blueberries, and he eventually appeared in more than 35 films, including Legends of the Fall, The Edge and The Bear. “For 23 years he took us on grand adventures—from the majestic peaks of the Austrian Alps and the Alaska wilds, to the bejeweled backstage of the Academy Awards,” recalls Lynne.
Inspired to act on behalf of Bart’s wild relatives, in 1990 the Seuses launched The Vital Ground Foundation. The Seuses felt that Bart, as a member of a species truly symbolic of wilderness, could deliver a powerful message in support of land conservation. Bart took on an important new role as ambassador for Vital Ground. Until his death in 2000, his public appearances with Doug and Lynne sought to convey the urgent predicament of our rapidly diminishing natural areas, while promoting a message of hope that we might become better stewards of these great lands.
Although Bart I is no longer with us, the Seuses’ current bear friends – Bart the Bear II, Honey Bump, and Tank – carry on Bart’s legacy as Vital Ground ambassadors.