Year: 2016
Acres: 40
Ecosystem: Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem
Location: Northwestern Montana
Project Type: Acquisition

Perched atop a steep ridge overlooking the Clark Fork Valley near Thompson Falls is a 40-acre undeveloped private parcel surrounded by Lolo National Forest lands, the Cube-Iron Roadless Area, and Cabinet-Yaak Grizzly Bear Recovery Zone. If accessed by road for timber or residential uses, a private access road would need to cross U.S. Forest Service lands beginning at the existing Weber Gulch public trailhead and cut across the existing trail and Forest Service lands before working up to the ridge and private inholding.

view_Roadless_web

More than just bears and people will benefit from the conservation of Weber Gulch. With its elevation ranging between 3,500 and 4,500 feet, the ponderosa pine forest provides elk, deer and moose with an important transition zone between their mountainous summer ranges and the lower terrain to which they descend in winter as snow fills the high country. Photo by Gael Bissell.

If developed, the changes in land use could lead to impacts to the valley’s view shed, increase conflicts with non-motorized Roadless Area management and lead to an increase in human/wildlife conflicts including those with grizzly bears that are gradually increasing their presence in this area.

Although located at the southern edge of the Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem, biologists report sightings of grizzly bears within this part of the Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem have increased over the last 5-10 years. Additionally, recent population research (Kendall et al., 2015) indicates grizzly bear occupancy within five miles of the proposed project. Grizzly bears within the area remain about half the desired population goals. Development could also lead to increased fire risk and spread of noxious weeds.

Vital Ground may seek to convey the parcel to the Lolo National Forest so that it becomes part of the forest, managed as part of the Cube Iron-Mount Silcox Roadless Area, and protected for its wildlife habitat and Roadless Area values.

The parcel provides habitat for calving elk as well as seasonal habitat for mule deer, white-tailed deer, moose, black and grizzly bears and potentially threatened Canada lynx.