Connecting One Landscape for Wildlife and People
OUR TEAM // OUR STORY // OUR PROJECTS
The Vital Ground Foundation is a charitable 501(c)3 organization and an accredited land trust.
Our mission is to protect and restore North America’s grizzly bear populations for future generations by conserving wildlife habitat and by supporting programs that reduce conflicts between bears and humans.
Based in Missoula, Montana, and working throughout the northern Rocky Mountains and Inland Northwest, we envision a permanently connected landscape that ensures the long-term survival of grizzlies and the many native species that share their range. By connecting public land strongholds with protected private lands, Vital Ground is the only land trust dedicated to large-landscape conservation for the benefit of grizzly bears, other wildlife and people.
Video: Learn About the One Landscape Initiative
Our Approach: Saving Vital Habitat, Connecting One Landscape
As a land trust, we complete land purchases and partner with private landowners on conservation agreements for their properties. Our projects keep wild places wild, working lands working, and open spaces open. Since our founding in 1990, Vital Ground has helped conserve and enhance around 620,000 acres of habitat.
We focus our efforts on crucial areas where private lands connect the wild strongholds of the Northern Rockies. By protecting these vital corridors, we foster movement and crucial genetic exchange between grizzly populations at risk of isolation. Currently, our One Landscape Initiative aims to protect 188,000 acres in 33 key linkage areas identified through rigorous collaborative planning.
We ground our work in the grizzly bear’s role as an umbrella species. When the land can support a healthy grizzly population, whole webs of native plants and animals flourish, from the threatened Canada lynx and bull trout to migratory birds and rare plant species. Each of our projects is carefully chosen in consultation with wildlife biologists and the best available science.
Local Partnerships: The Key to Large-Landscape Conservation
Sometimes, we step in to buy a key piece of land before subdivision and development permanently transforms it. More often, we partner with landowners who plan to keep their property but want to ensure that its open and natural character lives on, no matter who owns it in the future. That’s the beauty of a conservation easement—it’s a written agreement that legally protects a place for the long haul. Each partnership is unique: should landowners wish to add houses for family members one day, we negotiate a building envelope that carefully defines where those structures can go. Should a rancher, farmer or forester wish to keep some of their land working, we find a balance between sustainable harvests and leaving room for wildlife. The results are win-win protections for people, grizzlies, and all the species that share their range.
But saving land is not enough. To survive the 21st century, grizzlies in the Lower 48 need community buy-in alongside open space. That’s why we also provide grants to local partners that prevent conflicts between bears and humans. These are boots-on-the-ground initiatives—efforts like installing electric fences around livestock pens and fruit trees, securing garbage in bear-resistant containers, or hosting bear spray training and other public education events. As part of the One Landscape Initiative, these partnerships prioritize conflict prevention in 21 key locations where coexistence will set the stage for a connected wild landscape.
Whether on the land or in the community, our projects blend the conservation of grizzly bears and other wildlife with the conservation of rural places and lifestyles. It’s not a matter of roping off thousands and thousands of untouched acres—it’s about protecting the most vital acres, the ones in exactly the right places. We have a unique opportunity to connect one of the most iconic, intact and lovely mountain regions left on Earth. We have a plan to do it. With your help, we can and will make it happen.