Connecting Landscapes, Protecting Wildlife


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.

We imagine a connected landscape from Yellowstone into Canada in which bears and other wide-ranging wildlife have room to roam safely between wild strongholds. Connecting large blocks of public land with private lands, we envision Vital Ground as the leader in ensuring the survival of grizzly bears in the Northern Rockies.

Our Approach: Saving the Right Places

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—for the benefit of grizzlies, people and entire communities. Some of these places fall in core year-round grizzly bear habitat. Others offer bears important spring or fall range, while some help build wildlife corridors that allow movement and crucial genetic exchange between populations that were once isolated.

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. Each of our projects is carefully chosen in consultation with wildlife biologists and the best available science.

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 programs 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 trainings and other public education events.

Whether on the land or in the community, our projects blend the conservation of grizzly bears 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 place.