Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem

Covering 2,600 square miles, the Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem encompasses the Yaak Valley and the Cabinet and Purcell mountain ranges of northwest Montana and northern Idaho.

Vital Ground Partner Projects in the Cabinet-Yaak:
• 4 habitat protection partnerships
• 1 conflict reduction partnership
• 1 scientific research partnership
• 522 acres conserved

Grizzlies in the Cabinet-Yaak:
• Current population estimates hover around 50 bears
• Fragmented into two subpopulations (Yaak Valley and Cabinet Mountains), with each numbering around 25 bears and no evidence of genetic exchange
• Habitat cores include Cabinet Mountains Wilderness Area and portions of Kootenai and Idaho Panhandle national forests
• Communities within or adjacent include: Libby, Thompson Falls, Troy, and Yaak

Photo: Kevin Rhoades

Troy Sanitation Improvement

Conservation Partner: City of Troy, MT
Partnership Type: Conflict Reduction
Vital Ground since: 2016

Nestled near two Vital Ground properties in the heart of the Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem, the 1,000-person city of Troy, Montana knows a lot about bears. And the bruins know about the city, too, with its fruit trees, berry bushes, and accessible garbage creating an unfortunate history of conflict. We were excited to partner with Troy, Lincoln County, and Montana Fish, Wildlife, & Parks on a new effort to consolidate garbage containment to one area in the city, and to install electric fencing that will prevent bears from accessing it. Keeping bears in the forest and out of the dump—sounds like a win to us.

Photo: Kris Boyd

Cabinet-Yaak Grizzly DNA Study

Conservation Partner: U.S. Geologic Survey
Partnership Type: Scientific Research
Vital Ground since: 2013

Our habitat protection work depends on good science. In order to pinpoint the right places for private-land conservation that supports grizzly recovery, we need to know where grizzlies live, how they move, and what threatens their recovery. That’s we eagerly supported a team from the U.S. Geologic Survey (USGS) in their comprehensive population study of grizzlies in the Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem. The researchers set up more than 1,400 hair corrals and tree rubs—non-invasive methods of collecting bear fur samples for DNA analysis—throughout the Cabinet and Purcell mountains of northwest Montana and north Idaho. Their data showed a population of roughly 50 grizzlies in the ecosystem split in half by the Kootenai River-U.S. Highway 2 corridor. Now the study is directly backing our conservation work, with our Wild River Project helping establish a protected corridor across the Kootenai Valley that will reconnect these isolated halves of the Cabinet-Yaak grizzly population.

Photo: Lance Schelvan

Campbell-Fuqua Easement

Conservation Partner: Montana Land Reliance
Partnership Type: Habitat Protection
Size: 160 acres
Vital Ground since: 2004

Just south of the conserved Bass Property, Vital Ground again teamed up with Montana Land Reliance, providing a grant to help secure a conservation easement on Mary Campbell and Pam Fuqua’s 160-acre property. Featuring a lush wetland complex and riparian stream corridor along Fowler Creek, the spot is prime habitat for grizzlies and many other sensitive species that find refuge in the Yaak Valley’s wildlands. This project enlarged the impact of our contribution to the Bass Easement a decade earlier, as the two properties combine to strengthen vital core habitat for grizzly recovery in the Cabinet-Yaak.

Photo: Lance Schelvan

Bass Easement

Conservation Partner: Montana Land Reliance
Partnership Type: Habitat Protection
Size: 115 acres
Vital Ground since: 1996

As one of our earliest conservation efforts in the Cabinet-Yaak, Vital Ground provided a grant to Montana Land Reliance to help purchase a conservation easement on the 115-acre Bass Property nestled deep in the Yaak Valley. This wild stronghold remains prime habitat for threatened Canada lynx and bull trout, wolverine, moose, elk, and a recovering population of grizzly bears.

Photo: Robert Scriba

Poston-Lance Easement

Conservation Partner: Montana Land Reliance
Partnership Type: Habitat Protection
Size: 160 acres
Vital Ground since: 1995

Our first conservation partnership in the Cabinet-Yaak, the Poston-Lance property sits along Dodge Creek on the eastern flank of the Purcell Mountains. We were eager to provide a grant to Montana Land Reliance in support of this conservation easement, as the protected habitat continues to provide an important buffer from developed areas to the east along Lake Koocanusa and US Highway 93. With the Whitefish Range of the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE) just a dozen miles away, this project marked an early and crucial effort to establish stronger genetic linkage between the large NCDE grizzly population and the embattled bears of the Cabinet-Yaak.

Other Conservation Partner Projects

in Grizzly Recovery Ecosystems

Vital Ground works to protect and restore habitat for wild grizzly populations in ecosystems where the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has designated grizzly bear recovery zones and where state wildlife management agencies have placed an emphasis on conserving the species.