Selkirk Ecosystem

The Selkirk Ecosystem covers 2,200 square miles, spanning portions of the western Idaho Panhandle, northeast Washington and southern British Columbia.

Vital Ground Partner Projects in the Selkirks:
• 3 habitat protection partnerships
• 1 conflict reduction partnership
• 139,360 acres conserved

Grizzlies in the Selkirks:
• Current population estimate of 70-80 bears
• Fragmented into two subpopulations (American and Canadian) of roughly equal size, with little evidence of genetic exchange
• Habitat cores include Idaho state lands, portions of Colville and Idaho Panhandle national forests, and West Arm Provincial Park
• Communities within or adjacent include: Sandpoint, Bonner’s Ferry, Priest Lake, Creston, and Nelson

Luxor Linkage

Conservation Partner: The Nature Conservancy of Canada
Partnership Type: Habitat Protection
Size: 960 acres
Vital Ground since: 2016

Grizzly bears don’t recognize international borders, so Vital Ground doesn’t let them limit our work. We were delighted to provide a partner grant for The Nature Conservancy of Canada’s Luxor Linkage acquisition, a project to protect 960 acres of remarkable connective habitat between the Selkirk and Purcell Mountains of British Columbia and the Canadian Rockies to their east. Grizzlies, endangered badgers, mountain goats and moose are just a few of the species that will benefit from the conservation of this lush wetland area.

Photo: Western Rivers Conservancy

Bennett Meadows

Conservation Partner: Western Rivers Conservancy
Partnership Type: Habitat Protection
Size: 2,400 acres
Vital Ground since: 2014

Slowly but surely, grizzly bears are returning to Washington state, and Vital Ground is lending a helping hand. As our first habitat project in the Evergreen State, we helped conserve Bennett Meadows, a lush, wildlife-rich zone just south of the Canadian border in northeast Washington.

It’s part of a larger borderland area known as The Wedge, an important low-elevation mix of forest, meadow, riparian and wetland habitat that helps extend the Selkirk Ecosystem to the west. With Vital Ground providing a $25,000 partner grant, Western Rivers Conservancy of Portland, Ore., purchased the 2,400-acre tract. An inholding surrounded by Colville National Forest, Bennett Meadows could eventually play a key role in connecting the Selkirks with the North Cascades Ecosystem, located less than a hundred miles to the west. The project is already paying dividends—not far from Bennett Meadows, biologists recently captured their first grizzly in Washington for tracking research in more than 30 years.

Darkwoods Complex

Conservation Partner: The Nature Conservancy of Canada
Partnership Type: Habitat Protection
Size: 136,000 acres
Vital Ground since: 2008

Old growth forests, subalpine meadows, lush lakeshores and river valleys—the West Kootenay region of British Columbia boasts a huge diversity of life and a vast network of connected habitat that stretches across the border into the Selkirk Mountains of the Idaho Panhandle and the Purcell Range of Montana’s northwest corner. That’s why Vital Ground was eager to contribute to the largest private-land conservation effort in Canadian history: The Nature Conservancy of Canada’s sprawling Darkwoods complex.

Photo: Adam Lieberg

Selkirk Community Outreach

Conservation Partner: Idaho Fish & Wildlife Foundation
Partnership Type: Conflict Reduction
Vital Ground since: 2004

The Selkirks serve as a critical funnel for wide-ranging Canadian grizzlies. Bears with the itch to roam may pass south through the range into Idaho, then on to the Cabinet-Yaak and Bitterroot ecosystems. But for such movements to occur, social tolerance must follow the animals across state and national borders. That’s why we were eager to offer a grant to the Idaho Fish & Wildlife Foundation in support of Idaho Fish & Game’s Grizzly Bear Education and Enforcement Project. The initiative sends state wildlife managers into the rural communities of the Selkirk area with the goal of educating citizens on bear safety and conflict-reduction practices while ensuring that the grizzly’s protections under the Endangered Species Act remain enforced.

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.