Conservation Partner Grants 2016

January, 6 2017  |  by kevin Back »

You probably know Vital Ground for our work as a land trust, for conservation easements and property purchases to protect critical wildlife habitat. In 2004 we made a strategic decision to evolve from a grant-making institution that provided funding to organizations that supported our mission to a full-fledged, operating land trust. We haven’t forgotten how important grants are, however, which is why we’ve continued our Conservation Partner Grants program. Recently, as successful bear recovery in certain areas has led to grizzlies expanding their range, we’ve turned new focus to supporting “Bear Aware” communities within our primary project areas. In 2016 we granted $60,000 to seven partner organizations working to protect habitat or improve social tolerance of grizzlies through education, outreach and research.


Swan Valley Bear Resources: Bear Awareness Projects

Swan Valley Bear Resources has implemented a bear resistant-garbage container loaner program, assists landowners with small livestock to erect bear-proof fences, and they educate the public about bears and bear safety. Photo courtesy Living with Wildlife Foundation.

The Swan Valley is where it all began for Vital Ground in Montana. Our first conservation easements happened there, and it still holds our largest collection of habitat protection projects. So we were eager to aid Swan Valley Bear Resources (SVBR), a collaborative group doing vital work to reduce bear mortality in the area. SVBR is all about education: by teaching landowners about things like bear-resistant garbage containers and bear-proof fencing for livestock, the group
is actively reducing the risk of bear-human conflicts. We’re honored to contribute to their great work.


Conservation Partners Grant Guidelines


Wildlife Management Institute: Southwest Montana Bear Education Program
Southwest Montana is particularly vital ground in the effort to link Greater Yellowstone’s grizzlies with other subpopulations. As bears continue to recover there and expand their range beyond the national park, Wildlife Management Institute has partnered with Red Rocks Lakes National Wildlife Refuge on a two-year effort to develop educational programs that will reduce bear-human conflicts west of Yellowstone. From training the next generation of bear conservationists to installing bear-proof containers in campgrounds, we’re behind this effort every step of the way.


Vital Ground Board Chair Stuart Strahl

Vital Ground Board of Trustees’ Chair Stuart Strahl at Troy, Montana’s bear-proof garbage-containment center. The new facility funded in part by Vital Ground will prevent bears from accessing unnatural food sources. Photo by Ryan Lutey.

Troy, Montana: Fencing Improvement Project

Nestled near two Vital Ground properties in the heart of the Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem, the 1,000-person city of Troy, Mont., 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’re 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.





Blackfoot-Clearwater Challenge: Range Rider and Outreach Program
The Blackfoot Challenge, a collaborative of private landowners and land trusts that coordinate conservation in Montana’s Blackfoot Valley, operates the longest-running range-rider program in the United States. This year marks the organization’s ninth year providing livestock and carnivore monitoring across 40,000 acres for some 20-30 ranchers whose livestock are seasonally at risk to depredations from wolves and grizzly bears. The program increases livestock herd supervision rates, uses human presence to discourage attacks, detects and removes carcasses from high-risk sites, monitors livestock herd conditions and heath, and provides updates to the local community about locations of wolves and grizzlies. Funding helps establish personnel to support projects such as the summer range-rider program as well as winter carnivore monitoring and human-bear conflict reduction.


‘The Grizzly Returns’ Video: Education and Information

Ecologist, conservationist and film producer Chris Morgan tells the story of grizzly augmentation efforts in northwest Montana. In this short, compelling film, the purpose is to engage the public in understanding the issues at stake in the recovery of the North Cascades’ grizzly bear, the importance of augmentation to the species current population, and the value of communities coming together to restore this fragile population to a healthy, sustainable number.


The Nature Conservancy of Canada: Luxor Linkage Project

Grizzly bears, badgers, mountain goats and moose are just a few of the species that will benefit from conservation of the Luxor Linkage, lands important as a natural corridor for wildlife and ecological communities. Photo courtesy The Nature Conservancy of Canada.

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 TNC Canada’s Luxor Linkage acquisition, a project to protect 960 acres of remarkable connective habitat between the 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.


Idaho Fish and Game: Law Enforcement and Conservation

Vital Ground is proud to support Idaho Fish and Game’s law enforcement activities and conservation efforts on and near a key Vital Ground holding in north Idaho, where Bismark Meadows’ wet-meadow habitat is favored by Selkirk grizzlies in the spring and dense forest that is ideal for providing wildlife security.


Conservation Partners Grant Guidelines