Project Update: Vital Ground, USFS Work to Conserve Key Cabinet Mountain Grizzly Habitat

Falls Creek project area
Photo: Eric Ian
Vital Ground and the U.S. Forest Service are working to conserve 200 important acres in the Cabinet Mountains of northwestern Montana. As the video below details, the Falls Creek project, if successful, would protect key wildlife habitat as well as public recreation access to Savage Lake and one of the area's largest waterfalls (pictured).

Falls Creek Conservation Project Seeks Land and Water Conservation Fund Support 

Public recreation access and one of the Lower 48’s smallest recovering grizzly bear populations have the chance to benefit greatly from Vital Ground’s latest collaboration with the U.S. Forest Service in northwestern Montana. The Falls Creek project aims to secure federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) support to protect 160 key acres in the Cabinet Mountains near Troy, Mont.

With Vital Ground serving as a land trust partner, the project would add the undeveloped acreage to surrounding Kootenai National Forest lands. With a history as private timberlands, the property is now owned by conservation-minded individuals looking to transfer ownership but keep the land as open space with public access. The project’s landscape includes a hiking trail to one of the area’s largest waterfalls, a popular recreation site, as well as the larger Cabinet Mountains Wilderness Area. Access to these destinations could be permanently protected with the acreage under public management.

Furthermore, diverse wildlife would benefit from the habitat conserved under federal stewardship. The Cabinet Range is home to moose, elk, wolves, wolverine, native trout and a population of roughly 25 grizzly bears, according to biologists’ recent estimates. Amid an ongoing regional real estate and development boom, maintaining open habitat is crucial to these bears’ slow road to durable recovery, with the Cabinets’ grizzlies and the similarly-sized Yaak Valley population to the north comprising the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Cabinet-Yaak Grizzly Bear Recovery Zone. If successful, the Falls Creek project would conserve an important habitat buffer between the Cabinet high country and more developed areas around Savage Lake. Meanwhile, several other Vital Ground projects near Troy conserve important habitat linkages between the Cabinets and the Yaak.

Because of its benefits to both people and wildlife, the Falls Creek project has already garnered a wide range of state and local support. Montana senators Steve Daines and Jon Tester have both endorsed the conservation effort along with the city council and mayor’s office of Troy, the Kootenai Forest Stakeholders Coalition and a broad majority of residents in the Savage Lake area, more than 20 of whom have written letters of support.

To learn more about this exciting ongoing project made possible by your support, check out the video above (produced by Eric Ian) and stay tuned for further updates as we seek a collaborative conservation outcome for Falls Creek!

Learn more about Vital Ground’s work in the Cabinet-Yaak…

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