Landscape Vision: New Film Shows Potential for a Connected Northern Rockies

The Vital Ground Foundation's One Landscape Initiative - video still
One Landscape, a new short film directed by Eric Ian, showcases Vital Ground's push to protect key habitat and build a single, connected landscape in the Northern Rockies.

One Landscape Initiative Pairs Wildlife Science, Partnerships


MISSOULA, Mont. – From Wyoming to British Columbia, the northern Rocky Mountains are home to some of North America’s most iconic wildlife and wild lands. But the region’s mountain strongholds are not all connected, with highways, railroads and houses splitting them. As the climate warms and the human footprint keeps growing, that fragmentation poses a problem for grizzly bears and other animals that must move to adapt.

Achieving a single, connected landscape for wildlife and people in the Northern Rockies is the goal of The Vital Ground Foundation’s One Landscape Initiative. The organization recently released One Landscape, a 5-minute short film directed by Eric Ian that highlights the science and conservation partnerships behind the initiative.

“One Landscape is simply a knitting together of the strongholds that remain,” explains Douglas Chadwick, a naturalist, author and Vital Ground trustee who appears in the film. “If we can build wildlife corridors—connectivity—between these remaining strongholds of wildlife, it will hold up over time.”

Based on insight from more than 60 federal, tribal and state wildlife experts, the One Landscape Initiative aims to protect 188,000 crucial acres on privately-owned lands that link the region’s wild cores. From central Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front Range to the Kootenai Valley of Idaho’s northern Panhandle, the new film highlights the partnerships that make the vision possible, profiling several landowners who have partnered with Vital Ground to voluntarily limit development and protect habitat on their properties through conservation agreements.

“Many feel as I do that we’re very lucky to live in a place where bears exist,” says Mary Sexton, owner of Glen Willow Ranch near Choteau, Mont. “We do have a lot of wildlife come through, plus this has been productive farm ground for over a century. I want it to remain not only in agriculture but also as good habitat for wildlife.”

Overhead photo of Glen Willow ranch
Glen Willow Ranch maintains productive agricultural lands and important wildlife habitat along Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front. (Photo by Mitch Doherty)

Through land acquisitions and conservation partnerships in key locations, the One Landscape Initiative will not only protect working farms, ranches and forests for future generations, but also protect animals’ ability to move and adapt to a changing environment. By focusing on the specific locations that help link a larger landscape, it will create a more resilient future for countless species.

“When I go out and walk on the ground that Vital Ground protected … and I’m looking at elk tracks and seeing grizzly scratches on the trees, Vital Ground is making that real,” summarizes Chadwick late in the film. “This is saving nature, on a large scale and a connected scale.”

An accredited land trust and 501(c)(3) organization, Vital Ground works cooperatively with landowners, communities, and federal, tribal and state agencies to conserve some of Earth’s most magnificent and unique places for people, grizzly bears and entire natural communities. For more information, visit; also available at (406) 549-8650 and

Learn more about the One Landscape Initiative and chip in today!

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