Project Update: Vital Ground working to expand Yaak Valley habitat connection

Vital Ground's Fowler Creek project
Vital Ground's Fowler Creek project conserves rich bottomlands in the Yaak Valley of northwestern Montana, helping connect mountain strongholds for the region's diverse wildlife that includes one of the Lower 48's smallest grizzly populations. Vital Ground is working to expand the project area with an additional 64-acre land purchase.

Fowler Creek West project aims to conserve forested valley bottomlands

In The Book of Yaak, Montana author Rick Bass describes the Yaak Valley, where he lives, as “a kind of church … A place with the residue of God—the scent, feel, sight, taste, and sound of God—forever fresh upon it.”

Fowler Creek black bear
Trail camera footage shows a black bear at the Fowler Creek project.

Whether or not you relate to special places like the Yaak on spiritual levels, if you follow Vital Ground you’ve likely read stories and seen photos of this valley before. Tucked into one of the most remote folds of the Lower 48, the Yaak winds between the surrounding Purcell Mountains that descend from Canada. At the southern toe of the continent’s only inland temperate rainforest, the cedar-lined drainages that feed the Yaak River are home to nearly every wildlife species that lived in this part of the country 200 years ago, from wolves to rare hummingbirds to a small, persistent grizzly population.

But it could all change very quickly.

Not spared from the real estate rush happening across Montana and Idaho, subdivision and dense development is picking up in pockets of the Yaak. For the area’s wildlife to remain diverse, habitat connections across the valley bottom must remain open. Vital Ground—with major support from landowner partners, the Wildlife Land Trust and individual contributors like you—is already leading the way. Over the last five years, our Broadie Habitat Preserve and Fowler Creek projects have protected nearly 1,000 acres of rich bottomlands—but there’s much more to do.

First up: conserving 64 additional acres adjacent to the previously-protected Fowler Creek land. The Fowler Creek West land purchase will expand and connect the conservation footprint in this part of the valley, with public land on three sides of the property and two creeks running through it. This riparian corridor is crucial for wildlife movement, with trail cameras at the nearby Fowler Creek and Broadie properties logging the presence everything from cougars and black bears to elk, deer, wolves and grizzlies.

The Yaak’s grizzly bear population remains one of North America’s smallest, with an estimated 25-30 bears enduring and little genetic exchange documented with neighboring populations in Montana and Canada.

For these persistent grizzlies—and the Yaak’s entire congregation of native species—to keep living open, wild lives for generations to come, we must keep protecting crucial acres now. You can support the Fowler Creek West project via our Sponsor An Acre page. Thank you!

Help protect habitat by sponsoring an acre today…

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