West of Missoula, safeguarding a crucial habitat connection under Interstate 90 and into the Bitterroots.
Ninemile Crossing PROJECT BRIEF
A key wildlife pathway will remain undeveloped along western Montana’s Clark Fork River after Vital Ground and Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y) purchased 52 acres near Ninemile Creek in December 2018.
The land helps connect the Ninemile and Bitterroot mountain ranges, lying adjacent to the Clark Fork River and an Interstate 90 bridge where biologists have documented wildlife crossing under the highway. That makes it an especially valuable link for grizzly bears, as the Ninemile Range connects to larger cores of grizzly habitat that stretch to Glacier National Park and the Bob Marshall Wilderness.
Grizzlies were first documented using the area in 2001, including one bear with a home range that includes the Ninemile area.
“I’ve personally observed the Ninemile Grizzly crossing under the I-90 bridge,” says James Jonkel, Wildlife Management Specialist for Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks. “Since 2001, we’ve had multiple verified grizzlies using this same area to cross the river, the most recent being two years ago.”
Ninemile Crossing at a Glance
- 52 acres, along Clark Fork River near Ninemile Creek confluence
- Abuts I-90 underpass with documented wildlife crossings
- Area frequented by grizzlies, elk, cougars and bighorn sheep
- Links Ninemile Range (NCDE) and Bitterroot Ecosystem