Habitat Project:

River Birch

Protecting rich riparian habitat along the Teton River on Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front.

Photo of grizzly bear and aspens in fall color
Photo of grizzly bear and aspens in fall color
Cattle with mountain background
Cattle with mountain background


For nearly all of their history as a species in North America, grizzly bears were as likely to be found on the plains as in the mountains or along the coast. Now, recovering from two centuries of human persecution in the western United States, grizzlies are gradually reclaiming parts of their historic range on the prairies of Montana. Following waterways east out of the Rocky Mountain Front Range, these bears navigate a patchwork of farm and ranch lands.

Just a few miles upstream of Vital Ground’s expansive Teton River Project, the River Birch Project will conserve additional acres of key riparian habitat along one of the region’s main waterways. The 16-acre conservation easement will help connect wildlife traveling along the river corridor with larger protected areas, including Glen Willow Ranch, a 650-acre property also conserved by Vital Ground that lies diagonally across U.S. Highway 89, touching a corner of the River Birch land.

“Land conservation is the most important thing for long-term grizzly bear conservation across North America,” says Mike Madel, the landowner of River Birch and a retired biologist with Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks. “Ultimately the habitat has to be there.”

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River Birch at a Glance

  • Conservation easement protecting rich riparian habitat along Teton River in central Montana
  • Grizzly bears follow river corridor east from Bob Marshall Wilderness onto historic prairie habitat
  • 16-acre project connects Teton River frontage to 650-acre Glen Willow Ranch, also conserved by Vital Ground
  • Riparian area also important for deer, elk, migratory birds, native trout and much more