A Year of Momentum for Wildlife: Top Stories of 2019

Grizzly sow and cub in Glacier National Park
Grizzly bears were on the move across the Northern Rockies in 2019 and thanks to supporters like you, Vital Ground's conservation work progressed right alongside them.

In 2019, wildlife biologists tracked a young grizzly’s historic summer wanderings in the Bitterroot Mountains of Idaho. Other bears were moving east from the Bob Marshall Wilderness and west from Yellowstone National Park. Grizzlies were on the move across the Northern Rockies last year, and Vital Ground’s conservation work progressed right alongside them. From launching the One Landscape Initiative to three habitat protection triumphs and a dozen conflict prevention partnerships, it was a momentous year to close out the organization’s third decade. Beyond celebrating our 30th Anniversary, 2020 promises more big things for wildlife, but first let’s take a look back, with deep gratitude to supporters like you who made these stories possible.

One Landscape: A Clear Path Forward

Map showing Vital Ground's vision of One Landscape for wildlife and people

The time is now to connect the grizzly’s wild strongholds in the Lower 48. With human impacts growing ever-larger in the region, we can’t wait any longer. Ongoing collaboration with biologists and wildlife managers and the integration of the latest scientific models drove Vital Ground to launch the One Landscape Initiative in 2019. It’s our push to protect 188,000 acres of critically important habitat on private lands that connect the wilderness cores of the Northern Rockies. From Greater Yellowstone into Canada, supporters like you can help ensure a connected landscape and a resilient future for grizzlies, other wildlife, and people, too. Read the full story…

A Land Legacy Protected in Central Montana

When Mary Sexton had the chance to buy her grandfather’s ranch, she knew the decision was about far more than herself. “It’s a small ranch that was my grandfather’s that I’ve been fortunate enough to get back into the family,” Sexton says of Glen Willow, a 650-acre spread just north of Choteau, along Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front. It’s also prime spring habitat for grizzly bears that follow a tributary of the Teton River down from the mountains and onto the property each year. With bear-related conflicts rising in the area, protecting habitat is more important than ever and we couldn’t be prouder to have teamed up with Mary and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service on an easement that will forever protect the agricultural and habitat values of Glen Willow. Read the full story…

Conserving a Corridor in the Swan Valley

In Montana’s Swan Valley, grizzly bears, Canada lynx, moose and wolves cross the roads and backyards that lie between mountain ranges. Separating the Mission Mountains and the Bob Marshall Wilderness, the rural valley is both a crucial wildlife corridor and a blueprint for collaborative conservation. It’s long been a focal point for Vital Ground, and we were thrilled to partner with the Quinn family—as well as Missoula County and Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks—in protecting 200 acres near Condon. “We see lots of grizzlies walking through our place and they’re all good bears,” says Jim Quinn. “We haven’t had one bit of trouble with any of them.” Read the full story…

Another Win for Wildlife in Kootenai Country

Wild River corridor along the Kootenai River
Vital Ground and Y2Y have now protected over 200 acres in the Wild River corridor, helping connect the Cabinet and Purcell mountains. (Photo: Y2Y/Gem Vision Productions)

You may well be familiar with our Wild River Project by now. For three straight years, we’ve been joining forces with the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y) to stop subdivision development and save habitat within the crucial Cabinet-Purcell Mountain Corridor of northwestern Montana. Lying along the Kootenai River in a natural bottleneck for wildlife, Wild River remains a linchpin to securing safe movement for grizzlies and other wildlife between their small, struggling populations in this rugged corner of the state. In 2019, we purchased two more lots totaling 10 acres—it’s another important step toward a connected landscape and durable recovery for these isolated bears. Read the full story…

Preventing Conflicts, Strengthening Communities

Range Rider in Montana valley
Range riders monitor predator and livestock movement and remove carcass attractants, helping agricultural producers avoid bear-related conflicts. (Photo: Louise Johns)

As grizzly populations recover and disperse, bears inevitably cross paths with people. Lasting recovery for the species depends on animals moving across the landscape, connecting isolated subgroups into a single, durable population. To do that, they need people to chip in—they need bear-aware communities that do their best to keep grizzlies out of trouble, whether it’s through electric fencing for chickens, bear-resistant garbage containers, or range riders helping livestock and predators avoid run-ins. In 2019, your support helped deliver 12 partner grants funding this vital coexistence work in communities from western Wyoming to southern British Columbia. All told, Vital Ground helped support 187 outreach and education events, over 20,000 pounds of fruit attractant harvest and more than 130,000 acres of range monitoring. Read the full story…

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