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Protecting Vital Ground

Group helps grizzlies by preserving habitat

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Magnificent in its own right, the grizzly bear is nature’s barometer of a healthy and complete environment. Because a grizzly’s range includes more than hundreds of miles, from alpine meadows to valley bottoms, the animals are considered an “umbrella” species. And since its foraging behavior creates a top-down effect on other animals lower in the food chain, such as deer, elk, rabbits, fish, insects or plants, it is also known as a “keystone” species.
If the grizzly population is healthy and strong, so are other populations ranging from large mammals to native fish. Conversely, a faltering, fragmented grizzly population spells certain hardship for other wildlife, many species of which are positively affected by and dependent on the bear’s activity. Protecting bears and their habitat benefit entire plant and animal communities in some of the wildest, most scenic places on earth.
This is the cornerstone of Vital Ground’s work.
Working cooperatively with landowners, local communities, other conservation organizations, and state and federal agencies, Vital Ground addresses the issue of habitat fragmentation head-on by permanently protecting crucial lands for the benefit of grizzly bears and other wildlife.
Vital Ground places emphasis on protecting specific key landscapes. One is private lands where grizzly bears currently live or into which they could extend their range, especially in spring and fall when habitat requirements expand due to reproductive and pre-hibernation activities. A second is private lands located near public lands or already-protected private lands. And a third is lands connecting grizzly bear ecosystems.
Because of the mounting threat rural development poses to habitat for grizzlies and other wildlife in the region, Vital Ground has teamed up with six landowners in northwest Montana to further its goals under the organization’s Swan Valley Grizzly Bear Habitat Conservation Initiative. Through a combination of five permanent conservation easements and one fee title acquisition, the effort aims to protect nearly 320 acres near Condon, Mont.
Since the organization’s beginning in 1990, Vital Ground has helped protect and enhance nearly 600,000 acres of crucial wildlife habitat in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Alaska, and British Columbia. The organization’s dedication to conserving grizzly bear range goes beyond saving a single species. When there is enough “vital ground” to sustain an umbrella species like the grizzly, a multitude of other animals, plants, and fragile ecosystems benefit as well.
Learn more about the Swan Valley Grizzly Bear Habitat Conservation Initiative at http://www.vitalground.org/elk-flats-neighbors-project/#.Up9ZB-Kma80.
Learn more about Vital Ground at http://www.vitalground.org/.
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