The Vital Ground Foundation presented its first-ever “Community Bear Aware Grant” Wednesday to the Swan Ecosystem Center and Northwest Connections in support of the Swan Valley Bear Resources project.
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MISSOULA, Mont. – The Vital Ground Foundation presented its first-ever “Community Bear Aware Grant” Wednesday to the Swan Ecosystem Center and Northwest Connections in support of the Swan Valley Bear Resources project.
Maria Mantas, executive director of the Swan Ecosystem Center, said her organization works to address bear conflicts on private property in the Swan Valley and educates landowners to help promote coexistence between people and bears.
“The $5,000 grant is to support Swan Valley Bear Resources, which is a collaborative program of the Swan Ecosystem Center, Northwest Connections, and the U.S. Forest Service,” she said. “We thank Vital Ground for responding to our request and providing this opportunity to support bears.”
Swan Valley Bear Resources has implemented a bear resistant-garbage container loaner program, assists landowners with small livestock to erect bear-proof electric fences, and their trained staff engages with the public to share information about bears and bear safety.
Northwest Connections Executive Director Melanie Parker said they are pleased with Vital Ground’s support for the community driven effort to co-exist with grizzly bears.
“Swan Valley Bear Resources was formed 10 years ago in response to an alarming trend in grizzly bear mortality,” she said. “Pooling resources across multiple organizations and agencies to promote education, reduce bear attractants, and minimize conflicts with livestock, we have made great strides in protecting grizzly bears.”
Gary Wolfe, executive director of Vital Ground, awarded the $5,000 grant during the Swan Ecosystem Center’s and Northwest Connections’ “Swan Valley Shintangle” fundraiser event, which was held in Condon, Mont. Other activities included music and unveiling of a new Swan Valley license plate, which will support local conservation efforts.
“Bud Moore is the reason I am standing before you tonight. Bud was Vital Ground’s original connection to the Swan Valley. Bud invited Vital Ground to work with him to place a conservation easement on his Coyote Forest property in 2005,” Wolfe said. “Since then, because of the deep respect many folks in the Swan Valley had for Bud, we have worked with Bud’s friends and neighbors to secure 11 additional conservation easements in the Swan Valley.”
Wolfe said the grant is in line with Vital Ground’s objectives to support grizzly bear outreach efforts in the Swan Valley. The organization has recently expanded its conservation goals to include reducing conflicts between bears and humans by encouraging and supporting “bear aware” communities within Vital Ground’s priority project areas.
“With the significant investment Vital Ground has made in habitat conservation over the past 10 years in the Swan Valley, we believe supporting programs that will help rural communities safely co-exist with grizzly bears is an excellent way to protect that investment,” Wolfe said. “However, Vital Ground’s primary emphasis will remain working with private landowners to conserve crucial wildlife habitat.”
The Vital Ground Foundation works cooperatively with landowners, local communities, and state and federal agencies. Based in Missoula, Vital Ground addresses the issue of habitat fragmentation head-on by permanently protecting crucial lands for the benefit of grizzly bears and other wide-ranging wildlife. For more information: www.VitalGround.org.