Vital Ground Protects Wetland Acreage

As a member of the Board of Advisors and the Development Committee for The Vital Ground Foundation, I am happy to share the following news:

Missoula, MT – The Vital Ground Foundation announced today that it has acquired 90 acres of crucial grizzly bear habitat at northern Idaho’s Bismark Meadows. Located just west of Priest Lake, Bismark Meadows is an 1,100-acre complex of meadows and wetlands that features a dramatic array of rare flora and fauna. It supports several endangered plant species and provides habitat for moose, elk, deer, black bear, wolves, lynx, westslope cutthroat trout, and eagles, as well as grizzlies.

The project complements a 19-acre parcel bordering State Highway 57 ─ a location especially vulnerable to commercial development ─ that the organization purchased in 2005. Both projects fall under Vital Ground’s Selkirk Grizzly Bear Habitat Conservation Initiative, which is designed to help bolster the “Threatened” grizzly sub-population. It is estimated that the Selkirk Grizzly Bear Recovery Zone hosts only 40-50 animals.

“The greatest threat to wildlife today is human intrusion into their habitat,” states Gary Wolfe, Vital Ground’s executive director. “Our conservation efforts in Bismark Meadows provide an increasingly rare wild refuge for imperiled animals and plants in a growing sea of development.”

As the surrounding Selkirk Mountains are often snowbound until early June, grizzlies must seek food in lower elevations when they emerge from hibernation. “This makes the meadowlands vitally important for the bears,” continued Wolfe. “Without continued access to these and other low elevation food sources in spring and again in autumn, the Selkirk population may fail.”

During 2007, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Idaho Fish and Game Department biologists received reports indicating that up to three grizzly females with cubs were utilizing the meadows during the spring season. One female had two cubs and the other two females reportedly had three cubs each.

Vital Ground’s work in the Selkirks is supported in part through a grant from the Canmore, Alberta-based Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y). Through this partnership, Vital Ground is contributing to Y2Y’s Grizzly Bear Conservation Strategy, which is designed help strengthen ecosystem connectivity so that grizzlies in the Idaho Panhandle and northwestern Montana can move about safely and intermingle with the more robust populations in Canada.

Vital Ground is also negotiating an option to purchase a third parcel within Bismark Meadows in 2010 and has already completed a 1,647-acre conservation easement near Bonners Ferry, Idaho and additional acquisitions near the U.S./Canada border.

With the grizzly bear as its compass, Vital Ground works to reconnect fragmented landscapes in the U.S. and Canada critical to wildlife movement and biodiversity. Since its founding in 1990, Vital Ground has helped to protect and enhance more than 467,000 acres of habitat crucial to grizzly and other wildlife in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Alaska, and British Columbia.

For more information, visit www.vitalground.org or phone 406-549-8650.

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