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STRENGTHOFCONNECTIONS™CAMPAIGN

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he Strength of Connections Campaign is truly an expression of what we do at Vital Ground: connect. We connect fragmented landscapes; connect grizzly bear and other wildlife populations; and connect the right people with Vital Ground’s mission so that our conservation strategies can be achieved.

Working cooperatively with local community groups and decision makers, state and federal land agencies, willing landholders, and, most importantly you, the Vital Ground supporter, the goal of the Strength of Connections Campaign is to address the issue of habitat fragmentation in the northern Rockies head on by permanently protecting crucial private lands for the benefit of grizzly bears and other wide-ranging wildlife. Vital Ground recognizes the ecological potential of the region to help re-connect grizzlies and other species from Yellowstone to the Yukon, and its importance to continental-scale wildlife habitat conservation. In the truest sense, Vital Ground has embarked on a campaign to strengthen connections. Why a major campaign now—what’s the urgency? Because of the rapid pace of residential and commercial development and road building near and adjoining our public wildlands, leading wildlife biologists agree: There are fewer than 10 years—perhaps only 5 or less!—to protect and maintain the essential habitats and ecological linkages located on private lands in the northern Rockies that are crucial to the wellbeing of our remaining grizzly bear populations. Given the fragmentation in our geographic working area, the regional extinction of grizzlies is a real and imminent threat unless quick conservation actions are taken. Thankfully, enough undeveloped land still exists to maintain or restore landscape connectivity and provide movement corridors (also called “linkage zones”) between our great public land strongholds. But, obviously, we have little time to do so. Why the emphasis on the Grizzly? As the grizzly’s range covers several hundred square miles—from alpine meadows to valley bottoms—protecting and expanding habitat and linkage zones important to the Great Bear benefits entire animal and plant communities in the wildest, yet most imperiled places left on the continent. This is called an “umbrella species” approach to conservation. Science indicates that if we can help meet the needs of grizzly bears, we will also be helping to meet the needs of many, many other wildlife species. Human communities will also be healthier, as protecting and restoring natural areas improves the quality of the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat. Working together, we have a chance to permanently protect the remaining vital acres that grizzly bears and other wildlife need to safely traverse the landscapes of the northern Rockies, recolonize old territories, and move according to the forces of seasons, food availability, and climate change.

Photo by Larry Aumiller

“Grizzlies have to be able to safely cross the private lands that separate our public nature strongholds. But, we don’t need to save thousands and thousands of acres to keep wildlife populations connected. We only need to save hundreds of acres, but in exactly the right places.”

—Doug Chadwick Wildlife Biologist and Vital Ground Trustee


2009

STRENGTHOF CONNECTIONS™ WORKING REGION

2010

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he Strength of Connections Campaign will place special emphasis on protecting key private habitat and linkage lands in the trans-border region of northern Idaho and northwestern Montana. Maintaining landscape connectivity in the area is crucial to genetic interchange between grizzlies in the U.S. and in Canada, where the populations are more robust. If the core grizzly populations here can expand in size, it is believed that they will eventually disperse and recolonize old territories, including the Selway-Bitterroot Ecosystem.

AB GLACIER NATIONAL PARK

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SELWAY-BITTERROOT ECOSYSTEM

ID GRIZZLY BEAR Lost range Current range Cascadia boundary

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK

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Base map by

Sightline INSTITUTE

Home on the Fragmented Range Until the settlement of the American frontier, up to 50,000 grizzly bears roamed what is now the lower 48 states, from California to just west of the Mississippi River. Today, only approximately 1,500 grizzlies persist in five isolated populations, and on just 2% of their original range. Because of the habitat fragmentation, predominantly along the valley bottoms that separate huge blocks of public lands, grizzly populations are increasingly becoming isolated, compromising genetic viability. Large mammals like grizzlies are particularly affected by fragmentation because they require large areas for populations to flourish. Wildlife populations that are dramatically reduced in size and isolated from one another on small habitat “islands” are at increased risk of extinction. Continental-Scale Effort Photo by Larry Aumiller

“If people can accept the relatively small risks that accompany coexistence with grizzlies, they’ll find that bears, for the most part, tolerate us well. We can afford to be as gracious in sharing this land.”

—Colleen Matt Wildlife Manager

The Strength of Connections Campaign will focus special attention on project opportunities in the trans-border area of the U.S. and Canada, particularly in the Idaho Panhandle and northwestern Montana. These areas encompass the federally designated Selkirk Mountains and CabinetYaak Grizzly Bear Recovery Zones. The grizzly population in the Selkirk Mountains is believed to number no more than 60 bears in the entire 2,200 square mile ecosystem stretching from northern Idaho into southern British Columbia. The Cabinet-Yaak grizzly population is critically imperiled and numbers only approximately 40 bears in two isolated sub-populations.

CONNECTING LANDSCAPES, CONNECTING WILDLIFE, CONNECTING PEOPLE™ w w w. v i t a l g r o u n d . o r g


Bismark Meadows - Vital Ground’s premier project area in northern Idaho. Photo by www.lantzyphoto.com

Vital Ground’s work in the region is already well underway and is making a difference: Bismark Meadows—A Magnet for Grizzly Bears In the Selkirk Mountains of northern Idaho, Vital Ground has acquired two critical parcels of grizzly bear spring habitat in Bismark Meadows. We have a third parcel under option agreement and a fourth is actively for sale. Your contribution today will help Vital Ground bring these two additional properties under conservation ownership, and help us maintain an important secure seasonal foraging area for grizzlies and other wildlife. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) has received reports of a grizzly sow and two cubs, another single grizzly of undetermined gender, and a large grizzly boar using the meadows in the spring of 2009. A senior IDFG biologist estimates that at least four and perhaps as many as eight grizzly bears and offspring use the meadows each spring. This is an impressive amount of grizzly bear use given that less than 5 dozen grizzlies are believed to inhabit the entire Selkirk Ecosystem.

Photo by lanceschelvan.com

“We sincerely thank Vital Ground for enabling our family to finalize a Forest Legacy project in a form that will protect the family farm, the working forest and the great wildlife habitat.”

—Lon Merrifield, landowner Bonner County, Idaho

CONNECTING LANDSCAPES, CONNECTING WILDLIFE, CONNECTING PEOPLE™ w w w. v i t a l g r o u n d . o r g


Special Opportunity: We are pleased to announce that the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation has recently awarded Vital Ground a provisional grant of $196,000 through the Northwest Wildlife Conservation Initiative to help acquire the two Bismark Meadows parcels mentioned earlier. The grant requires a 5:1 match of private or other funds and must be met by October 2010. Your contribution to the Strength of Connections Campaign will help us meet that goal. Other Connections

Photo by www.lantzyphoto.com

“The same species responsible for eliminating most of the grizzly’s habitat can also save some before it is too late. We need to secure sections of land where habitat is abundant enough that bears don’t have to enter human-developed areas looking for food; and that provides travel corridors to other protected habitat.”

—Heather Reich Wildlife Biologist

Along U.S. Highway 2 in Montana, Vital Ground hopes to secure strategic private lands to reduce the potential for additional development in a key linkage zone between the Purcell and Cabinet Mountains. In Idaho, we are pursuing opportunities along U.S. Highway 95 to secure private lands via conservation easements that will support wildlife movement across the valley bottom. Along the Montana Highway 200 and the Clark Fork River, Vital Ground will work with private landowners to maintain one or more linkage zones to facilitate wildlife movement across the valley, helping grizzlies make their way towards the Selway-Bitterroot Ecosystem, a designated, but currently unoccupied, grizzly bear recovery zone. Help save our Wild Grizzlies The future of the grizzly lies in our ability to maintain complete and healthy ecosystems on both public and private lands. Our common commitment to protecting ecologically diverse habitats—and connections between them—is key to assuring all wildlife will have a place to live. Our greatest conservation challenge is funding. Unlike environmental challenges such as climate change and invasive species, the effort to permanently secure habitat on private lands has a relatively simple solution—adequate financial resources to purchase conservation easements or crucial private lands from willing landowners. The time for conservation action is now! Please support Vital Ground’s Strength of Connections Campaign today and help us keep the northern Rockies viable and connected for the sake of grizzly bears and all the wildlife that share their world.

Make your secure online donation by visiting: www.vitalground.org/strengthofconnections Or mail a check to Vital Ground at: Bldg. T-2 Fort Missoula Rd., Missoula, MT 59804

CONNECTING LANDSCAPES, CONNECTING WILDLIFE, CONNECTING PEOPLE™ w w w. v i t a l g r o u n d . o r g

Strength of Connections Campaign  

The Strength of Connections Campaign is truly an expression of what we do at Vital Ground: connect. We connect fragmented landscapes; connec...

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