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Vital News

Inside this issue: • One New Acquisition Plus Two New Opportunities to Protect Idaho’s Bismark Meadows


• Darkwoods Project: Canada Protects 136,000 Acres in BC


• Montana Legacy Project— Good News for Grizzlies


• Neighbors Join Forces in Bane Creek


• Schatz Ranch on Continental Divide Protected Forever


• Wild Bear Adventure in Knight Inlet


• Business Partner Profile: Treasure Mountain Inn


• 2008 Bart Memorial Campaign


• Message from a Member


• Brown Bear’s World: Revealing Genes


Cover photo by







STAFF GARY J. WOLFE, PH.D. Executive Director

RYAN LUTEY, J.D. Director of Lands

SARAH CANEPA Land Conservation Specialist

KIFFIN HOPE, M.H. Development and Outreach Coordinator

SHANNON FOLEY Office Manager

SHELLY WEAR Administrative Assistant







EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR’S CORNER “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” So reads the famous opening line of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, and such could be said of the past year. On the one hand, Wall Street’s woes and the tumultuous economy have rocked the world. The collapses of storied banking institutions, global economic meltdowns and taxpayer-funded corporate bailouts have been gut-wrenching. On the other hand, it was a year of historic conservation successes. Within one month of each other, the single largest private conservation projects in the history of the United States and Canada were announced (page 4). The 313,500-acre Montana Legacy Project and British Columbia’s 136,000-acre Darkwoods Project are both spectacular in scale and ecological significance. Vital Ground is proud to be involved with both of these projects. The launch of the Western Governor’s Association’s Wildlife Corridors Initiative was a landmark policy action (page 14). The Initiative’s objectives are laudable, and most importantly, it provides gubernatorial direction and support for western state fish and wildlife agencies to consider and incorporate wildlife linkage needs into their planning and management activities—something conservationists have advocated for years. Despite the roiling economic and political environment we’ve all experienced over the past few months, Vital Ground has remained focused on its goal of protecting key private lands crucial to grizzly bears and other wildlife. During 2008, we expanded our conservation holdings at Bismark Meadows (page 3); launched a new Forest Legacy project in northern Idaho (page 7); partnered with the Prickly Pear Land Trust to help protect a historic ranch along the Continental Divide (page 8); partnered with the National Wildlife Federation to retire a 49,000-acre grazing allotment near Yellowstone National Park (Vital News, Spring 2008); launched a new conservation initiative in the Cabinet-Yaak ecosystem (Vital News, Spring 2008); and are finalizing several new conservation easements that will protect even more grizzly country. Now Vital Ground is challenged with an unprecedented opportunity. As we go to press, we just learned that Vital Ground has been awarded a provisional grant of up to $196,000 from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation to support our Bismark Meadows project. But the grant requires a 5:1 match, so we will need to raise almost $1 million in new contributions to take full advantage of this tremendous opportunity! We understand that it is a financially difficult time right now for many folks, and charities like Vital Ground are certainly not immune to this reality. In fact, many organizations are struggling just to survive. Fortunately, Vital Ground has a solid financial base and is prepared to weather the storm. But with new projects and partnership opportunities queuing up, we need your support more than at any time in our history.

Wildlife Manager


CHRIS MORGAN Bear Specialist

JACK NOLL Database Design & Analysis

DEREK REICH Videographer

This year marks our Ninth Annual Bart the Bear Memorial Campaign. This year-end appeal helps us raise essential capital for Vital Ground’s operations and projects, and launches us on a new year of land and habitat conservation. We hope that in honor of Bart and his legacy, all of our supporters will respond as generously as possible to the 2008 Bart Memorial Campaign. Thank you for your continued support!


— Gary J. Wolfe

AMBASSADORS BART THE BEAR 2™ HONEY BUMP THE BEAR™ TANK THE BEAR™ Vital News is published twice annually. Copyright © 2008 by Vital Ground. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission is prohibited.




FALL 2008

Vital Ground file photo

Bismark Meadows is an island of vital early-spring foraging habitat for the grizzlies of Idaho’s Selkirk Mountains.

agreement allows IDFG to use the cabin in exchange for caretaking the property. This gives the agency a base to maintain a more consistent law enforcement presence in the area, and provides housing for field staff conducting biological studies.

Vital Ground Expands Protection of Bismark Meadows


Vital Ground has recently executed an option to purchase an additional 56 acres in Bismark Meadows—if we can raise the funds by August 2010. In addition, an adjacent 149-acre property has been listed for sale. With the ever-increasing threat of development, time is rapidly running out to protect Bismark Meadows as open and wild habitat so important to grizzlies.

ince 2001, Vital Ground has been working to protect Bismark Meadows, a unique meadow habitat critical to grizzlies in northern Idaho.

Located just west of Priest Lake in northern Idaho, Bismark Meadows encompasses an 1,100-acre wetland complex and adjacent forested uplands that support a dramatic array of rare flora and fauna. The area boasts several endangered plant species and provides habitat for moose, elk, deer, black bear, wolves, lynx, westslope cutthroat trout and eagles. The site is also vitally important to grizzlies: the surrounding Selkirk Mountains can remain snowbound until early June, forcing bears to seek food at lower elevations such as Bismark Meadows when they emerge from hibernation each spring.

“Key grizzly bear habitat in the Selkirks is privately owned and therefore under constant development pressure,” said Charles Corsi, regional supervisor for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. “Bismark Meadows fits into this The Department has documented category. The Departconsistent use of this area by grizzly ment has documented bears, including females with cubs, consistent use of this area by grizzly bears, for many years. including females —Charles Corsi with cubs, for many Idaho Department of Fish and years.”

Late this past spring, Selkirk grizzlies became the beneficiaries of a 90-acre acquisition completed by Vital Ground through our Selkirk Grizzly Bear Habitat Conservation Initiative. The initiative aims to protect habitat and reduce human/bear conflicts to help bolster a grizzly sub-population that numbers only 40–50 animals. Last year, inappropriate interaction between bears and people in the area resulted in two bear relocations and the eventual euthanizing of one of those grizzlies—a loss the ecosystem cannot afford.


Dr. Michael Proctor of the Trans-Border Grizzly Bear Project stressed the importance of land acquisition and easements as tools to conserve grizzly habitat in the region. “[Bismark Meadows] dovetails with our larger efforts within the region by simultaneously improving habitat security and reducing the risk of human-caused mortality in an area that is experiencing increased pressure from human development,” says Proctor.

Vital Ground secured its first Bismark Meadows property in April 2005, acquiring a 19-acre parcel along State Highway 57. A cabin on the property is now leased to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) for use as a field study facility and patrol station. The


(Continued on page 4)


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(BISMARK MEADOWS from page 3)

Conservation History Made in British Columbia and Montana

Vital Ground’s long-term management goal for the newly acquired property, as well as other Bismark Meadows acquisitions, is to maintain a secure connection to the meadows for grizzlies to access high-quality seasonal foraging. As additional acreage is added, we hope to take advantage of the project’s high profile location to increase public viewing and conservation education opportunities.


ithin one month of each other, the single largest private conservation projects in the U.S. and Canada were announced this past summer. The 313,500–acre Montana Legacy Project and Canada’s 136,000–acre Darkwoods Project are both spectacular in scale and price tag.

To complete the 90-acre acquisition last June, the Vital Ground Board of Trustees authorized an internal loan from proceeds generated by the sale of the organization’s very first conservation project, which was recently purchased by The Nature Conservancy of Montana to add to its conservation holdings on Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front (see “Coming Full Circle” in the Spring 2008 issue of Vital News). Additional funding for habitat conservation in Bismark Meadows has come from the Johnson Family Foundation, Heart of the Rockies Initiative, Oberweiler Foundation, Qureshi Family Foundation, Wiancko Charitable Foundation, William H. Donner Foundation, Yellowstone to Yukon Initiative and numerous individual donors.

These lands are also priceless, encompassing old-growth forests, remote valleys, pristine creeks, alpine lakes, and habitat for rare and endangered wildlife from woodland caribou to grizzly bear. While many of these lands were once harvested for timber, the opportunity to retain, protect, and restore vast stretches of landscape for the benefit of wildlife, water and air quality, and local communities is one that cannot be missed. Vital Ground is pleased to be involved in both of these projects.


Now we have a new and significant fundraising challenge to secure the 56-acre parcel before our option agreement expires in 2010, and to be able to negotiate a purchase agreement on the 149-acre parcel that is currently listed for sale on the open market. Please join us in working to protect this fragile and vital habitat for the Selkirk grizzlies.

Vital Ground is proud to announce that it is a fundraising partner in the largest single private land conservation acquisition in Canada’s history. We have entered into a memorandum of understanding with Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC), and will be providing a $50,000 grant and other fundraising assistance over the next two years. NCC’s effort is a I can’t express how significant it is to bold commitment to protect 136,000 partner with Vital Ground—it really acres (212 square underscores just how seamless the miles) of remote border should be for all of us. valleys, mountains and lakes in an —Rob Wilson area known as Nature Conservancy of Canada Darkwoods in south-central British Columbia. The southern boundary of the Darkwoods property is only 15 miles north of Vital Ground’s Boundary Creek projects in northern Idaho, and the only physical barrier between the two areas is Canada Highway 3.

You Can Help the Selkirk Grizzlies Vital Ground is raising funds to secure two new properties that total 205 acres in Bismark Meadows of northern Idaho. Our purchase option on 56 acres will expire in August 2010 and a newly listed 149-acre parcel is on the open market. Can you help us seize this opportunity to keep this vital habitat wild for Selkirk bears? You can direct your donation go specifically to the Bismark Meadows land projects whether you send a check to our office or contribute online at www.vitalground. org. For more information, contact us at 406-549-8650 or Thank you!

Rob Wilson, NCC’s resource director, says, “I can’t express how significant it is to partner with Vital Ground—it really underscores just how seamless the border should be for all of us.” “This is a unique and immediate opportunity to conserve a landscape roughly the size of the entire Island of Montreal,” said John Lounds, president and CEO of the Nature Conservancy of Canada, of the project’s announcement in July. “Darkwoods is a conservation initiative of global significance. It’s part of a greater vision that will set new standards for conservation success.” Darkwoods is situated between the towns of Nelson, Salmo and Creston in the West Kootenay region of British Columbia. Pluto

Photo by



FALL 2008

Photo courtesy of Nature Conservancy of Canada

Canada’s Darkwoods Project now protects 212 square miles of wild country in south-central British Columbia.

Darkwoods Forestry Corporation has owned and operated the land since 1967. The property connects a network of protected lands and wilderness management areas to create a vast tract covering more than 250,000 acres—enough space for wide-ranging animals such as grizzly bear and caribou to roam freely.

launch us toward our $50,000 fundraising goal for the project. “Vital Ground’s participation in Darkwoods is a logical extension of our work in northern Idaho to protect and restore the Selkirk grizzly bear Photo by Rita Wolfe population,” says Gary. Jan Garnett, Nature Conservancy of “We’re pleased to be Canada Regional Vice President, and Gary Wolfe of Vital Ground seal the connected with this Darkwoods Project partnership. history-making conservation effort that will benefit grizzly bears, mountain caribou and a wide array of wildlife on both sides of the border.”

Darkwoods supports a tremendous range of biologically rich habitats: rare old-growth forests, sub-alpine meadows, serene valley bottoms, productive creeks and lakefront lands. These habitats are home to 29 provincially listed species at risk, such as bull trout, red-tailed chipmunk, western screech owl and a streamside orchid called giant helleborine. “Conserving Darkwoods is essential to the recovery of the South Selkirk caribou population,” says biologist Trevor Kinley. “It could also significantly affect the viability of the local grizzly population, and it will definitely influence the retention of natural biodiversity.”


Because of its great scale and topographical diversity, Darkwoods may offer sensitive plants and animals a chance to adapt in the face of global climate change. Species may be better able to move to different latitudes or elevations as temperatures fluctuate.

On June 30, 2008 The Trust for Public Land (TPL) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) announced an agreement to purchase approximately 313,500 acres of western Montana forestland from Plum Creek Timber Company.

Vital Ground executive director Gary Wolfe attended NCC’s September 6 dedication celebration in Nelson, BC. Gary and Jan Garnett, NCC regional vice president, signed the memorandum of understanding detailing the nature of the Vital Ground–NCC partnership.

The project includes Plum Creek properties scattered across five western Montana counties, and will protect critical wildlife habitat in many of the areas targeted by Vital Ground. While some of the acreages are in large blocks, others are interspersed with public and other private lands. Many of the properties are in valleys and low elevation areas vulnerable to development, and provide seasonal grizzly habitat and linkage areas.

“The support of Vital Ground is so important to us all and we look forward to future partnerships,” Garnett said. Vital Ground recently received a $10,000 contribution from the Wildlife Land Trust/Humane Society International-Canada to


(Continued on page 6)


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(CONSERVATION HISTORY from page 5) “The Legacy Project is private land conservation at a scale we have not seen before,” says Kat Imhoff, Montana state director for The Nature Conservancy. “It’s built on agreements struck at the kitchen table between landowners and land trusts for decades in Montana; vital agreements that continue to conserve water resources, habitat for wildlife, and working landscapes.” The property will The Vital Ground Foundation is a critbe acquired by TPL and TNC in three ical partner in helping communicate phases spanning the Legacy project to the local commuthe next two years. nities, and in working hand-in-hand Funding for the with The Nature Conservancy and The multi-million dollar purchase Trust for Public Land to find creative, could come from win-win conservation solutions for the several private and public and the grizzly bear. public sources, including the new —Eric Love Qualified ConserTPL Northern Rockies vation Forestry Program Director Bonds mechanism in the recently passed Farm Bill. Some parcels will eventually be conveyed to the Forest Service; others will ultimately be sold to the State of Montana, individual private conservation buyers, and land trusts.
























Detail Area







Recent Vital Ground Project Locations

For more information about the Montana Legacy Project go to:

Previous Projects 1 2 3 4




Eric Love, director of TPL’s Northern Rockies Program, stressed, “The Vital Ground Foundation is a critical partner in helping communicate the Legacy project to the local communities…and by working hand-in-hand with The Nature Conservancy and The Trust for Public Land to find creative, win-win conservation solutions for the public and the grizzly bear.”




“This groundbreaking agreement will greatly enhance Vital Ground’s on-the-ground efforts in grizzly country, particularly those in the Swan Valley where we have placed a great deal of emphasis over the last three years,” says Gary Wolfe, Vital Ground’s executive director. While Vital Ground is not a direct funding partner in the project, we will continue to work closely with both TNC and TPL and other stakeholders as the project unfolds.

Photo by John Lambing

The Montana Legacy Project will protect critical habitat in the Swan Valley and other areas of western Montana vital to grizzlies.


Bismark Meadows Darkwoods Bane Creek Schatz Ranch Wilderness Areas

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highest priority projects by the Idaho Forest Legacy Subcommittee, second only to a multi-year project that was partially funded in 2008 and will be completed soon.

Bane Creek Neighbors Team Up on Idaho Forest Legacy Proposal

Vital Ground and the Bane Creek landowners are now working with the Idaho Department of Lands to prepare a competitive application to the national Forest Legacy Program review panel to secure federal project funding in 2010.


ate in 2007, Vital Ground teamed up with three families to propose the organization’s second project to the U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Legacy Program. The Bane Creek Neighbors Project is a cooperative effort between three adjacent landowners to protect traditional forest uses and important wildlife habitat in a rapidly growing rural community in northern Idaho. The North Bench of Boundary County is a unique landscape of agricultural fields and timbered canyons that act as natural linkage zones for animals moving from the Purcell Mountains to the Kootenai River and west to the Selkirk Mountains. The scenic nature of this landscape and abundant wildlife has also made it one of the more desirable places for humans to live in northern Idaho. In 2006, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Wayne Kasworm reported the first documented movement of a radio-collared grizzly bear traveling from Canada into the Idaho Selkirks, where bears have been genetically isolated from their relatives to the north (see Fall 2006 Vital News). In spring 2007, this same bear was recorded 1.5 miles northwest of the Bane Creek Project boundary.

Photo by Greg Johnson

Together, the landowners hope to protect 720 acres of agricultural and timber lands through the Forest Legacy Program. The project achieved its first success when it was chosen as one of the State’s

The Bane Creek wildlife corridor provides a natural connection between the Selkirk and Cabinet-Yaak ecosystems for grizzlies and other wildlife.

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Visit, email, or phone the winery at (406) 549-8703 for more information.



Vital Ground Helps Prickly Pear Land Trust Protect Historic Ranch


s the expanding grizzly population in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem tests the southern boundaries of its range, Vital Ground works to ensure bears have room for their explorations. In September, we provided a grant to the Helena, Montana-based Prickly Pear Land Trust to help secure a conservation easement on a ranch that sits along a vital wildlife corridor near the Continental Divide west of Helena. Grizzlies and lynx have been documented in the area and more than 100 elk range across the ranch.

Photo courtesy of Prickly Pear Land Trust

Now protected forever, the Schatz Family Ranch is a crucial link in a vital wildlife corridor near the Continental Divide west of Helena, Montana.

Homesteaded in 1865, the 1,500-acre ranch has been owned and operated for five generations of the Schatz family. The property adjoins Forest Service and Montana state lands and remains undeveloped except for an historic cabin that once served as a stage stop. A spectacular landscape, rolling grass meadows give way to mountain slopes dominated by lodgepole pine, Douglas fir, spruce, subalpine fir, and quaking aspen. Fourteen natural springs bubble up on the property, and Dog Creek and Uncle George Creeks flow across the ranch as they run to the Little Blackfoot River.

operation since 1995 and is well known for its work to secure open space and trail connections in the hills surrounding Helena. “This is the only protected private property in this critical bottleneck that serves as a connection between the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem and lands to the south,” says Diane Boyd of Prickly Pear. “It’s a wonderful legacy for the Schatz family traditions as well as the wildlife.”

The Schatz family was determined to see that their land remain unspoiled forever. They worked with Prickly Pear to craft an easement that allows the family to continue ranching operations and maintain a long tradition of permitted, public walk-in access for hunting and fishing. The Prickly Pear Land Trust has been in

In addition to Vital Ground’s contribution, funding for the project came from the Montana Fish & Wildlife Conservation Trust, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the Charlotte Y. Martin Foundation, and the Cinnabar Foundation (which has also repeatedly supported Vital Ground’s conservation projects in Montana.)

Help Keep Grizzly Country

Forever wild

Memberships Monthly Giving Business Partnerships Planned Gifts Conservation Easements

Visit or call 406-549-8650 Photo by



FALL 2008

In Memoriam


Gayle M. Stevens, 1948–2008, of Salt Lake City, Utah, died suddenly in August. She was not only a close friend of Lynne and Doug Seus, but also a long-time supporter and friend of Vital Ground. Her family has created a memorial with Vital Ground, requesting that friends make donations in her memory. Lynne Seus shared this tribute: When I looked through all my photos of Gayle I couldn’t find one, not one, where she was not smiling, eyes sparking like flint on steel. In most of the pictures she is wearing a wonderful hat, in the rest she is in hiking boots and shorts. Being with Gayle was a shot of Irish whiskey. Sometimes she was the whole bottle.

Gayle was an extraordinary leader in the arts and education community of Utah. Among her many positions, she served on the Rowland Hall St. Marks Board of Trustees and was chair of the Sundance Institute Utah Board, the Family Support Center Board and the Summit Institute Board. At one of her sparkling dinner parties one would meet eminent community leaders, doctors, lawyers, school teachers, river runners and grubby old bear trainers from Heber, Utah. She could dance as an elegant queen at the Governor’s Ball one night and roll out her sleeping bag in the desert at our campfire at the next. Gayle saved me from quicksand and rattlesnakes. We danced and cried like babies at our children’s weddings. I stand among some very lucky people who can say she was my best friend.

A tonic of love, life and laughter. Over 10 years ago our Bart the Bear 1 was diagnosed with cancer and given only two months to live. It was then that Gayle came into our lives at the side of the love of her life, her husband Dr. Peter Stevens. How and why one of the world’s best pediatric orthopedic surgeons spent long days and hours away from his practice to operate on a 1,500pound grizzly bear remains a mystery of whatever gods there may be. Peter gave us an extra year and a half with our beloved giant.

With everything else her huge heart could hold, she loved grizzly bears and wildness. Her family—Peter, Colin, Caitlin and James—have chosen Vital Ground as a place for donations to her memory. Only vast wild places are big enough to hold her memory and the pieces of all the hearts that loved her so.

Of all the gifts Bart brought to our lives one of the greatest treasures was our friendship with Peter and Gayle Stevens, who became family.

Oh, Gayle.

Photo of Gayle Stevens courtesy of Caitlin Stevens Background photo by Derek Reich



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Arriving in Campbell River the evening before our flight into Knight Inlet, we met our group for dinner at the Campbell River Museum. There were folks from all over the U.S. and the world: some were board members or long time supporters but many were newbies like us. Everyone was excited to have the chance to spend a week away from phones, computers and the day-to-day demands of our regular lives while relaxing in a pristine environment.

2008 Wild Bear Adventure


he mountains rose up all around us as our floatplane dropped toward the dark water of the fjord below. The water churned white as we touched down and began our journey in the coastal wilds of British Columbia—a completely new world to us, with the company of an interesting and excited group of people.

Days at Knight Inlet Lodge took on a certain routine, primarily scheduled around exploration and dining. While the weather in British Columbia can be variable, the food provided by the chefs was consistently great and abundant. There was nothing better than coming back from a kayaking trip or rainforest hike to the warmth of the dining room and the aroma of wonderful food, including our new favorite BC treat: Nanaimo bars!

Our wild bear adventure had actually begun two months earlier during a trip to Florida. While killing time we flicked on Animal Planet and stumbled across a documentary called Growing Up Grizzly with Jennifer Aniston. The program discussed the work of Vital Ground to protect and expand grizzly bear habitat. Our interest was piqued and we looked up the website to learn more, and discovered the annual trip to Knight Inlet Lodge in BC’s Glendale Cove: a wonderful opportunity to spend time in close proximity of these great bears. A phone call later and we secured the last remaining spaces on the trip.


The bears were what brought us together and it was awe-inspiring to see them on a daily basis in their natural habitat and learn of their routines and lifestyle. The pleasant surprise was the people: the guests, staff and guides. Conversations flowed. One minute we


FALL 2008

was: a large black bear, clearly visible from the dinner table. In a hushed rush we made our way toward the back deck, grabbing cameras along the way. We spent who knows how long watching the bear dining on mussels and leaves as our own dinners sat ignored on the table. It was a trade we happily made.

were discussing Hollywood movie production and the next how to photograph penguins in the Antarctic. The diversity of thought, experience and opinions was perhaps the most enjoyable part of the trip. But it always came back to the bears. There were two incidents that stand out. The first was during a kayaking expedition in the estuary. As we paddled upstream through the sedge-lined banks we saw an adolescent female grizzly making her way toward the water ahead of us. Tearing mouthfuls of sedge as she worked her way to the bank, she paused and then began to swim across the waterway directly in front of us. We rafted the kayaks together and quietly watched her emerge on the other side, take a mouthful of grass and continue feeding as she wandered along. Then we remembered to breathe again.

Our adventure opened our eyes to new ways of looking at wildlife—from the majestic grizzly bear to bald eagles stealing fish from an osprey—and the power we have as individuals to protect their way of life. —John and Ciara Kennedy John owns a boutique consulting firm and Ciara works for a biotech company; they live in San Diego, California. They love new experiences and adventures, especially those they can share with their two-year-old German Shepherd, Digger.

Another magic moment occurred one evening as we gathered for dinner, when someone called out to say that there was a black bear on the bank behind the lodge. We swiveled around and there it

Join Us on Our 8th Annual Wild Bear Adventure Each year Vital Ground and Knight Inlet Lodge team up to host the Wild Bear Adventure, a unique opportunity to view bears and marine life in British Columbia’s coastal wilderness. Join us on our next adventure, May 9th through 15th, 2009, for an unforgettable experience! Limited to 30 participants, the trip books up quickly. You can make reservations by calling Vital Ground at 406-549-8650. For more information, please visit www

Wild Bear Adventure photos courtesy of Linda and Ernie Anderson, Tom and Joan Calder, Sally Cruikshank, John and Ciara Kennedy, Robert Koons, Cheryl Lafferty, Gary and Rita Wolfe.



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Photo by Andy Beerman


hea Leonard and Andy Beerman put their love of the planet at the center of their lives and their business. Husband and wife owners of Park City, Utah’s Treasure Mountain Inn, Thea and Andy are not only passionate about the outdoors, they have transformed their condominium hotel into an earth-friendly haven. Park City, once a silver mining town that nearly faded into the sagebrush, is now a bustling destination ski area and one of Utah’s premier outdoor recreation playgrounds. For those coming to schuss the slopes, hike aspen-clad mountainsides, or explore the town’s shops, galleries and restaurants, Treasure Mountain Inn offers 4-diamond rooms and gourmet catering with a live-lightly-on-the-planet twist. Visitors will find earth-friendly amenities in the rooms and organic foods on the menu. But Thea and Andy also gently urge their guests to think a little differently about their visit to this mountain village. The Inn’s location in the heart of downtown means just about everything is within walking distance or a short ride on public transportation, so they encourage guests to leave the car behind and instead use their

leg power, breathe hard and fill lungs with clean pine-scented air.

Thea’s exquisite catering, and giving us a home away from home.

Yet most of the Inn’s sustainable practices are not in plain sight. “Recycling was our gateway into green efforts,” says Andy, “and we became the first hotel in town to do business recycling.” They then made a switch to electronic and web-based reservations, receipts and advertising, saving reams of paper. While updating the 1960s-era building, they upgraded the Inn’s appliances and its heating and cooling systems to energy- and water-efficient equipment, replaced the swimming pool with a salinity–based spa, and switched to fluorescent and compact fluorescent lights throughout the building. They also transformed the Inn’s landscaping to native, water-wise plants.

“We want to do things in an ethical and green way and run a successful business,” says Thea. “We had a powerful urge that wasn’t going to go away.” As they’ve become successful integrating green habits into the hotel business, they’ve started getting curious inquiries from other businesses. “Now Park City calls us the ‘eco-chic boutique’ hotel!” Yet their commitment runs to the core. “We would be doing this anyway, even if under the radar,” says Thea. That dedication is summed up in a Kenyan proverb on the Treasure Mountain Inn website: Treat the Earth well. It was not given to you by your parents. It was loaned to you by your children.

With these changes, they were able to reduce their energy use by 12.5%—despite a 30% increase in business last year. They now purchase 35% of the hotel’s power as wind energy through the local utility, and offset the remainder through carbon offset donations, becoming one of the first hotels to be 100% carbon neutral in energy use. “We try to look at all our business decisions in terms of their impact to the planet, our staff and community,” says Thea, “And because Park City is our product—clean air, trees and fresh snow—it makes business sense to preserve the area around us.” They also pay the earth first. Treasure Mountain Inn gives at least 1% and often more off the top of their gross sales to a few selected environmental groups, including Vital Ground, and their contributions are certified through 1% for the Planet. “We focus on fewer groups for more impact,” explains Andy. “We concentrate our dollars with those groups who are working their butts off to actually protect land. Vital Ground was a no-brainer to support.” In addition to dollar donations, Treasure Mountain Inn has generously hosted Vital Ground board and strategic planning meetings—donating rooms and



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TREASURE MOUNTAIN INN If you have a chance to visit Park City, consider a stay with our friends at Treasure Mountain Inn. You can make reservations at or 1-800-344-2460. And say hello from Bart!

NEWS AND NOTES Walking Vital Ground


his year’s Walk on Vital Ground (July 31–August 3) brought twentyfive supporters, donors, staff and board members together from across the country to explore Montana’s spectacular Swan Valley. Our tour began with a visit to the 44,000acre Blackfoot–Clearwater Wildlife Management Area and in-the-field presentations from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) staff about grizzly bear use throughout the range. In addition to the several grizzlies that frequent the landscape, approximately 1,000 elk, 1,000 mule deer and 1,000 whitetail deer winter on the grasslands and low elevation mountains of the WMA. A bumpy ride across this beautiful territory and down several steep switchbacks found us at Salmon Lake and Montana Island Lodge. Accessible only by boat, the sprawling lodge was constructed on a small island in the middle of the half-mile long natural lake. We enjoyed outstanding views, solitude, camaraderie, and great food during our two night stay. Our first night, Dr. Chris Servheen, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Grizzly Bear Coordinator, brought the group up to speed on current recovery efforts and a message of the threats rural development is posing to grizzlies and other wildlife.

Photo by Kiffin Hope

With a view of the Blackfoot Valley, Walk on Vital Ground participants discuss bear conservation with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks biologists.

The next day, our guests had the opportunity to put boots on the ground of four Vital Ground projects in the Swan Valley, including a stop for lunch at Bud Moore’s Coyote Forest. Ninety-one-year-old Bud signed our first-ever conservation easement agreement in 2005 to protect his 80-acre property in perpetuity and has been a great supporter and ally in Swan Valley and beyond. The legendary author of The Lochsa Story spoke to our group for well over an hour, sharing his personal vision of conserving the land and protecting wildlife, while sustaining a living off of forest products—something critical to maintaining rural mountain valley economies in the northern Rockies. Bud’s property is a regular travel route for grizzlies, and he

has posted a “Grizzly Crossing” sign on a tree along his dirt driveway. As Bud explained, “Me and the bears get along just fine. We like each other!” Editor’s note: A four-part compilation of Bud Moore’s conversation with this year’s Walk on Vital Ground participants can be viewed on our YouTube Channel at: Our next Walk on Vital Ground is in the planning stages. We will visit northern Idaho July 30–August 1, 2009. For more information, contact us at 406-549-8650 or, or visit our website at

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Purchase directly from Montana Coffee Traders by calling 1-800-345-5282 or visiting TF REC RO online at DI


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Vital Ground is a proud member of Montana Shares, a federation of Montana-based nonprofit organizations working to promote our state’s human, cultural and natural resources. Learn more at

Larry Aumiller Receives Honorary Doctorate for Grizzly Work

Western Governor’s Association Launches Wildlife Corridors Initiative

This past May, Vital Ground Advisory Board Member Larry Aumiller received an honorary doctorate from University of Alaska Fairbanks for his lifelong work with grizzly bears in Alaska.

Recognizing the importance of wildlife habitat to the fabric of the West, the Western Governor’s Association (WGA) recently created the Wildlife Habitat Council to implement recommendations on protecting wildlife migration corridors and crucial habitat. The WGA serves 19 western states and 3 U.S. Pacific Islands to promote solutions to shared problems and issues.

Larry managed the McNeil River State Game Sanctuary in southwestern Alaska for 30 years. In his years at the sanctuary, home to the world’s largest concentration of wild brown bears, Larry developed a world-renowned bear and wildlife-viewing program that increased safety for both visitors and bears, and allows visitors a unique experience with bear behavior in the wild. His knowledge of bear behavior is highly regarded by bear biologists, in spite of the fact that Larry has no formal training in biology. He was honored for his contributions to bear conservation with the Alaska Conservation Foundation Olaus Murie Award in 1999 and the Wildlife Society Special Recognition Service Award in 2006.

Photo courtesy of Larry Aumiller

Larry Aumiller, Vital Ground Advisory Board Member.

Larry was one of four people conferred honorary degrees at UAF’s 86th commencement ceremony this year. Others include Alaska mystery writer John Straley, Native art expert Bill Holm and Alaska aviator and businessman Richard Wien. Vital Ground extends our heartfelt congratulations to Larry for this special and well-earned recognition of his invaluable work for the Great Bear and his legacy at McNeil River Sanctuary.

The Governors recently adopted the policy recommendations detailed in two scientific reports submitted by working groups to the WGA: the “Oil & Gas Report” and the “Wildlife Corridors Initiative Report.” These reports and more information on the initiative can be accessed at www.westgov. org.

Great Gear Good for Griz Shop REI online through our special link at, and REI will donate a whopping 7% of your purchase cost to Vital Ground—at no extra charge to you! Complete your holiday shopping in a few clicks and help save habitat for grizzlies! To trigger the donation, you must access the REI website through the REI link on Vital Ground’s website. Simply go to www. and click on the REI link.

YouTube Milestone In September 2008 the short documentary The Legacy of Bart the Bear had its 100,000th viewing on Vital Ground’s channel. This video is a tribute to Vital Ground’s founders Doug and Lynne Seus and the organization’s original animal ambassador, Bart the Bear 1. Enjoy this and many other videos at com/forthegrizzly.

Background photo by Jamie Scarrow


In February 2007, the Western Governors unanimously approved resolution (07-01) “Protecting Wildlife Migration Corridors and Crucial Wildlife Habitat in the West.” The WGA then launched the Wildlife Corridors Initiative, a multi-state and collaborative effort to improve knowledge of and management for migration corridors and crucial habitat. The Initiative objectives are to promote best practices for development, reduce harmful impacts on wildlife, and integrate migratory and crucial habitat into planning decisions.


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Carolyn Dobbs Joins Board of Trustees Vital Ground welcomes Dr. Carolyn E. Dobbs as a new member of our Board of Trustees. Carolyn brings extensive experience in policy at local, state, and federal levels of government and expertise on large-scale habitat connections. She has also served on a number of boards and commissions focused on land use and natural resources. For 36 years, Carolyn devoted her career to teaching and administration at The Evergreen College in Olympia, Washington, where she is now Faculty Emerita. She holds a B.A. in History and Political Science from the University of Memphis, an M.A. in Political Science from the University of Kentucky, and a Masters and Ph.D. in Urban Planning from the University of Washington. Carolyn’s professional research focused on protected areas, especially in the United

States, Great Britain and Ecuador, with particular attention to large-scale connectivity between critical habitats for grizzlies and wolverines. “I have followed Vital Ground’s work for several years through my research and teaching focus on protected areas, and because of my interest in and support of conservation land trusts,” says Carolyn. “I particularly value Vital Ground’s work because it helps protect the grizzly, a species that is especially important for maintaining healthy ecosystems at a large scale.” At present, Carolyn is a gubernatorial appointee to Washington State’s Forest Practices Board, which adopts rules for state and private forest lands. She also has a long history of working with nonprofit organizations. She currently serves as president of the Timberland Regional Library Foundation, which supports the mission of a fivecounty public library system, and secretary of the board of directors for Washington’s National Park Fund, the private fundraising organization for Mt. Rainier, Olympic, and North Cascades National Parks.


Photo by Russell Fox

Carolyn Dobbs, new Vital Ground Trustee, examines claw marks on a “bear tree” during the 2008 Walk on Vital Ground.

Carolyn spends as much time as possible in the mountains hiking and snowshoeing and observing bears. One of her most unforgettable moments occurred in Ecuador, where she observed an Andean spectacled bear on the flank of the volcano Cayambe. Carolyn lives in Olympia with her husband Russell Fox.

RECEIVE INCOME FOR LIFE and Protect Wild Places with a Charitable Gift Annuity Benefits Include: • Guaranteed income for life. • Income tax savings and reduced capital gains. • Helping Vital Ground protect essential habitat. We can provide a proposal showing income benefits and tax savings. Minimums: age 65, gift $10,000 (cash or long term appreciated stock).

Vital Ground founders Doug and Lynne Seus with Bart the Bear

SINGLE LIFE ANNUITY RATES Age Payout Rate % 65 5.7 70 6.1 75 6.7 80 7.6 85 8.9 90+ 10.5

Mail or email us the following information:

JOINT LIFE ANNUITY RATES Age Payout Rate % 65/65-68 5.4 70-70 5.6 75/75-76 6.0 80/80-81 6.6 85-85 7.4 90-90 8.7

Please send me a Charitable Gift Annuity proposal. Name: _______________________________________________________________________________ Gift Amount: __________________________________________________________________________ Address: ______________________________________________________________________________ City:__________________________________ State: ____________ Zip:__________________________

Rates effective July 1, 2008-June 30, 2009.

Telephone: ____________________________________________________________________________


The Vital Ground Foundation Bldg. T-2, Fort Missoula Road, Missoula, MT 59804 406-549-8650 email:

Email: ________________________________________________________________________________ Birth Date: ____________________________________________________________________________ Spouse’s Birth Date: ____________________________________________________________________



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IGBC Celebrates 25 Years The Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC) celebrated a quarter century of grizzly bear recovery on June 21, 2008, with a public ceremony at the Blackfoot– Clearwater Wildlife Management Area in western Montana. Formed in 1983, the IGBC brings together state and federal agencies from the U.S. and Canada to coordinate policy, management, research and planning for grizzly recovery. When the grizzly was listed under the Endangered Species Act as threatened in 1975, biologists estimated that only 600 to 800 grizzlies hung on in the lower 48. Today, that number has nearly doubled, and the Yellowstone population has been delisted. This turnaround has been in large part due to the oversight and teamwork of the IGBC, whose members have been able to transcend political boundaries for the benefit of the Great Bear.

Turn Your Clunker Into Grizzly Habitat

Biennial Report Available Vital Ground enjoyed its most successful biennium so far in 2006–2007, both in terms of the generous donations we received and in the acres of wildlife habitat we were able to protect. Our 2006–2007 Biennial Report is now available. The report details Vital Ground’s vision, conservation projects and achievements as well as the organization’s finances. If you would like to read about our successes, please contact us for a copy at or 406-549-8650. You can also access an electronic PDF version on our website at

Vital Ground is now one of the charitable organizations participating in the Charity Motors Car Donation Program. Supporters can now donate a car they no longer want/ need, receive a tax deduction, and designate Vital Ground to receive the proceeds from the sale of their car. For more information, visit If you are interested in participating in this program, please call Charity Motors at 888-908-CARS and designate Vital Ground as your charity. Thank you!

Grizzly License Plates Available! It’s official—Vital Ground license plates are now available and, boy, do they look great! Folks with vehicles registered in the state of Montana can purchase the plates at their local county treasurer’s office. Out-of-state supporters can order collector plates directly from our online Bear Mart. Montana artist Monte Dolack donated the artwork for the plate. He explains, “The grizzly bear on the plate is a detail from a painting I completed several years ago to celebrate the Great Bear and its connection to the land. It portrays a big, beautiful grizzly striding over the land that is so vital for its existence and serves as an important symbol of a healthy and wild ecosystem.” We are extremely grateful to Monte for the use of this fantastic image. To obtain Vital Ground plates for your Montana-

registered vehicle, simply take your old plates and a copy of your vehicle’s registration to your local county treasurer’s office. The first-time cost of the plates is $35. This price includes a $15 registration fee plus a $20 donation to Vital Ground. Yearly renewal fee is only $20, all of which will go to Vital Ground! If you’re not in Montana, collector plates are available for just $30 plus shipping. Order from our online store ( or call us at 406-549-8650. You can also see more



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of Monte Dolack’s nature-inspired art at his website,, or visit his gallery the next time you’re in Missoula. Thanks, Monte!

Monte Dolack, artist

of habitat conservation. The Challenge’s long-term goal is to raise $1 million in annual pledges, which will place Vital Ground in a strategic position to respond quickly and immediately to critical habitat conservation opportunities.

Join Us for Our 2008 Bart Memorial Campaign!


his year marks our Ninth Annual Bart the Bear Memorial Campaign—Vital Ground’s year-end fundraising drive. Each year, we ask individuals to consider donating either through the Bart Memorial Appeal, our annual giving drive, or the Bart Challenge, our five-year pledge program. This campaign helps us raise essential capital for Vital Ground’s operations and projects, and launches us on a new year of land and habitat conservation. The Bart Memorial Appeal gives individuals the opportunity to make a donation at any level in memory of Bart, Vital Ground’s first ambassador grizzly. A 1,500-pound Kodiak brown bear, Bart wowed movie audiences around the world, and was a beloved member of Doug and Lynne Seus’s family for twenty-three

Photo by Jon Freeman

years. His most important role was as ambassador to Vital Ground, serving as “spokesbear” for the plight of his wild cousins whose survival hinges on protection of critical habitat. Bart’s spirit continues to inspire all those who knew him, and now Bart the Bear 2, Honey-Bump and Tank carry on in Bart’s giant footsteps. Donors who choose to meet the Bart Challenge by making a five-year pledge to Vital Ground, at levels beginning at $1,000 per year, become members of the Bart Legacy Society and help provide continuing capital support for Vital Ground’s mission

We hope that in honor of Bart and his legacy of conserving critical habitat, all of our supporters will respond as generously as possible to the 2008 Bart Memorial Campaign.

Join the Campaign! Look for the Bart Memorial Campaign letter in your mailbox. You can donate in any amount or meet the Bart Challenge by making a five-year pledge. You can also donate online at

Photo by Derek Reich



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to overturn hunting protections on bears around McNeil River in Alaska. The sitting governor at the time had appointed a few people to the Alaska game board, which had set the new law in motion. McNeil contains a pristine population of bears that have been conditioned to being around humans through summer viewing. Now, these same bears were going to be hunted? Amazing.

Photo by Michael Hawkes

Appeal from a Member Dear Friends, What inspired your passion for the Great Bear? For me, it was a Michigan guitar player and a song challenging people to go to the northwest United States and experience the grizzly in its natural setting. I took up that challenge and over the past twelve years, from Yellowstone to Glacier, from Kodiak Island to Katmai, I’ve seen up close and personal what the song and legendary Fred Bear were talking about. I stumbled upon the Vital Ground organization while fighting a new law designed

After viewing the Vital Ground website and reading about the projects the organization was behind, I eagerly became a member. It’s personally rewarding to know that there is an organization that is working hard to keep our wild places truly wild. Vital Ground is preserving habitat to ensure that the grizzly bear will always have a natural place to call home. You and I can help introduce others to this rewarding mission and help Vital Ground meet the 2008 “Strength of Connections” Matching Gift Challenge. It’s easy and won’t take more than a minute of your time. Just email the link to three friends you think would appreciate our passion. Encourage them to explore the site and help make a difference. Include info@ in your email and every new inquiry will be sent an information

packet on Vital Ground’s mission and conservation projects. If you and your friends make a donation to Vital Ground before December 31, your gift will be matched dollar for dollar up to $75,000. Four foundations have come together to offer this challenge, which could generate $150,000 for grizzly habitat conservation! From Yellowstone to Yukon there’s a network of dedicated people who appreciate the great natural resource that we’ve been given, the grizzly bear. Helping the grizzly flourish is such a worthy cause that great partners like REI are contributing a portion of their revenues to the cause. Me, I’m just a ‘hockey guy.’ I’ll officiate about 200 hockey games this season. When the season ends, I’ll take off my skates, lace up my boots, go explore places that you can only get to by bush plane, boats or boots. I wish for all of you, at some point, to have an opportunity to see a bear’s signature in the sand: it will change your life. I hope you’ll send this message to three of your friends. Please do it now. Thanks! —David Stewart Brighton, Michigan

Photo by



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BROWN BEAR’S WORLD - REVEALING GENES the same tree. So the team attached small strips of barbed wire to snag hair on known rub trees along trails, roads and powerlines. The scientists also constructed hair snag stations placed in an extensive grid across the study area. They brewed an irresistible scent lure of cattle blood and liquid from decomposed fish and sprinkled this lovely perfume on piles of wood debris to bring bears into sites enclosed with a strand of barbed wire. The bears would snag hair as they crossed the wire to investigate and roll in the lure.

grizzly stands on her hind legs, rubbing her back against a Douglas fir tree, getting a really good scratch from shoulders to rump on the rough bark. After several minutes, she drops to all fours and saunters off, unaware that she left behind a scientific treasure: tufts of hair snagged on a strip of barbed wire tacked to the tree. She has just contributed to the largest DNA study ever undertaken on a wild animal population.


During 14 weeks in 2004, field crews and volunteers trudged mountain trails and sloshed across rushing creeks to set up and monitor 4,795 bear rubs and 2,558 hair trap sites. Combined, the crews used 80 miles of barbed wire and 2,200 gallons of scent lure, hiked more than 18,000 miles and collected 34,000 bear hair samples. Then the tough work began: it took nearly three years to complete the laboratory and statistical analysis.

Photo courtesy of USGS

In the last decade, new tools A good scratch and a DNA sample. in genetics research have (Camera was triggered by motion sensors. Wildlife should never be transformed wildlife studies, approached.) making it possible for biologists to tackle urgent questions about the status of wild creatures. The Northern Continental Divide Grizzly Bear Project, spearheaded by biologist Kate Kendall of the U.S. Geological Survey, used genetics to answer a simple but slippery question: how many grizzlies call the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE) home? The NCDE poses a considerable challenge for counting bears. Riding astride the “Crown of the Continent,” the region encompasses Glacier National Park and the Bob Marshall, Great Bear, Scapegoat, Mission Mountain and Rattlesnake Wilderness Areas, as well as surrounding national forests and intermingled private lands. Heavily forested, incredibly mountainous and rugged, it is difficult to see bears by aerial survey or to trap and radio-collar enough bears in the region’s remote reaches for an accurate population estimate. Historically, bear managers tried to use sightings of females with cubs to estimate population size, but sighting rates were too low in the dense forest cover. Enter genetics. If DNA could be gathered from enough bears across the ecosystem in a single season, it could reveal not only the size of the population, but the bears’ distribution and genetic health. With a solid number for a starting point, managers can then monitor a sample of collared bears to determine if the population is increasing, decreasing or stable—information critical to grizzly management and recovery. Kendall gathered a team of more than 200 researchers and crew members, and partnered with 12 federal, state and tribal agencies as well as landowners and universities to tackle the population question. And she persuaded grizzlies to give a little hair to the cause. To collect hair samples non-invasively, the team used two types of hair snares distributed across the ecosystem—a study area the size of Maryland and Delaware combined. Bears naturally use rub trees for a good scratch and for scent-marking—often many bears will visit


The result? DNA analysis revealed 545 unique grizzlies left their hair on the barbed wire snags. Those, combined with 18 other known bears that did not appear in the hair sample, totaled a minimum count of 563 grizzlies in the study area. Statistical analysis came up with a final estimate of 765 grizzlies residing in the NCDE in 2004—2.5 times more grizzlies than the estimate for 2004 based only on sightings of females with cubs. The study also found that grizzlies are well-distributed throughout the ecosystem, but their density is highest in the north and lower to the south. Glacier National Park, which covers only 13% of the entire study area, sustains 46% of the individuals identified by hair snagging. Bears were also found well outside the original 5.7 million-acre recovery zone that was defined in 1993, and occupy at least 8.3 million acres. Grizzlies now occupy range outside the wild core of protected public lands, and inhabit landscapes that are a mix of private and public lands—including areas to the south in the Swan, Seeley and Blackfoot Valleys, east beyond the Front Range, and west toward Eureka. Yet it’s not all roses. The study also revealed increasing fragmentation in the NCDE population: Highway 2, which bisects the region, is beginning to impact gene flow. On the eastern end of the highway corridor where the landscape remains relatively wild, there is little barrier to bears moving north and south. But to the west, where development is much denser, analysis showed early signs of genetic isolation between bears north and south of the highway. Every answer in science begs more questions. Now with the baseline population estimate in hand, monitoring is underway to determine the population’s mortality rate and trend. Biologists are also examining all the existing DNA and telemetry data for the Northern Rockies to determine the degree of isolation between grizzly ecosystems. In dollars or human effort, the NCDE study wasn’t cheap, but the knowledge gained is priceless. All of that grizzly fur has given biologists insights they could never have gained in any other way. Now it’s up to us to use that knowledge to ensure a healthy future for the great bear. Learn more about the study at htm. As a bonus, you can view video clips of bears and other wildlife captured by the study’s remote cameras: —Christine Paige


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f a countryside can still support grizzlies, it will be good and whole and rich and wild and free enough to support all the other creatures struggling to hold on to a place in this world. —Douglas H. Chadwick Photo by Derek Reich

The Vital Ground Foundation’s mission is to protect and restore North America’s grizzly bear populations by conserving wildlife habitat for future generations. In support of this mission, we: • Protect lands that grizzlies need to survive, not only for bears but for all other species that share their world; • Work where human impacts encroach on some of the wildest places left on the continent; • Target projects that sustain habitat connections, conserve critical lands, and reduce conflicts between bears and people; • Ground our projects on current science and strong partnerships.

Please join us! As a 501(c)(3) charitable nonprofit, our success depends on you!

CONTACT US Vital Ground Bldg. T-2, Fort Missoula Road Missoula, MT 59804 (406) 549-8650 Fax: (406) 549-8787 Has your email or mailing address changed? Please let us know! Printed with soy inks on recycled and recyclable paper © The Vital Ground Foundation




Vital News-Fall 2008  

Vital News is the official publication of The Vital Ground Foundation and is published biannually in the spring and fall. The publication co...