The High Divide Priority Area stretches west from the western border of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem approximately 120 miles (195 kilometers) to central Idaho. Numerous mountains, valleys, and rivers can be found here, including the Madison and Jefferson Rivers, Lemhi Range, Tobacco Root Mountains, and Madison and Centennial Valleys. The Centennial Valley floor is one of the region’s largest wetlands complexes, and serves as a flyway for numerous avian species. The valley is also home to a variety of other wildlife, including antelope, elk, mule deer, sage grouse, wolverine, and a rare species of pygmy rabbits.
Y2Y and our partners are hoping this priority area will connect wildlife populations between the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and Central Idaho, which hold some of the best unoccupied grizzly bear habitat in the Lower 48. We are currently analyzing historical research and DNA studies which show that grizzly bears may never have used this path to travel to Central Idaho; rather, they have moved north by northwest out of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Research by agencies and organizations throughout the area is currently underway to develop a better sense of past and present wildlife movement in the area. This research will allow us to develop strategies for reaching our goal of connecting these populations of grizzly bears.
Along with its wildlife populations, the High Divide area has a fascinating cultural history. Farmers, ranchers, outfitters, and Native Americans all call this territory home. These stewards of the land have been connected to the landscape for generations, and hold important ecological knowledge. However, an abundance of new residents is moving into the area, leading to a number of issues of concern, including higher road density, an increase in human-wildlife interactions, and loss of habitat.