How 52 acres makes a difference for grizzlies - Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative

How 52 acres makes a difference for grizzlies

Ninemile in Montana
Ninemile in western Montana. (Jodi Hilty)

Protecting habitat for grizzlies and other Montana wildlife

Picture rural Montana. Maybe you see small towns, big mountains, and lots of open space for wildlife to roam. But for grizzly bears and other wide-ranging species, the picture becomes a little more complex. Because of increased development and roads, there aren’t many viable wildlife corridors through the sea of humanity.

But now, thanks to your support, and together with Missoula-based Vital Ground Foundation, we’re making things a little easier for roaming grizzly bears. Here’s more on that story and how safeguarding two crucial habitat connections in Montana earlier this winter is helping the bears as they bounce back.

Ninemile, Western Montana

In December 2018, Y2Y and Vital Ground purchased 52 acres of land in the beautiful Ninemile-Clark Fork area 20 miles (32 kilometers) west of Missoula.

These 52 acres may sound small, but they’re a big deal because they form a vital habitat link for grizzly bears and other wildlife.

Here, we’re protecting a wildlife corridor across the Clark Fork River that keeps a vital piece of land undeveloped and enables wildlife to go under the four-lane I-90 freeway open span bridge. This essentially means we’re connecting the Ninemile and Bitterroot mountain ranges.

The reason this protection is a big deal is it could help return threatened grizzly bears back to their historic range in the Bitterroots. Bear specialists believe this will contribute to reconnecting fragmented grizzly populations between the Yellowstone area and the Canadian border.

Wild River Estates, Northwest Montana

In October 2018, with Vital Ground we purchased five lots of land near the confluence of northwestern Montana’s Kootenai and Yaak rivers.

These purchases bring the Wild River project total to 42.5 conserved acres of prime habitat for the movement of wildlife between the Cabinet and Purcell mountains.

Wildlife biologists have long pinpointed the Wild River area as a crucial habitat connection. Confluence areas like these represent natural bottlenecks for wildlife — meaning they’re especially important in conservation planning.

But this isn’t just about grizzly bears and other mammals. Part of the project includes restoring riverbank and adjacent wetlands along the Kootenai River — improving habitat for the endangered white sturgeon and threatened bull trout.

Just the beginning

Together with landowners and partners like Vital Ground, we plan to protect even more identified top-priority linkage areas — ranging in size from 200 to 5,000 acres — in Idaho and Montana over the next decades.

With your help we can make this happen and together we can make a crucial difference.