The Salmon-Selway-Bitterroot Ecosystem (SSB) includes one of the largest continuous roadless areas in the lower 48 States. The Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness (~1.3 million ac / 527,000 ha) and the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness (~2.4 million ac / 930,776 ha) protect much of its landscape. This large core area is inhabited by bighorn sheep, mountain goats, elk, moose, mule deer, white-tailed deer, cougars, wolves, black bears, lynx, coyote and red fox.
Value to Yellowstone to Yukon Vision
This rich protected landscape provides a safe refuge for wildlife and is a future home for grizzly bears. The SSB was once part of grizzly bears’ historic range. Enabling their return is key to reconnecting Yellowstone’s isolated grizzly bear population to bears in the rest of the continent.
Although deemed one of the few remaining areas in the lower 48 States with suitable habitat for grizzly bears, bears have not resided in the region for several decades. They were eliminated by the 1940s, primarily due to relentless hunting pressure. The return of grizzly bears, and the long-term health of all wildlife here, will depend on connections to the Greater Yellowstone and Crown of the Continent ecosystems through the High Divide, and to the Central Canadian Rocky Mountains through the Cabinet-Purcell Mountain Corridor.
Y2Y Goals and Gains
Goal: Y2Y is working with several partner groups to improve the connections between the Greater Yellowstone, the Crown of the Continent, the Cabinet-Purcell Mountain Corridor, and especially the High Divide priority areas to ensure wildlife can move between these regions. The ultimate goal is to have grizzly bear populations re-inhabiting the SSB within the next 20 years.
Gains: Compelling evidence suggests that the gap between northern and southern grizzly bear populations is closing. Northern bears moving out of the Crown of the Continent are within 50 miles (80 km) of the Salmon-Selway-Bitterroot Ecosystem.
What We Are Working On Now
High Divide – Y2Y is currently working with local partners to improve wildlife movement in this region and reconnect the High Divide with the Salmon-Selway-Bitterroot.
Cabinet-Purcell Mountain Corridor – Y2Y and some 60 partner are undertaking dozens of on-the-ground projects to restore key habitat in this priority area. These projects also improve wildlife movement throughout the continent.