NFPA is excited to announce that we are the recipient of a Vital Ground Partner Grant for our Polebridge Bear Smart program. These funds will help us expand our seasonal employee training, aid in our efforts to help short term rentals owners educate their guests about living and recreating safely in bear country and initiate a rapid response program in connection with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks to help property owners discourage bears from becoming habituated. We are honored and delighted to be partnering with Vital Ground in this effort.
They are proposing to acquire two properties totaling about 23 acres using Land and Water Conservation Funds (LWCF). The parcels are along the section of the Polebridge Loop Road between the Polebridge Mercantile and the entrance to Glacier National Park. The acquisition would connect adjacent public lands managed by the Flathead National Forest along the designated Wild and Scenic corridor of the North Fork Flathead River.
The owners of both properties are willing sellers who wish to protect their lands from further development. (There are rumors that one potential buyer wanted to build an RV park.)
Also note that he Pacific Northwest Trail runs along the Polebridge Loop Road after the trail emerges from Glacier Park. Hikers sharing the road with motorized traffic, especially during tourist season, is less than ideal. Acquiring the Glacier Gateway parcels makes it easier for the Forest Service to achieve its eventual goal of a separate trail parallel to the road.
Here’s the deal: Vital Ground and the Forest Service are hoping to get individuals and organizations to send in letters of support for this proposal *by the end of the month.*
Want to read more? Here are the project documents:
NOTE: Even though the sample letter is addressed to Leanne Marten, the USFS Regional Forester, please send letters of support (by email preferably) to Mitch Doherty at the Vital Ground Foundation so that he can scan them and include them with the application submission. Here is Mitch’s contact information:
Conservation Program Manager
Vital Ground Foundation
20 Fort Missoula Rd 59804-7202
From a press release announcing the recent “Polebridge Palace” sale . . .
A property that helped turn Montana’s North Fork Flathead River into a conservation stronghold is changing hands but remaining wild, as The Vital Ground Foundation has teamed up with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and new landowners on a conservation easement protecting 142 acres of forestland and wildlife habitat known as Polebridge Palace.
On the pine-strewn benches above the North Fork Flathead, the area will remain a haven for grizzly bears, Canada lynx, and other sensitive wildlife, as well as a part of the protected Glacier National Park viewshed that annually attracts millions of domestic and international tourists. Meanwhile, TNC can ensure an undeveloped future for a place that once hosted the group’s early momentum-building events in the valley.
“We’re very excited,” said Greg Lambert, transactions manager for TNC’s Montana chapter. “We decided a few years ago that the best option for TNC was not to own it, but as a conservation organization, we wanted the property protected in perpetuity and would never have sold it without an easement in place.”
The agreement includes TNC selling the acreage to new private buyers while donating a conservation easement to Vital Ground, a nonprofit land trust based in Missoula that works to connect and protect key habitat for grizzly bears and other wildlife. The easement stipulates that the new landowners will not develop the forested property beyond its current house and small outbuildings, keeping the bulk of the property preserved as habitat that will help reduce bear-human conflicts in the area.
The registration deadline for the North Fork landowner’s community potluck has been extended to June 21 . . .
Tim Manley received some well-deserved recognition recently . . .
State grizzly bear management specialist Tim Manley has been selected as the first recipient of the Bud Moore Conservation Award.
Co-sponsored by Northwest Connections, the Swan Ecosystem Center and the Vital Ground Foundation, the award recognizes individuals who have gone out of their way to work with rural residents in the conservation of natural resources.
In presenting the award, Vital Grounds executive director Gary Wolfe said Manley was selected for his leadership, holistic thinking, wildlife conservation vision and spirit of cooperation — all traits embodied by the late Bud Moore, an iconic forester and outdoorsman.
The Vital Ground Foundation has secured a 160-acre conservation easement in the North Fork Valley, just a little ways north of Columbia Falls.
Here’s the lead-in from the official press release . . .
The Vital Ground Foundation announced today that it has secured a 160-acre conservation easement in the North Fork Flathead Valley of northwestern Montana, roughly five air miles southwest of Glacier National Park. The property is located between the Whitefish Range to the west and the Livingston Range to the east. A conservation easement is a perpetual agreement between a landowner and a land trust that limits future development of the land in order to protect its conservation values.
Focused on protecting habitat specific to the needs of the threatened grizzly bear, the Cedar Creek Conservation Easement is Vital Ground’s first project in this corner of the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE). As development pressures from the growing community of Columbia Falls push into more remote and wild areas like the protected property, the easement will ensure the permanent protection of the property’s wildlife, riparian and open space values.