Montana Public Radio

Project Aims To Prevent Grizzly Conflicts Along Rocky Mountain Front

Jun 26, 2018

A new conservation project intended to prevent grizzly bear conflicts along the Rocky Mountain Front is getting private funding to help it move forward.

The M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust announced Tuesday that it recently awarded $50,000 to the Vital Ground Foundation to support its Glen Willow conservation easement north of Choteau.

Missoula-based Vital Ground works to protect grizzly bear and other wildlife habitat in the northern Rocky Mountains. 

Mitch Doherty is the Conservation Manager with Vital Ground. 

"Often times these types of projects limit the opportunities for future development, therefore kind of limiting the opportunity for additional conflicts," Doherty says.

Glen Willow is a 640 acre ranch three miles north of Choteau. The parcel is partially forested and includes irrigated ag land along with 100 acres of wetlands.

Doherty says part of the property is a corridor that grizzly bears use to travel from the mountains to the Teton River drainage.

Glen Willow conservation easement area.
Credit Vital Ground

Grizzlies have begun venturing back into their historic territory on the eastern plains there for the first time in generations. 

Vital Ground has been working on the $400,000 project in partnership with the Natural Resource Conservation Service and the Murdock Foundation for the past 2 years.

Doherty hopes that work of this kind will help spread new thinking for land use management.

"We hope that there is interest from land owners out there to look at these as a tool to not only reduce the opportunity for conflicts on their property, but also protect that rural character in those ag communities."

Doherty says the Glen Willow project should be completed by the end of the year.

In 2017, Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks reported a record number of grizzly bear conflicts and deaths on the Rocky Mountain Front.