Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Vital Ground Foundation to Celebrate 20 Years of Conservation in Northern Rockies

The Vital Ground Foundation, a Missoula, Montana-based land trust dedicated to protecting habitat for the threatened grizzly bear and other wildlife, will be celebrating its twentieth anniversary on September 11, 2010 at a special fundraiser in Park City, Utah.

The organization will be hosting the fundraiser at the Deer Valley Resort’s Snow Park Lodge. Starting at 5:00 pm, the event will feature dinner, an auction, musical entertainment, and a rare live performance by Bart the Bear 2, the 1,100 pound grizzly featured in the recent films Into the Wild and Did You Hear About the Morgans?

Tickets are $125 per person and can be reserved by calling 406-549-8650 or visiting Net proceeds will benefit Vital Ground’s conservation work in the Northern Rockies.

Founded in 1990 by internationally recognized animal trainers Doug and Lynne Seus of Heber City, Utah, Vital Ground has worked with a variety of individual, corporate, foundation, agency, and community-based partners and supporters. In its twenty-year history, the group has helped to protect nearly 600,000 acres of crucial wildlife habitat in grizzly country, stretching from the Yellowstone Ecosystem of Wyoming to southern British Columbia and Alaska.

The Seus husband and wife team raised and trained a zoo-born Kodiak grizzly they named Bart the Bear to appear in feature films, which included Legends of the Fall, The Edge, White Fang, and The Bear. Before his death in 2000, Bart had worked with some of the biggest names in Hollywood, from Brad Pitt to Sir Anthony Hopkins.

“Bart was our inspiration to start Vital Ground,” says Lynne Seus. “We couldn’t really make up to him the fact that he was born in captivity or that he spent his life in the human world. But starting Vital Ground was something that we could do for Bart’s wild brothers and sisters, and give him a legacy. The first thing we did two decades ago was to take our retirement savings and buy a ranch along Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front and then give it back to the wild ones.”

Vital Ground is unique among conservation organizations in North America. It is the only one focused exclusively on grizzly bear habitat that involves private lands. This not only protects acreage in key corridors and seasonal ranges, but also strengthens the habitat conservation efforts on public and other protected lands.

“With every acre of land Vital Ground protects for the grizzly, we are directly, immediately affecting the health of our planet,” states Doug Seus.

Grizzlies are known as a keystone species, a term that refers to the bear’s functional role within its ecosystem.

“When the land remains open and intact enough for the grizzly to use, all the other wild animals and native plants in the ecosystem benefit as well,” says founding board member and author Douglas Chadwick.

Over the last two centuries, grizzlies have been forced out of ninety-eight percent of their original range, much of which has been permanently lost to development. Today only about 1,500 grizzly bears survive in the lower 48 states in five distinct, separated populations. At the time of Lewis and Clark, 50,000 to 100,000 grizzlies roamed North America.

“We can’t turn back the clock and restore the pristine environment of centuries ago, but we can protect the key private lands essential to maintaining wildlife habitat connectivity and provide opportunities for the Great Bear to expand its range into suitable unoccupied habitat,” states Gary Wolfe, Vital Ground’s executive director. “This is our charge and our urgency,” he adds.

For more information about Vital Ground or the twentieth anniversary celebration, phone 406-549-8650 or visit Event sponsorship opportunities are available.

To arrange interviews with Doug and Lynne Seus, staff, or trustees, contact Kiffin Hope, Development Program Manager.


The Vital Ground Foundation is a tax-exempt, publicly supported charitable organization working to ensure the recovery and long-term survival of grizzly bears, together with the many native species that share their range, through the protection and restoration of core habitats and landscape linkages.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Vital Ground Launches Strength of Connections Campaign

Dear Friends of Vital Ground,

I am excited to announce a tremendous conservation opportunity and the launch of Vital Ground’s new Strength of Connections Campaign. This will be Vital Ground’s largest, most ambitious conservation fund raising effort since its founding in 1990. The $2 million campaign will run from now through our 20th anniversary year of 2010.

As we embark on this momentous challenge, I am pleased to report that we have already secured contributions or pledges of nearly $430,000, or close to 22% of our campaign goal. This includes a very generous pledge of support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

This provisional grant—up to $196,000 via the Northwest Wildlife Conservation Initiative—is specifically to help us secure additional grizzly bear habitat at one of Vital Ground’s premier project areas, Bismark Meadows, located in the Selkirk Mountains of northern Idaho. The grant requires a 5:1 match and must be met by October 2010.

Vital Ground has already acquired two critical parcels of grizzly bear spring habitat in Bismark Meadows. We have a third parcel under option agreement and a fourth is actively for sale. Your contribution today will help Vital Ground bring these two additional properties under conservation ownership, and allow us to continue working to protect other vitally important core habitat and linkages in Grizzly Country.

The online brochure located here describes how the Vital Ground’s Strength of Connections Campaign will address the issue of habitat fragmentation in the northern Rockies head-on by permanently protecting crucial habitat on private lands for the benefit of grizzly bears and other wildlife.

Please help us respond to this urgent conservation challenge and matching grant opportunity by making a secure online donation today. Thank you!

Yours in Conservation,

Gary J. Wolfe
Executive Director

P.S. With a contribution of $25 or higher, we’ll send you a free DVD copy of Vital Ground’s video The Strength of Connections. This compelling video details actions we must take to protect and restore the grizzly bear, and highlights Vital Ground’s critical habitat conservation work.