A 10-acre spot near the namesake bridge at Polebridge has turned into a wildlife corridor with the help of federal Land and Water Conservation Fund grants.
The Vital Ground Foundation and Flathead National Forest cooperated to acquire the private property about half a mile northwest of the Polebridge Merc on the road leading into Glacier National Park. While the private foundation arranged the purchase and grant funding, the Forest Service will take ownership of the land.
“We wanted to see it conserved and not developed,” Vital Ground Executive Director Ryan Lutey said. “It helps with the aesthetics and open space there. And it’s also right on the edge of the park where there was an RV park planned. That could have been a real attractive nuisance to bears.”
Missoula-based Vital Ground specializes in habitat conservation for grizzly bears and other threatened species. The “Glacier Gateway” project at Polebridge helps preserve a corridor for animals traveling between Glacier Park and the Whitefish Mountains to the west of the North Fork of the Flathead River. The vicinity around Polebridge has seen extensive development in recent years as the popularity of the national park’s northwest corner has grown.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund draws royalty payments from federal offshore oil and gas leases to pay for wildlife habitat, public park facilities and other community outdoor resources. Last August, it was provided with a permanent annual appropriation of $900 million for the first time in its 50-year existence.
“We are fortunate to have partnered with Vital Ground on this conservation acquisition in an area of such high ecological importance,” Forest Service Hungry Horse and Glacier View District Ranger Rob Davies said in a press release. “It is a privilege to be able to manage this land for wildlife benefit, Wild and Scenic River values, and public use for generations to come.”