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A recently completed conservation easement and bargain sale will protect an important piece of property adjacent to a grizzly bear linkage zone near Condon as well as help leverage federal funds for more conservation work in the Swan Valley.

The Vital Ground Foundation and Bud Moore recently completed the transaction that will place Moore's 80-acre parcel under a conservation easement that will permanently limit development, while allowing traditional forest practices specifically designed to complement the area's wildlife habitat.

Since the easement serves both to permanently protect wildlife habitat and the property's availability for sustainable timber harvest, Vital Ground and Moore were able to complete an agreement with the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks to use the value of the easement to leverage additional funding from the Forest Service's Forest Legacy Program.

"Thanks to the cooperation of Mr. Moore and Vital Ground, Montana will leverage the value of their easement to provide about $600,000 in federal funds that we will use to conserve other important forestlands in the Swan Valley," said Steve Knapp, FWP habitat bureau chief. "This project will add another 180 acres to a program that has helped conserve wildlife habitat and working forests on nearly 155,000 acres in Montana in the last five years."

Over the past few years, Knapp said, FWP has been working with Plum Creek Timber Co. to preserve some of the company's lands in the Swan Valley area.

Part of that work includes putting a conservation easement on 7,200 acres of Plum Creek land that will ensure the land is never subdivided, while allowing the company to log following some specific guidelines to protect grizzly bear corridors and wetlands.

That deal is slated to close later this month, he said.

The state also wants to buy 180 acres from the company. The funds from Vital Ground and Moore's deal will help in that purchase, said Knapp.

"People in the Swan have been very supportive so far," he said. "They don't want to take land out of the timber base, but also want to protect wildlife and their hunting and fishing opportunities," he said.

Moore has been managing his "Coyote Forest" using experience gained from more than 55 years working as a professional forester with the Forest Service in a manner that provides both for sustainable timber harvest and complements the needs for wildlife. He mills the wood products he harvests in a portable mill on his property.

Moore said he donated the easement in part to "help sustain linked patterns of diverse forests - working forests that provide jobs for people, clean water, quiet lakes, habitat for a variety of wildlife large and small, habitats for the recovery of endangered species, and for the other values that brought us here and are bringing many others to the valley."

The project received additional funding support from the Wildlife Land Trust, the Cinnabar Foundation, Montana Coffee Traders and from many individual Vital Ground members from throughout the United States.

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It was the first easement to be negotiated and held by Vital Ground.

Vital Ground relocated from Utah to Missoula in 2005. It is shifting from its historic role as a grant-making partner to a full-service land trust initiating and leading complex conservation projects.

Vital Ground also owns and manages several small conservation properties in northern Idaho and one along Montana's Rocky Mountain Front.

"Vital Ground is excited to partner with Bud Moore and the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks to help protect this important wildlife habitat in the Swan Valley," said Gary Wolfe, Vital Ground's executive director. "The project is consistent with our philosophy of targeting small, but vital, parcels of wildlife habitat and working with landowners to develop creative conservation strategies to protect habitat and minimize potential conflicts between bears and humans, while still allowing the landowners to utilize their land in many traditional ways."

It's vital

More information on Vital Ground can be found at http://www.vitalground.org

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