As of December 2010, Vital Ground has executed two purchase options on private linkage lands in northwestern Montana, one near the Yaak River/Kootenai River confluence (Yaak Mountain Project) and another near the Bull River/Clark Fork River confluence (Rice Draw Project). In 2011 Vital Ground and its partners will place great effort in fundraising in order to close on this phase of the Initiative by year-end. We expect to close on the Yaak River/Kootenai River project in August. A closing date of December 15 has been set for the Bull River/Clark Fork River project.
Yaak Mountain Property:
Contractually, we only have until August of this year to secure the first property, a 70-acre parcel located at the base of Yaak Mountain near the town of Troy, Montana. Paralleling the Kootenai River and U.S. Highway 2, the Yaak Mountain property is only lightly developed and, if secured by Vital Ground, will be permanently protected, providing a safe link for grizzlies roaming over Yaak Mountain into other National Forest lands across the highway and river.
The total project cost is $440,000, and we have already secured nearly $290,000 in cash gifts, grants, and pledges, bringing us near two-thirds of our fundraising goal. Our deadline for purchasing the property is August 2011.
Rice Draw Property:
The second property is located near the southern boundary of our Cabinet-Purcell working region near the town of Noxon, Montana. Vital Ground has until December 2011 to exercise the purchase option on this 187-acre parcel.
The Noxon area has become a place of increasing grizzly bear mortalities - four during the past nine years, which is a grave concern for wildlife managers as there are already so few bears in the region. Because of unprecedented development, grizzlies and many species of wildlife are having difficulty safely crossing this crucial movement area.
Acquisition of the Rice Draw property by Vital Ground will ensure that it is never developed for homes or businesses. Under our ownership, the property will be managed for the benefit of wildlife and will continue to contribute to the north-south connection between the Cabinet-Yaak Grizzly Bear Recovery Zone and the Bitterroot Ecosystem.
The Rice Draw project budget is $1.15 million and represents one of the organization's greatest fundraising challenges in our twenty-year history.