By Rebekah Jacobson

Saving vital ground is about preserving the ground we walk in and the place we call earth.

“For without nature and animals, humanity will indeed become spiritually bankrupt.” – Sausha Seus

Bart came into Doug and Lynne Seus’ lives as a six-pound cub and grew into what would be the inspiration for Vital Ground, a non-profit land conservancy organization that works to protect the future for grizzly bears by preserving their natural habitats.

Animal trainers by trade, the Seuses began what would become a great Hollywood story and iconic relationship with Bart the Bear, as he became famously known. Featured in more than 35 films, including such well-known movies as Legends of the Fall, An Unfinished Life and The Bear (for which he received a Special Achievement Award by the Academy of Motion Pictures), Bart’s giant presence sparked more than the lives he touched on film and in person.

In 1990, inspired by their special relationship with Bart, and wanting to give back to animals, the Seuses bought their first land purchase in Montana, a parcel of 240 acres. Since that time, Vital Ground’s considerable efforts have mounted to nearly 600,000 acres of protected private and public land.

With specific focus in the northern states of Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana (and contributions in Alaska and British Columbia), Vital Ground’s objective is to connect bear habitat regions for broader roaming. Restoring the grizzly population through working with private landowners and partnering with organizations for conservation easements, which protect the land from future development, Vital Ground aims to rebalance the grizzly bear’s once-native lifestyle.

Having once thrived—with a population estimated between 50,000 to 100,000—grizzly bears roamed across North America from Alaska to Mexico. Today, grizzlies populate approximately 1,600 in the North American region. Due to modern development and human interference, the grizzly’s resources and habitats have become increasingly threatened and their natural way of life compromised.
What’s important to know is that bears are an “umbrella species,” a key component to a balanced ecosystem, by which their various activities such as uprooting topsoil and spreading seed support animal and plant communities. Bears play a functional role to the lower food chain and surrounding ecosystems benefit from their core activities.

Protecting landscapes for grizzly populations serves a purpose greater than its whole. Overdevelopment and destruction of natural resources has removed humanity from the natural forces that govern the planet; without thriving ecosystems mankind loses touch with wildlife and the greater respect for nature’s cycle.

Saving vital ground is about more than saving one species—it’s preserving the ground we walk on and the place we call earth. Vital Ground’s work promotes the heritage of the earth and assures the great grizzly’s legacy for future generations. Plants, animals, landscapes and ecosystems remind us, that, no matter how great or small, every living thing contributes to and broadens life as we know it.

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