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Know the West

Bears saved from the 'burbs


Grizzly bears often wander through Montana's Swan River Valley, as is shown in this satellite map tracking 10 grizzlies' movements from 2000 to 2004. The bruins, increasingly threatened by development, are expected to benefit from "The Montana Legacy Project" -- billed as the biggest private land-conservation deal ever put together. The Nature Conservancy and the Trust for Public Land are leading the effort to save 320,000 acres of open land in western Montana -- 35,500 located in the valley -- by buying it from Plum Creek Timber Co. Eventually, the U.S. Forest Service will get 90,000 acres, and the rest will become state or private conservation-oriented parcels. The total price: $510 million. The federal government promises to provide about half the money by selling Qualified Forest Conservation Bonds authorized by the new Farm Bill. The groups hope to raise the rest from the state government, private donors, and from selling some parcels to "conservation buyers." Logging will continue on some of the land, supposedly more lightly than before, and the risk of subdivisions will be greatly reduced.