The Swan Valley Grizzly Bear Conservation Agreement: A Case History of Collaborative Landscape Management

Scientific Disciplines
Biological Sciences - Terrestrial
grizzly bear
grizzly bears
western montana
Flathead national forest
Plum creek timber company
Natural resources conservation
Land ownership
plum creek timber
bob marshall wilderness
lolo national forest
lewis and clark national forest
USDI Fish and Wildlife Service
swan valley
grizzly bear conservation
swan valley grizzly
usdi fish wildlife service
montana dept natural resources
swan valley grizzly bear
Volume 16, No. 4

The swan valley grizzly bear conservation agreement: a 
case history of collaborative landscape management

Lorin Hicks,* Plum Creek Timber Company, Columbia Falls, Montana 59912 
Ron Steiner, Plum Creek Timber Company, Columbia Falls, Montana 59912
Chris Servheen, USDI Fish and Wildlife Service, Missoula, Montana 59801
Ross Baty, Montana Dept. Natural Resources and Conservation, Missoula, Montana 59801
Jane Ingebretson, Flathead National Forest, Kalispell, Montana 59901
Rick Mace, Montana Dept. Fish Wildlife and Parks, Kalispell, Montana 59901
Anne Vandehey, USDI Fish and Wildlife Service, Helena, Montana 59601
The Swan Valley Grizzly Bear Conservation Agreement (SVGBCA) was initiated in 
1995 between the USDI Fish and Wildlife Service, Flathead National Forest, Plum Creek 
Timber Company and the Montana Dept. of Natural Resources and Conservation to address 
grizzly bear habitat management concerns on ~ 370,000 ac of intermingled ownership located 
between the Mission Mountain and Bob Marshall Wilderness areas in northwestern Montana. 
The general objective of the SVGBCA is to implement a multi-landowner management plan 
that would contribute to the conservation of grizzly bears (Ursus arctos horribilis) while 
still allowing cooperating landowners to realize the economic benefits of their lands. The 
specific biological goals are to maintain connectivity between the Bob Marshall and Mission 
Mountain wildernesses and minimize the risk of death or injury to grizzly bears using suitable 
habitat within the valley.  The general conservation approach is to designate linkage zones to 

facilitate bear movement between wilderness areas, rotate forestry activities in the landscape 
to minimize disturbance, limit open road densities, and implement habitat management 
guidelines at the landscape and site-specific levels.  Research and monitoring was initiated in 
2002 with the inclusion of MDFWP in telemetry studies of grizzly bears using the SVGBCA. 
Detail on SVGBCA implementation and effectiveness monitoring is presented. Key findings 
are that connectivity objectives are being met regarding both east-west connections between 
the wilderness areas and north-south movements between important habitats outside the Swan 
Valley. Bears stayed in the Swan Valley generally, with little altitudinal migration. Grizzlies 
used all ownerships in the valley and habitat use varied between nocturnal and diurnal activity 
periods.  High levels of mortality were documented in 2003 and 2004.  Landownership 
changes within the 15-year-old SVGBCA resulting from the Montana Legacy Conservation 
Land Sale are discussed.