Conserving Grizzly Bears in Contested Landscapes
My research focuses on minimizing conflict and mortality risks to grizzly bears on private agricultural lands. I am currently working on a research and conservation project designed to enhance ecological connectivity for grizzly bears in the Blackfoot Watershed in Montana, a region that provides important linkage potential that may foster re-colonization of grizzlies to other ecosystems like Yellowstone.
The long-term survival of grizzly bears is largely governed by human tolerance. Grizzly bears depend on large, intact habitats that are often in both public and private ownership. I am particularly interested in keeping grizzly bears alive when they spend time on private agricultural lands throughout Western Montana. This is a challenging task considering that these landscapes are often intensively used for resource production and private landowners have varying degrees of tolerance for large carnivores like grizzlies. This inherent tension necessitates creative approaches to conserving grizzly bears on private lands.
The essential components that guide this work are:
- Context Matters. The political, ecological, and cultural conditions of the region I work in must be well understood in order to develop long-term solutions to contextually-based problems.
- Community, Partnerships, and Place. Meaningful collaboration among community members, scientists, and managers should proceed in a spirit of mutually beneficial partnerships that result in tangible conservation gains.
- Proactive and Preventive. This work is meant to preemptively address human-grizzly bear conflicts by identifying and securing human-based attractants before grizzly bears encounter them. Preventative and non-lethal techniques can include electric fencing to protect livestock and beehives, bear proofing garbage, and securing household attractants.
- Move Conservation Science to Practice. I rely on tested tools and methods from conservation biology, landscape ecology, and sociology to guide analysis and decision making. However, science for science's sake does not conserve grizzly bears. Moving science to practice through partnership approaches is a guiding rule of thumb for our work.