Projects - Conserving Grizzly Bears in Contested LandscapesConserving Grizzly Bears in Contested Landscapes

Research Associate: Seth Wilson

Project overview: Seth Wilson uses community conservation to reduce wildlife-human conflict in Montana. 

Backstory: 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. This presents a serious challenge 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.

NRCC Research Associate Seth Wilson’s work with the Blackfoot Challenge in Montana has focused on minimizing conflict and mortality risks to grizzly bears on private agricultural lands. The Blackfoot Challenge has existed since the 1970s as a way to coordinate efforts of community members to conserve the Blackfoot Watershed. Since the early 2000s, the Blackfoot Challenge has worked to prevent conflicts between landowners and wildlife. Landowners and wildlife managers work together to find solutions for local issues and they recognize the need to build partnerships that are based on trust and credibility to create long term solutions. 

Dr. Wilson has worked extensively to enhance ecological connectivity for grizzly bears in the Blackfoot Watershed, a region that provides important linkage potential to other ecosystems like Yellowstone. He is particularly interested in keeping grizzly bears alive when they spend time on private agricultural lands throughout Western Montana. One way to protect grizzly bears is to prevent conflicts between humans and bears through community-based conservation. 

Dr. Wilson and his colleagues 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. Putting science into practice through partnership approaches is an essential part of his work. Specific examples of their work include: installing electric fences and mats, carcass pickup from ranches and the Range Riders, who monitor carnivore activity in proximity to livestock during the summer months. The Blackfoot Challenge also works to provide education and outreach information about living with wildlife, especially about bear safety. 

Current Status: Dr. Wilson currently serves as the Executive Director of the Blackfoot Challenge and continues to work toward creating community conservation and reducing wildlife-human conflicts. You can learn more about the Blackfoot Challenge and its work at

Project Partners: Blackfoot Challenge

Project start year: 2001

Location: Blackfoot Watershed, Montana