Ecological Monitoring

Conservation that integrates active resource management requires site specific current information. NwCs ecological monitoring projects involve local people in collecting and providing this knowledge.

Canada lynx

Canada lynx (Lynx canadenisis)


Bear Tracks Grizzly bear monitoring

The Swan Valley is fortunate to have a cooperative agreement between federal agencies and private timber companies to maintain and restore habitat linkages for the grizzly bear.

Using track surveys, remote camera sets, hair traps and other non-intrusive methods, NwC documents the continued use of this ecosystem by the grizzly.

Northern Divide Grizzly Bear Project

Northwest Connections was a partner in this effort to census grizzly bears across the entire Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE).  The NCDE ecosystem includes Glacier National Park, the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex, the Mission Mountains Wilderness and all of the surrounding lands along the Rocky Mountain Front, and in the Blackfoot, Swan, Mission and Flathead Valleys.  

Northwest Connections was in charge of collecting data across the Mission/Swan Subunit.  The main field season for this project was the summer of 2004.  An emphasis was placed on hiring qualified local residents. 



Carnivore snow track surveys: lynx, fisher, marten, and wolverine

Carnivores can be good indicators of the integrity of the food web because they consume and therefore are dependent upon prey species, which in turn are dependent upon the health of our forests, rivers and grasslands.Lynx and Martin Tracks

NwC surveys track transects throughout our ecosystem; the surveys are designed to monitor the presence, distribution and relative abundance of rare carnivores including lynx, fisher, pine marten, wolverine and wolf. We also document the movement and habitat selection of our more common carnivores: coyote, bobcat, weasel, otter, mink and mountain lion.

Using protocol established by Zielinski and Kucera, our team of field ecologists uses the optimum tracking conditions of winter to monitor furbearers.





Road/trail monitoring

The number one cause of habitat fragmentation is the vast network of human transportation routes. Roads and trails crisscross the countryside and in many cases compromise security for wildlife.

NwC, in conjunction with the Forest Service, monitors open and closed roads and trails, addresses erosion problems, weed infestations, and use by both human and animals.

Road Washout Most of the work is accomplished within the context of a national pilot program in stewardship contracting through the US Forest Service and Pinchot Institute. During the summer, NwC organizes several volunteer and adopt-a-trail programs offering you the opportunity to explore the rugged Swan Range and assist with important conservation work.






High elevation whitebark pine inventory and restoration Whitebark Pine

As a keystone species, the whitebark pine tree provides food for bears, squirrels and birds, provides soil stability on steep mountain slopes and helps regulate snow melt. These trees are quickly disappearing due to the cumulative effects of white pine blister rust, mountain pine beetle and the lack of fire in the high mountains.

NwC maps the remaining stands to assist with developing a restoration strategy for this species and the processes which depend upon it.

NwC, in conjunction with the Flathead National Forest, also plants whitebark pine seedlings to aid in habitat restoration.



Amphibian monitoring in Swan Valley wetlands

Amphibian populations worldwide have declined over the past decade or two, several to the point of extinction. Western toads appear to be disappearing in western Montana, heightening the need to identify and protect breeding sites.

Through its high school volunteer program, the Wildlands Volunteer Corps, NwC has surveyed more than 90 wetlands in the Swan Valley over the past 5 years for western toads. During surveys, the WVC documented the first known instance of deformities in spotted frogs in the Valley. The work of NwC continues to provide land managers with valuable baseline information about the distribution and abundance of amphibians and reptiles in the valley.

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