Great Bear Wilderness at Brookfield Zoo

Conservation Partners

To further the conservation efforts on behalf of the iconic creatures of Great Bear Wilderness, Chicago Zoological Society (CZS) has partnered with four top-notch organizations: Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y), American Prairie Foundation, Polar Bears International, and The Vital Ground Foundation. Like CZS, each of these organizations has a mission of conserving and protecting wildlife and wild habitats.

>>Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y)
The Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y) is a growing network of several hundred organizations in the United States and Canada working together to preserve and maintain wildlife, native plants, and wilderness from Yellowstone National Park to the Yukon Territory. Officially established in 1997, Y2Y has two offices – one in Canmore, Alberta and another in Bozeman, Montana.

Y2Y is committed to ensuring that animals have safe passage throughout the Yellowstone to Yukon, unobstructed by human development. Thanks to their efforts, animals are increasingly able to safely travel between pockets of protected land – such as national parks – in order to search for food and genetically diverse mates.

Y2Y promotes the safe and healthy coexistence of people and animals in the Y to Y region. For example, Y2Y recently worked with the British Columbia Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI) to install wildlife crossing signs along a four-mile stretch of Highway 3. This particular highway cuts through Kootenay Pass, which is a critical winter range for mountain caribou. With the combined efforts of Y2Y and MoTi, both human and caribou fatalities were reduced through the installation of just a handful of safety signs.

>>American Prairie Foundation (APF)
Officially established in 2001, the mission of American Prairie Foundation is to create and manage a prairie-based wildlife reserve in northeastern Montana. APF also strives to improve public access to their reserve as well as increase overall enjoyment and appreciation of prairie landscapes. With offices in Bozeman, Malta, and Missoula, Montana, APF promotes natural and open spaces where both plants and animals thrive.

APF values the contributions that bison make to native prairie habitats and is committed to working with their science partner World Wildlife Fund to reintroduce this iconic North American creature to the Great Plains landscape. APF has assembled 121,000 acres of deeded and leased land – American Prairie Reserve – south of Malta, Montana. This reserve has one of the few bison herds believed to be non-hybridized with cattle.

Bison graze in mosaic patterns – eating only specific grasses and leaving regular patches of vegetation behind for other wildlife. Because of the way they graze, bison help to create rich and diverse habitats, promoting healthy and diverse prairie ecosystems.

>>The Vital Ground Foundation
Also based out of Montana, the Vital Ground Foundation
protects and restores North America’s grizzly bear populations through the protection and restoration of core habitats and landscape linkages. Founded in 1990, Vital Ground believes the grizzly bear, an umbrella species, is nature’s barometer of a healthy and complete ecosystem, and that conserving grizzly bears and their habitat is key to ensuring diverse and healthy ecosystems.

The creation of Vital Ground was inspired by a single bear. Organization founders Doug and Lynne Seus adopted and trained a Kodiak brown bear named Bart who went on to appear in many famous feature films – The Great Outdoors, Legends of the Fall, The Bear, and The Edge. Bart helped to educate the Seuses about the habitat needs of bears, resulting in Vital Ground’s first conservation project – the purchase of 240 acres of prime grizzly bear habitat next to the Pine Butte Swamp Preserve in Montana’s Rocky Mountains.

Bart passed away in May of 2000, but his legacy lives on. Since its founding, Vital Ground has helped to conserve or enhance more than 600,000 acres of crucial habitat for grizzlies and other wildlife in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Alaska and British Columbia.

>>Polar Bears International (PBI)
Taking a slightly different approach to conservation, Polar Bears International is dedicated to saving the symbol of climate change through environmental research and public education. Founded in 1992 by wildlife photographer Dan Guravich and based out of California, PBI provides information and resources to individuals as well as entire organizations.

PBI established a growing network of Arctic Ambassador Centers in partnership with the Zoological Society of San Diego. To date, there are almost 30 centers with 10 more scheduled to open soon. These centers offer educational programs, focus on animal-well being issues, and support research that helps polar bears in the wild. Brookfield Zoo is one of the zoos participating in the ambassador centers.

With the help of these amazing partners and the animal ambassadors of Great Bear Wilderness, the Chicago Zoological Society is making a difference. Please visit our partners’ websites to learn a bit more about their amazing work.