Bart, the grizzly bear who starred in the movie "The Bear," may be responsible for preserving wildlife habitat in Montana for his fellow bears, too.
Animal trainers Doug and Lynne Seus of Heber City, who trained Bart, are founders of a new non-profit organization - Vital Ground. The group is dedicated to acquiring land for wildlife around Glacier and Yellowstone national parks.They're using show business personalities to call attention to their goals.
"Animals have given us such a good living," said Doug Seus, who also trained the wolves for the movie, "White Fang." "Everybody owes something back. There's a spirit to the country when there are bears and wolves in it."
Vital Ground wants to set aside wildlife habitat through purchase or lease, conservation easements or management agreements.
A year ago, the Seuses contributed about $60,000 to a private foundation to buy land.
A board of advisors, which includes film star Jeff Bridges and his wife, Susan, writer Doug Peacock, author of "Grizzly Years," and Montana magazine writer Doug Chadwick, met at the Pine Butte Preserve near Choteau last month to raise money to buy land.
Those in the entertainment industry have an "enormous potential" to attract attention to the need for preserving wildlife habitat, said Vital Ground spokesman Bob Kiesling of Helena.
"I'm really willing to get out and work for this one," Susan Bridges told the Bozeman Chronicle in a telephone interview from Los Angeles on Monday.
Susan and Jeff Bridges spend part of each year on the "postage-size" cattle ranch they own in Paradise Valley but are part of about 8 million other people in Los Angeles County the rest of the year.
"I realize the value of saving habitat, not only for animals, but for people," Susan Bridges said. "I'd like to leave my children an area where animals still roam free, where people can come and say, `This is what it was like before we ruined it."'
Vital Ground has leased, and plans to buy, 240 acres of private land within the Pine Butte Preserve. The group eventually plans to grant a conservation easement to the Nature Conservancy, which owns 13,000 acres of land on the preserve.