BOZEMAN – Millions of visitors who camp and picnic in national forests in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem can sleep more soundly this summer.

A new partnership between the Greater Yellowstone Coalition and the U.S. Forest Service will upgrade Forest Service campgrounds across the region with bear-management related features. Over the next three years the GYC and USFS will install bear-safe food storage containers and informative kiosks at 164 campgrounds as funding and resources allow.

“The conservation of grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone has the potential to be a remarkable success story, a shining example of how people and wildlife can exist together in harmony,” said Caroline Byrd, Executive Director of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition.

Officials estimate more than 700 adult grizzly bears roam the 20 million acres of the Greater Yellowstone. Surrounding Yellowstone National Park, the ecosystem includes the Gallatin-Custer, Beaverhead-Deerlodge, Shoshone, Caribou-Targhee, and Bridger-Teton national forests. There are 164 USFS-developed campgrounds on those forests, each with numerous campsites.

“A simple fact of grizzly conservation is that ‘a fed bear is a dead bear,’” said Garth Smelser, Forest Supervisor of the Caribou-Targhee National Forest. “We know from our experiences in the Greater Yellowstone area these kinds of campground improvements have positive consequences for grizzlies and the public.”

Wildlife learning that campgrounds are a source of food can result in wildlife mortality and a serious safety concern for people, according to Chris Colligan, GYC’s Wildlife Program Coordinator.

“From chipmunks to grizzly bears, everyone is better off when wildlife focus on their natural food sources,” Colligan said. “These campground upgrades make camping easier, while informing visitors who may not know the importance of proper food storage.”

The effort is projected to cost $900,000 to meet the needs of the 164 campgrounds. The Greater Yellowstone Coalition has raised $250,000 for the project from its donors, and these resources are combined with matching grants and federal funding from the USFS.

The GYC/USFS containers are manufactured in Cody, Wyo., and tested by the captive bears at West Yellowstone’s Grizzly Discovery Center.

Forest Service crews are in the process of installing the bins over the course of the next few months at campgrounds throughout the five national forests in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho.

“We all enjoy hiking, sightseeing and camping in Yellowstone as well as the surrounding national forests,” said U.S. Senator from Montana Jon Tester. “These investments in bear-safe bins will protect people and support the recovery of grizzly bears throughout the Greater Yellowstone.”