Supporters of conservation lands and open space in the Bitterroot Valley are hoping voters will agree to renew a program that's helped preserve tens of millions of dollars of lands over the past decade.

And they say its' critical, especially as the valley faces another wave of growth.

Dennis Bragg photo
Dennis Bragg photo

When Ravalli County voters approved the first $10-million bond for the Open Lands Program in 2006, the Bitterroot Valley was a hotbed of development. Now, a decade later, and with another wave of development underway, conservationists are hoping to renew the program with voter approval.

Alan Maki, Chair of Yes to Ravalli County Open Lands, says the Bitterroot is a much different place than it might have been without that first bond.

Open Lands Program has preserved an estimated $40-million of Bitterroot Valley lands

"It's worked so well. But it's really gotten people to think different on on what they what they think the future will even be," Maki observes. "There was a time before this that. It was just assumed that everything would be fragmented and gone, and and this has proven otherwise."

Maki notes the funds have helped not only preserve farm land, but helped with establishment of two parks along the Bitterroot River and keeping wildlife habitat.

"It's really protected everything from big game habitat to working farms and ranches, which also of course have lots of wildlife habitat, especially when you look at the lower elevation component of it. Most of our public grounds are up in the mountains and they get a lot of snow in the winter, and there's a lot of there's a lot of wildlife that needs to be somewhere with with less snow in the winter and and that's where a lot of the private lands come in."

If voters approve the plan, which costs less than $21 per year, it would renew the $10-million fund. And that's money that's been leveraged three times over, protecting an estimated $40-million of land in the first phase.

"We're just trying to continue the program as it's been without that little bit of incentive there," Maki explains. "Everything would be a lot slower and and there would certainly only be a fraction of the work that gets done."

There are more details on the Yes to Ravalli Open Lands website

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