Open space bonds paid off big for Gallatin County
10/7/2017 Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Guest Column by Penelope Pierce, GVLT Executive Director
Dear Gallatin County taxpayer,
In both 2000 and 2004 you made a substantial investment. You knew you lived in a beautiful place and that things were changing. Thankfully, a group of thoughtful citizens held community conversations about the future of the valley and researched tools that could be used to protect open land, and you agreed to pursue private land conservation through conservation easements, voting “yes” to two $10 million bonds to help limit development and subdivision in important and special places in our valley. You put your money where your hearts were and you took a risk.
And with that risk you hoped for a return on your investment. Now, the final Gallatin County Open Lands Bond (GCOLB) dollars have been allocated and we’re proud to report that your original investments have leveraged incredible results and success over the past 17 years. Here are the highlights:
Great bang for your buck. Dollars from the GCOLB were matched with private landowner donations and federal dollars at a rate of 5 to 1. Your local dollars were leveraged to access matching federal funds, which could have ended up somewhere else, in another state, protecting someone else’s landscape.
Together we kept large blocks of open land, open. Using voluntary conservation easements with generous, willing landowners, the GCOLB conserved over 50,000 acres. That means we’ve kept over 78 square miles of land from future subdivision and development using private property rights and a non-regulatory, voluntary tool.
We stayed grounded in our agricultural roots. Much of the beautiful open land that surrounds Bozeman is owned by multi-generational farming families who have been working and stewarding these lands long before many of us arrived. The GCOLB has provided a tool for farming and ranching families to keep their land in production, and therefore open and scenic, in the face of rising development pressure. In the Churchill area, 8,000 acres of prime farmland have been conserved, ensuring that farming remains an economically viable industry in our area.