For the week of February 17, 1999  thru February 23, 1999  

Dollars for open space

Lovers of open space may soon have an opportunity to put their money where their mouths are.

House Bill No. 145 would allow counties to issue bonds that would be used to purchase open space or scenic easements. Such bond issues would have to be approved by a two-thirds majority vote.

On Monday, the House Revenue and Taxation Committee voted to send the bill to the floor. The bill is being co-sponsored by Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, and Jim Kempton, R-Albion, a property rights advocate.

The bill could produce a cease-fire in the war over the future of the remaining farms and ranches in southern Blaine County.

Buying scenic easements or buying farms or ranches outright could end the cries of economic pain emanating from landowners who can’t make a living in agriculture, but don’t want to subdivide. Public purchases could provide farm and ranch families with an inheritance that is rightfully theirs—without forcing them to subdivide to get it.

The easements could preserve the county’s open vistas for appreciative city dwellers. They could protect Blaine County from the ugliness and indignity of urban sprawl.

The easements could, however, drive up property values all over the county. They would also force the issue of higher densities inside city limits.

The Legislature should approve the bill and allow counties to try to preserve open space. There may be unforeseen consequences, but turning property over to the bulldozers is a lot easier than reclaiming it after it’s gone.


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