Wednesday, December 7, 2005

Before it's too late

Guest opinion by Scott Boettger

Scott Boettger is executive director of Wood River Land Trust.

We are fortunate to live in a vibrant, beautiful community made up of distinct towns with clean water, clean air, and rich histories, close to abundant public lands with numerous recreational opportunities. Many of us have taken these benefits for granted, but unprecedented growth now threatens to change our valley forever. Blaine County's 2025 project provides an excellent opportunity for citizens to speak up about the community values we'd like to maintain and carry into the future. Now is the time to make difficult decisions about what we care about and what we're willing to do to protect those things. Me? I care about air and water quality, supporting family farms, having enough water to support our communities and rivers while preserving our natural areas and wildlife habitat. And I am willing to work to guarantee these traditional values exist come 2025.

The Wood River Valley should be a place where community values and compassion for the wild creatures are not overshadowed by development interests. No one wants to live in a valley with a dewatered river because local ordinances allow for wells to be drilled and development to occur beyond the sustainable levels of our natural environment. The phrase "growth is inevitable" should not become an excuse for accepting any and all development. We need to make the efforts and sacrifices that are required to balance growth with ordinances that protect clean air, water, and natural areas.

New growth should fit into our landscapes, not destroy them. We should not have to give up what we love. Septic systems should not be allowed to pollute our drinking water, and building should not be allowed to intrude into the floodplain. Density increases should be offset by protection of natural areas, healthy waters, and wildlife habitat. The impacts of more and more people can be answered by "bigger and better" engineering--we can build bigger roads to accommodate more traffic--but is that what we want for our valley? What has more value to you? What would you write to friends about--a larger sewage plant or wildlife near the river?

We, as citizens, do have a voice. We must demand that our tax dollars are used to write, implement, and enforce incentive-based regulations that protect our historic buildings, traditional farmlands, quiet tree-lined streets, riversides and wildlife. We do not have to accept regulations that are simply easy to enact or enforce but do not protect the things we care about. We must demand regulations that protect the things that make us love living in this valley.  We can encourage intelligent growth while creating incentives for landowners to protect those areas that give our communities character. We are responsible for demanding better, and we have that right. Our communities and our children deserve these efforts.

If you would like to learn more about what you can do to protect and preserve natural areas and healthy waters throughout our valley even as it grows at record pace, contact Wood River Land Trust at 788-3947 or Now is the time to make your voice heard!

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