Open space in Flathead County, Montana, has been steadily decreasing for years, and a recently approved growth policy emphasizes development and the economic benefits that follow rather than farmland preservation.
"During the 1990s, Flathead County's population grew by about 25 percent."
"During the 1990s, Flathead County's farmland shrunk by about 25 percent."
"On Monday, Flathead County's commissioners signed off on a growth policy four years in the making, a document they hope will provide the broad foundation upon which to build tomorrow's land-use rules."
"Farms provide open space, said County Commissioner Joe Brenneman. They provide clean water and wildlife habitat and big vistas. They provide tax revenue, basic income and the roots for a bigger, newer economy."
"The new growth policy has little detail regarding what landowners can do with their land. About one-third of the private property in Flathead County is not zoned in any way, and the new policy does nothing to change that. Instead, it allows landowners to sell it, or to put an agricultural easement on it or subdivide it or develop it or keep right on farming it."