Thursday, October 20, 2005
I was disappointed in the Pilot & Today's recent editorial about Referendum 1A, though it was very positive about the benefits of land conservation in Routt County. It seemed to imply that the county's funding program, now known as PDR, and that of the Yampa Valley Land Trust, a nonprofit land conservation organization, are two different programs accomplishing the same valuable goals. Routt County's PDR Program is actually a source of funding that enables the Land Trust and other land conservation organizations, such as The Nature Conservancy, to get the job done. In fact, a majority of the acres that the editorial mentioned that were conserved with the help of PDR funds are included in the "more than 36,000 acres" conserved by Yampa Valley Land Trust in the past 10 years.
Furthermore, the editorial did not mention that the cost to the county is just a fraction of the costs of the conservation projects. Attracting landowner donations and other funding sources, like GOCo, the PDR funds have helped complete conservation projects valued five times greater than the cost to the county. Yes, Referendum 1A represents a tax increase. For the average homeowner (residential valuation of $300,000), it means about $12 more per year than they are paying. However, if 1A does not pass, the costs to the county and ultimately the individual taxpayer will outweigh these short-run savings. Not only will the county lose valuable funding partners that require local dollars and commitment, it will be faced with the added costs of sprawl as it is confronted with the growing infrastructure associated with development (roads and services).
The average homeowner may save $36 a year but will lose forever the scenic and intrinsic value of agricultural and open lands that make Routt County so unique. I think that is asking too much. Vote yes on 1A.