Commentary: Officials urge support for 1A | SteamboatToday.com

Commentary: Officials urge support for 1A

We support Referendum 1A to renew Routt County’s Ranchland and Natural Areas Preservation Program and encourage you to vote yes on Nov. 1.

Routt County is a special place to live, with its wide-open spaces, crystal-clear streams and rivers, and spectacular mountain vistas. It’s the reason many of us live here and why we want to ensure we retain our quality of life for us as well as for future generations.

Voting yes on 1A will renew and expand our successful program to preserve ranchlands and natural areas throughout Routt County. Since 1996, this program, also known as the Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) Program, has preserved over 7,400 acres of open lands. The program provides critical matching funds that help land conservation groups, such as the Yampa Valley Land Trust and The Nature Conservancy, preserve key wildlife habitat and open lands. Unfortunately, this funding will expire next year, which is why we urge you to renew this effort.

Referendum 1A offers a highly cost-effective and permanent tool to achieve the community vision expressed in every survey conducted over the past several decades. In our most recent community survey, voters rated growth management as the top issue facing our community and supported open space preservation more than any other public investment. The Ranchlands and Natural Areas Program helps curb urban sprawl by protecting open lands while costing the county less than 20 percent of the land value. The remaining funds are donated by the landowner or provided by state or federal grants. The PDR funds are necessary to provide the required matching funds for these outside grants, which to date have exceeded $5 million.

Referendum 1A proposes an expansion of the existing program from 1 mill to 1.5 mills to be able to keep up with demand and spiraling land values. Each year we turn away deserving land preservation projects because we don’t have enough funds. By turning away projects we are also turning away considerable landowner donations and potential investments in our valley from state and federal grants. And each year, the price of land escalates. We cannot afford to loose these opportunities. This is a small price to pay and one that is well worth the investment.

We all know that our county will continue to grow, as more people make Routt County their home.

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That’s why now — more than ever — we need to renew our commitment to preserving our scenic vistas, natural areas, and river and stream corridors. Voting yes will allow us to continue to grow within our urban area, while we protect the character of our rural lands.

Referendum 1A will benefit the entire county now, while leaving a tremendous legacy in the future for our children and grandchildren.

We urge you to vote yes on 1A to preserve Routt County’s ranchlands and natural areas. It is time for us to reaffirm our commitment and continue to invest in our future.

Editor’s Note: This column was submitted and signed by Nancy Stahoviak, Doug Monger, Dan Ellison, Dave Bonfiglio, Dean Rossi, Loui Antonucci, Steve Ivancie, Chuck Fulton and Tim Frentress Sr.