Category Archives: Call to action

Panel discussion April 19, Tuesday night, 7 p.m. at Lee Metcalf NWR in Stevi

In an effort to be proactive when it comes to planning, BfP is sponsoring a panel discussion April 19, Tuesday night, 7 p.m. at the Lee Metcalf Wildlife Refuge in Stevensville, MT. The Montana Department of Transportation has a multi-million dollar improvement plan in place for the Eastside Highway between Eight Mile Creek Road and Wildfowl Lane. The department is not, however, considering either wildlife crossings or bike paths. We believe that to be shortsighted in view of the facts that the Eastside Highway rates as one of the top 10 most dangerous roads in Montana, with wildlife collisions a major factor in that rating; and with the 40th anniversary of the Bikecentennial coming up this summer. We can expect thousands of bicyclists riding through the valley, which will only increase the focus on the Bitterroot for cyclists in the years to come.

We believe the money is available for both wildlife crossings and bike paths. What’s missing is the political will. That’s where we all come in. We hope you can make this panel discussion on April 19. Though putting political pressure on the decision makers is always a time-consuming effort, it’s easier and cheaper to do things right the first time than to come back later and try to repair shortsighted projects.

            PRESS RELEASE

The Eastside Highway is due for significant repairs in the north valley. That provides an opportunity for citizens to weigh in on two crucial transportation amenities that may get overlooked in the planning process.

The Montana Department of Transportation proposes to widen the Eastside Highway and construct left-turn lanes from the new roundabout at Eightmile Creek Road south to Ambrose Lane. These repairs are necessary for a road that rates as one of the 10 worst for crashes in Montana.

Unfortunately, MDOT is not, at this time, considering adding bike paths or wildlife crossings in its design.

Bitterrooters for Planning is working to ensure that bike paths and wildlife crossings will ultimately be included in the final road design.

To that end, BfP will sponsor a public discussion on Eastside Highway improvements on April 19, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Lee Metcalf Wildlife Refuge conference room. This discussion will feature a panel of speakers representing highway engineers, wildlife conservationists, bicyclists and civic organizations.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the 1976 Bikecentennial, and thousands of bicyclists from around the country and the world will be riding through the valley. This anniversary ride is expected to focus attention on the Bitterroot Valley, which will bring even more bicyclists in coming years.

Wildlife crossings are another critical element of transportation design and planning, and are essential for the safety of wildlife and motorists alike.

A bike path along the Eastside Highway near the Lee Metcalf Wildlife Refuge, and adequate wildlife crossings make sense for the future, but the planning should begin now.

Please plan on attending and make your voice heard.

Ravalli Co Commission meet 10 am Thurs Mar 12

The county commission meeting scheduled for Thursday March 12,  to consider public notice and participation policy is for the commission to consider adopting the changes requested by the Bitterroot Star in our settlement proposal over the Big Sky Development lawsuit.

It will be a meeting where the public can voice their opinion over that $675,000 settlement.

If the commissioners adopt them as proposed with no changes the Star’s lawsuit against the commission will be dismissed. It is very important for the public to attend.

Below is a note from B4P:

Greetings all, Please read the message above from Michael Howell. This meeting takes place at 10 a.m. on March 12. It’s imperative that we can get as many people to attend this as possible. To remind you: the previous commission met behind closed doors to cut a deal with the attorney representing Paul Wilson, a land developer who sued Ravalli County over a commission decision (the commission on which Jim Rokosch, Kathleen Driscoll and I sat) to reject his proposal to use the county road department to bring Eight Mile Creek Road up to legally-required standards. He pledged to buy the materials. The law required him to pay for both materials and work crew. We rejected his proposal, he sued and the judge remanded the decision back to the Foss-Stoltz-Burrows commission. The commission agreed to the Wilson proposal AND awarded him $675,000. The judge was shocked, the original county lawyers were shocked. The Bitterroot Star sued the county over a decision that was made under shady circumstances. Before the lawsuit could progress very far, the county paid the lion’s share of the $675,000. It’s on your most recent tax bill. I don’t know the specifics of the Star proposal, but I do have faith in the Howells. They’ve been on this smoky-room decision since the beginning and I urge your attendance and support. I’ve asked Michael Howell for some specifics to pass on to you. I’m also expecting some information from Glenda Wiles, admin. asst. for the commission, on Monday.

Ravalli County Commissioners move forward on Public Land Grab

Here is a fact sheet produced by a group of concerned citizens with information on our county commissioners’ efforts to gain control of our American public lands! Please read and add your outrage to this travesty. Tell your commissioners that you are opposed to such “county supremacy” ideas and that you strongly object to proceeding down this road! Also, here is a Citizens’ Resolution, composed by the same group, that will be considered by the BOCC at a commissioners meeting in early December. It reaffirms Ravalli County’s support of our public lands.



AMERICAN PUBLIC LANDS in AMERICAN PUBLIC HANDS Citizens’ Response to Raid on American Public Land Ravalli County Commissioner Suzy Foss has announced a public meeting for December 11, 2013, 6:30 PM at the Eagles, 125 N. 2nd Hamilton, MT. The purpose is to hear from a speaker, Mr. Ken Ivory of the American Lands Council ( and a state representative from Utah, to discuss “the regional movement to transfer our public lands…as contracted in our states Enabling Act…to state and local management”. Many citizens see this as an unpatriotic move toward privatization of our NATIONAL public lands, which are the birthright of every American from ‘sea to shining sea’.

This Tea Party privateers’ sneak attack on our American public land is another attempt at the old, discredited Sagebrush Rebellion. (Definition: “Failed movement led by conservative Western politicians to cede federal control of western land to individual states, promoting private ownership and commercial development.” One might think Ravalli County Commissioners would have their hands full doing the work they were elected to do, especially with the turmoil they have riled in the Road and Bridge Department, Treasurer’s Office, Health Clinic, etc. However, they seem to have spare time to spend on issues entirely beyond their jurisdiction.

The language of the Enabling Act is clear: MONTANA STATE ENABLING ACT (Approved February 22, 1889.) [25 U.S. Statutes at Large, c 180 p 676.] “AN ACT to provide for the division of Dakota into two States and to enable the people of North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, and Washington to form constitutions and State governments and to be admitted into the Union on an equal footing with the original States, and to make donations of public lands to such States.”….“Second. That the people inhabiting said proposed States do agree and declare that they forever disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated public lands lying within the boundaries thereof, and to all lands lying within said limits owned or held by any Indian or Indian tribes; and that until the title thereto shall have been extinguished by the United States, the same shall be and remain subject to the disposition of the United States,…” A few self-serving people seem to have forgotten about America’s original rebellion against exclusion from a wealthy King’s private hunting preserve.

However outrageous and un-winnable this effort to disenfranchise citizens across our nation may seem, it is time for those who value our NATIONAL birthright to stand up and fight for it as those who came before us have done.

The love most Americans have for their public land is not based on short-term economics. However, it may be interesting to note some economic facts: *Western non-metropolitan counties with protected federal lands had faster employment growth and higher per capita income. Counties that had more than 30 percent of the county’s land base in federally protected status increased jobs by 345 percent over the last 40 years. By comparison, similar counties with no protected federal public lands increased employment by 83 percent. (Rasker, R., P.H. Gude, M. Delorey. 2013. In Review. The Effect of Protected Federal Lands on Economic Prosperity in the Non-Metropolitan West. Journal of Regional Analysis and Policy) *

Outdoor recreation is important to western economies. Nationally, OIF estimates an economic impact of $646 billion from active outdoor recreation (bicycling, camping, fishing, hunting, paddling, snow sports, wildlife viewing, and trail-running, hiking, climbing), supporting 6.1 million jobs. (Outdoor Industry Foundation, The Active Outdoor Recreation Economy: A $730 Billion Annual Contribution to the U.S. Economy, 2006). *Protected natural amenities—such as pristine scenery and wildlife—help sustain property values and attract new investment (The Role of Amenities and Quality of Life in Rural Economic Growth. American Journal of Agricultural Economics 83(2): 352-365.Deller and Tsai 2001)

What you can do: attend the 12/11/13 meeting and bring friends, write letters to the editor, contact the Commissioners, attend Commissioner meetings, vote your values, speak up, sing out, stand up and be counted.

Bitterroot Star:; PO Box 8, Stevensville, MT, 59870

Ravalli Republic: 232 Main St., Hamilton, MT 59840

Missoulian:; 500 S. Higgins, Missoula,

MT Ravalli County Commissioners:; (406-375-6500), 215 S. 4th, Hamilton, MT, 59840


Citizen’s Resolution in support of Public Lands

WHEREAS, the Enabling Act of Feb. 22, 1889 enabling the people of Montana, Washington and the Dakotas to form state constitutions and be admitted into the union, clearly states: “That the people inhabiting said proposed States do agree and declare that they forever disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated public lands lying within the boundaries thereof . . .”; and

WHEREAS, the preamble to the Montana Constitution states “We the people of Montana grateful to God for the quiet beauty of our state, the grandeur of our mountains, the vastness of our rolling plains, and desiring to improve the quality of life, equality of opportunity and to secure the blessings of liberty for this and future generations do ordain and establish this constitution.”; and

WHEREAS, the Ravalli County Commissioners took an oath of office pledging to uphold the Constitution and the laws of the state of Montana; and

WHEREAS, the USDA Forest Service estimates that 160 million people visited their national forests between 2008 and 2012, contributing $11 billion in recreation spending to nearby communities; and

WHEREAS, the USDA Forest Service spent more than $1.4 billion in firefighting costs nationwide in 2012; and

WHEREAS, state and local taxpayers do not have the financial resources to assume total obligation for the costs of fire management, maintenance of the Forest Highways, road and trails system, and other infrastructure located on America’s public lands within the boundaries of Ravalli County; and

WHEREAS, public lands connect the American people to their natural and cultural heritage, cultivate a conservation ethic, contribute to rural wealth, maintain clean water, support a diverse and healthy wildlife population and nurture the human spirit; and

WHEREAS, the Bitterroot National Forest and the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness are public lands owned and enjoyed by ALL Americans; then

Let it, therefore, be RESOLVED that the Ravalli County Board of Commissioners acknowledges and supports the reality that America’s public lands are held in trust for all Americans;

And let it be further RESOLVED that the Ravalli County Board of Commissioners requests a county attorney opinion on the constitutionality of local county government control of American public lands.

Bitterrooters for Planning files suit over Commissioners approval of Legacy Ranch preliminary plat

If you have been following the story, you know that Bitterrooters for Planning filed suit in District Court last Tuesday over the Ravalli County BOCC approval of the preliminary plat for the proposed Legacy Ranch subdivision.

The lawsuit document(s) are contained in the Legacy Ranch page or click here.

Our suit asks for: (1) a declaratory judgement that the BOCC’s August 14, 2013 Preliminary Plat decision approving the Legacy Ranch Subdivision is contrary to law for the reasons detailed in the suit, and (2) an order setting aside the BOCC’s decision and directing the BOCC to require the subdivider to submit a new preliminary plat application and to comply with all requirements of the Montana subdivision and Platting Act and all applicable law before reaching a decision approving or denying the preliminary plat.

This lawsuit should be viewed as just a beginning. The anti-government, anti-planning, anti-community, private property rights at all costs, ideology currently holding sway in our local government is a recipe for disaster and must be replaced. While there may be additional lawsuits in the future, the real solution is in electing quality persons to the commission, securing a real Growth Policy, and in modifying our rules and regulations to protect the people rather than the developer!

Legacy Ranch hearing to continue on June 27th

Ravalli County commissioners to continue Legacy Ranch deliberations

This is a reminder that the BOCC public hearing on Legacy Ranch will continue this Thursday at 1:00 pm in the Commissioner’s conference room on the 3rd floor, 215 South 4th street in Hamilton. The BOCC could make their decision on Thursday, but the hearing is extended to Friday, if needed.

At the previous session of this hearing on June 11th, the commissioners and the developer agreed that more time was needed to review submitted evidence and comments relative to the review criteria. This was at least partially because BFP has retained legal counsel (Jack Tuholske and Matt Clifford) and made it clear we will not allow this travesty to proceed without a fight. In response to BFP efforts and the general community-wide outcry opposing Legacy, the commissioners have also retained legal counsel to guide them and are proceeding very carefully! It is not clear whether their lawyer fees will be paid by MACO or by the County.

Every member of Bitterrooters for Planning should pay close attention to the commissioner’s deliberations on Thursday. You will see clearly how the subdivision regulations designed by our commissioners assure that preliminary plat applications are, at a minimum, approved with conditions if the developer has sufficient time and money. You will also see how really important, substantive, issues like traffic impacts, impacts on water quality and quantity, sewage disposal, etc are “kicked down the road” to DNRC, DEQ, and MDT. And, not least, you will understand that your voice has been minimized, that community values and rights are irrelevant, and that cumulative effects do not exist.

So, please attend the hearing if at all possible. Regardless of the BOCC decision, BFP is committed to pursuing comprehensive land-use planning in Ravalli County and we need as many folks as possible to get informed and motivated!

See you Thursday,


P.S. I submitted a Valley Viewpoint to the Republic last week. Check out the comments.

Legacy Ranch Hearing Postponed Again

The County Commissioners and Territorial Landworks have once again changed the time of the commissioners’ hearing on Legacy Ranch. It is now scheduled as follows:

June 3rd, Monday, Commissioners Conference Room 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

June 3rd, Monday, Lone Rock School Gym 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.  

June 4, Tuesday, Commissioners Conference Room 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. (Continued if needed)

June 5, Wednesday, Commissioners Conference Room 9:00 – 5:00 p.m. (Continued if needed)

Please check this site frequently for information regarding continuing efforts to stop the Legacy Ranch subdivision.

Important Planning Board and Commissioner meeting dates on Legacy Ranch

A decision on the Legacy Ranch subdivision could be reached this month. There are several critical meetings that you need to reserve on your calendar. No public comment will be accepted at the Planning Board meeting but it is essential that we show that we are paying attention! The most important meeting for submitting comment is the one on April 25th. Keep in mind that the commissioners will close comment as soon as no more comments are submitted at a given meeting.

  • April 17    Planning Board decision and recommendation to Commissioners on Legacy Ranch proposal.      Commissioners conference room. 2 pm. 
  • April 22    Commissioners walk-through of Legacy Ranch site. 9 am.
  • April 25    Public hearing on Legacy Ranch Proposal. Commissioners conference room. 9 am to 3 pm.
  • April 25    Continuation of public comment in Lone Rock gym. 6 pm to 9 pm.
  • April 26    Continuation of public comment if needed. Commissioners’ conference room. 9 am to 5 pm.
  • April 29    Continuation of public comment if needed. Commissioners’ conference room. 9 am to 5 pm.

Bitterroot Planning Board to Make Recommendation on Legacy Ranch Wednesday March 20th.

Tomorrow at 3 pm in the Commissioners’ conference room, our Ravalli County Planning Board will hold a public hearing on the Legacy Ranch subdivision proposal. They will review all of the material presented to date, accept public comment, and then make a recommendation to the Commissioners for approval, denial, or approval with modification. The commissioners will hold their deliberations at a public hearing on April 29th.

The Planning Board needs to hear from you! It is time to stop kowtowing to speculators and pay attention to our communities. The Legacy Ranch subdivision as proposed clearly has impacts on such review criteria as the Natural Environment, Wildlife, Agriculture, and Public Health and Safety that cannot be mitigated. Thus, a recommendation for denial of the application is appropriate on the merits.

This is a bipartisan threat; whether your politics are Left, Right, or Independent, this is a bad idea. Not only because it fails due to unmitigated impacts, but also because it flies in the face of numerous county policies (eg the Natural Resource Use Policy) which rightly identify the importance of protecting our rural environment and the enterprises that have historically defined our local custom and culture (agriculture and ranching). The Legacy Ranch subdivision is directly in conflict with this policy. It is a bad idea!

Prior to the hearing at 3 pm, Bitterrooters for Planning will have a table outside the County Administrative Center with information to assist you in preparing input to the Planning Board and ultimately to the County Commissioners. We will also have a sign-up sheet for those who want to be involved in continuing efforts to stop this subdivision. Please stop by, say hi, and join the fight!

Kelsey Milner
President, BFP

Public Hearing on Legacy Ranch Wed March 13

This Wednesday (March 13th) at 6:00 pm in the Lone Rock School gym, the Ravalli County Planning Board will continue to accept public input on the Legacy Ranch subdivision. This is a continuation of the public meeting held last week (March 6th) in Hamilton.

Lone Rock School Gym, 1112 3 Mile Creek Road, Stevensville, MT

View Larger Map

The Legacy Ranch subdivision proposal has been around since early 2006. It calls for 500+ units on 368 acres of bottom land immediately adjacent to, and draining into, the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge. It calls for 15 building phases over a 36 year period. At build-out it would add more than 9,000 car trips/day to the Eastside Highway and double the student enrollment at Lone Rock.

The developer has been struggling for almost 7 years to achieve “sufficiency”, a label that the Planning department awards when the proposal contains all required elements in sufficient depth and completeness for public review. For reference, State and local subdivision regulations specify a maximum 2-year period for achieving “sufficiency”. The developer was unable to adequately address issues regarding water, wildlife, septic, and road safety and was thus denied “sufficiency” numerous times. It is not clear from the record how the “sufficiency” period was extended beyond the two year period. Finally, however, Ravalli County adopted new, less restrictive, subdivision regulations in June of 2012 and the proposal was able to achieve “sufficiency”. The Planning staff then recommended approval, with conditions, to the Planning Board. The Planning Board has scheduled a meeting on March 20th to make their recommendation to the Commissioners. The Commissioners are then scheduled to review the application on April 29th. The application is now clearly on the fast track to approval.

The Legacy Ranch subdivision should be turned back. Please attend the Lone rock meeting on Wednesday and give your Planning Board an ear full about how (1) this subdivision fails to be in the public interest in any fashion, and (2) its impacts on water, wildlife, the Refuge, public safety, schools, and our rural custom and culture, are unacceptable. Ask them to recommend denial to the Commissioners.

The Legacy Ranch subdivision documentation may be obtained from the Planning Department in Hamilton. They have a hard copy to examine at their office (3 binders), or CD’s to purchase ($5), or they will download to a flash drive for free.

Lastly, please notify as many friends and neighbors as you can about this meeting and urge them to attend and give voice to their concerns. The process is heavily stacked in favor of the developer and it is essential we demonstrate substantive opposition.

Thank you, and look forward to seeing you on Wednesday evening in Lone Rock!

Kelsey Milner, President, BFP


Planning Board to consider approval of the Legacy Ranch Subdivision

This Wednesday, March 6th at 7 pm, the Ravalli County Planning Board has scheduled a hearing on the Legacy Ranch Subdivision in the Commissioner’s Conference Room on the 3rd floor of the Administrative Center located at 215 South 4th Street in Hamilton. Based on their review of the proposal (and public comment), the Planning Board will make a recommendation to the BOCC for approval, rejection, or approval with conditions.

We urge you to attend the Planning Board hearing this coming Wednesday, March 6th at 7pm in the Commissioner’s conference room and ask the Board to reject this proposal.

The proposed Legacy Ranch Subdivision is a 500+ unit planned community with a 30 year build out in 15 phases on 368 acres located between Stevensville and Florence, between the Porter Hill and Dry Gulch roads. It borders the Eastside Highway and is immediately adjacent to the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge. This development was first proposed in 2005 and has been semi-dormant since the economic crash of 2008. However, recently the proposal was reactivated and the application has been deemed “sufficient” for review by the Planning Board and the BOCC (12/03/12).

This subdivision proposal should be rejected. It calls for a complete town, bigger than Corvallis, to be plunked down right next to a National Wildlife Refuge; it will add 9000+ trips per day to the Eastside Highway; it will double the enrollment in the Lone Rock schools; it removes prime agricultural and ranching land from production; it threatens the refuge with water and septic pollution; it does not consider traffic impacts in Stevensville or Florence or on the feeder roads in the vicinity of the new town; it uses data primarily from 2005, which is now 8 years old – have things changed at all; it does not consider any new information, such as that contained in the County’s Natural Resource Use Plan (2012) or in the County’s Land Suitability Analysis (2008) – both of which appear to be relevant. It is difficult to understand how this subdivision is in the best interests of Ravalli County citizens. Read more in the document below – it will take a few seconds to load.

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