Our History: MSGC has been protecting the big sky in Montana since 1999. We’ve made substantial progress in just 12 years. Below are some of our victories over the last few years:
- Protect Senior Water Rights: The combination of the Western Environmental Law Center’s (our fiscal sponsor) legal expertise and MSGC’s policy expertise has been instrumental in helping to protect Montana’s senior water rights. In July 2010, and in response to a petition filed by WELC on behalf of senior water rights holders and ranchers, the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) agreed to undertake rule making that would close the “exempt well loophole.” This water resource loophole represents the single biggest subsidy for sprawling development patterns. The “exempt well loophole” made it faster and more profitable to develop lands well away from existing towns, and often in critical wildlife habitat, at the expense of senior water rights and in-stream flows. The ruling by DNRC is an essential step toward protecting Montana’s precious waters and promoting growth in and around Montana’s existing cities and towns – goals of both MSGC and WELC.
- Achieve Smart Growth Laws & Policies: In the last six legislative sessions, MSGC stopped virtually all pro-sprawl bills and passed more than 17 smart growth bills.
- 2011 Legislative Session: MSGC helped pass two significant smart growth bills:
- A bill that protects the land designated in a cluster development as permanent open space by recording an irrevocable covenant during the final subdivision mapping process.
- A bill that requires drainfield mixing zones to be located wholly within the subdivision. It encourages developers to build near community water treatment or develop a community system. Essentially, this law will mean that the true cost of developing a subdivision using septic is calculated up front, instead of allowing septic waste to trespass onto other people’s property and putting the burden on private property owners.
- 2009 Legislative Session:In 2009, MSGC helped to pass the following smart growth legislation:
- A bill to modernize Montana’s land use laws by making them more predictable for everyone, improving public notice and input into subdivision and zoning decisions, and making it easier for cities and counties to adopt innovative smart growth zoning;
- A bill that directs the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation to work with local governments to designate the wildland-urban interface in all 56 counties – so the state and local governments can keep people and homes out of harm’s way due to rising forest fires, and to keep local governments compliant with the 2007 growth policy changes; and,
- A bill that gives the local governments more time to review large (i.e., 50 plus lot) subdivisions by 1/3 or 20 extra days to allow for meaningful public participation and ensure that the subdivisions will not adversely impact wildlife, local services, waters, public health and safety, and the natural environment.
- 2007 Session: In 2007, MSGC help pass the following smart growth legislation:
- A bill that incentivizes a “smart growth planning” process that cities and counties can use to plan for efficient growth inside and adjacent to existing cities and towns.
- A bill that requires growth policies to identify the wildland-urban interface areas within a city or county and mandates the development of plans for how to protect people and property from wildfire. This bill also clarifies that counties and cities have the ability to regulate fire related construction techniques through their subdivision regulations if they adopt the Department of Labor and Industries’ new rules.
- A bill that closes a loophole that enabled developers to abuse the condo subdivision exemption. Unscrupulous developers have been trying to build developments with dozens and even hundreds of lots using the condo loophole in order to evade ANY review of the impact that those lots will have on roads, services, neighboring property owners, or the environment.
- Train ordinary citizens to work for smart growth: Through our community workshops, we have provided 2,500 Montanans the skills to organize their neighbors and communities on behalf of a more livable Montana.
- Improve local land-use protections: In the past five years alone, we have been helping citizens and officials in Lewis and Clark, Gallatin, Ravalli, Missoula, Madison, Beaverhead, Park, Teton, Jefferson, Flathead, Cascade, and Yellowstone Counties as well as other counties and towns across Montana to evaluate their zoning and subdivision regulations and improve the existing regulations for protection of water, wildlife and open space.
- Preserve more than 5 million acres: In the last five years, we have protected 5.2 million acres of state trust land from reckless development and we have helped close water and transportation loopholes that incentivize in-efficient, damaging growth patterns.
Coalition Members: Montana Smart Growth Coalition brings together Montanans to protect our natural heritage and quality of life. Every year, the Coalition mobilizes scores of organizations and hundreds of individuals who, like you, care deeply about Montana. Sign up today to become a Smart Growth supporter and coalition member.Alternative Energy and Resource Organization
Bitterrooters for Planning
Clark Fork Coalition
Citizens for a Better Flathead
Friends of the Bitterroot
Greater Yellowstone Coalition
High Plains Architects
MT Assc. of Conservation Districts
MT Environmental Information Center
MT Human Right Network
National Center for Appropriate Technology
Northern Plains Resource Council
Park County Environmental Council
Western Environmental Law Center
Brianna Randall, Clark Fork Coalition
Bryan Von Lossberg, Alternative Energy and Resource Organization
Dennis Glick, Future West
Dick Thweatt, Plan Helena
Mayre Flowers, Citizens for a Better Flathead
Randy Carpenter, Sonoran Institute
Skip Kowalski, Bitterrooters for Planning