Monday, July 24, 2006
Montana, perhaps the quintessential "open range" state, is seeing its land use change as tourism, recreation, and retirement are replacing ranching, mining, and wheat as the bases of the economy. While many Montanans complain about unchecked growth, the truth is subtler. In reality, Montana's population has not grown as quickly as that of the nation as a whole; the state went from two to one representative in Congress after the 1990 Census. But in a state where limited water and extensive federal land ownership restrain new developments, many Montanans find that good land is scarce, especially in the more scenic mountain areas in the west. The stereotype is that Hollywood moguls and other California millionaires are buying up all the good land for summer ranchettes. A possible solution? How about the idea of MAXIMUM lot sizes? This might curb the ranchettes from gobbling so much of the good private land. Wouldn't maximum lot sizes violate the right of property owners to make a reasonable return on their land? Not if some of the land were kept as agricultural.