EcoFlight flew with the Sonoran Institute over the Gallatin Range and over "rural sprawl" and "distressed subdivisions" that have occurred in the Gallatin area.
The Gallatin Mountains, a wild rugged range bordered by the Gallatin River to the west and the expansive Yellowstone Valley to the east, directly links the community of Bozeman, Montana with the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and the world's first national park. The Gallatin Range houses pristine wildlife habitat and serves as a major corridor linking wildlife populations from Yellowstone National Park to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
Within the larger landscape of the Gallatin Range sits the 155,000-acre Gallatin Crest, which in 1977 was designated the Hyalite Porcupine Buffalo Horn Wilderness Study Area.
Since 1970, the population of western Montana has grown by about 50 percent, while the number of acres of land developed in the same area has exceeded 200 percent. However, the growth has not been concentrated around major towns but has spread along valleys in Montana, erasing working farms and ranches, ruining wildlands and wildlife corridors and putting enormous strain on nearby towns that have to provide services to faraway subdivisions and homes. After a massive consumption of private land for development, the economic meltdown has brought negative land values and created "distressed subdivisions" of platted and unbuilt development.
In a recent research report, the Sonoran Institute demonstrated that a smart "compact growth" plan in Gallatin County, Montana, would save $53 million between now and 2025. The savings could come from reducing the amount of roads that need to be built, paved, maintained and patrolled. Additionally, walkable neighborhoods and downtown residential areas could be created and conservation easements would allow wildlife to pass through working ranches.