Montana - Gallatin Crest

State: Montana
Region: outside of Bozeman

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.

Ecoflight flew with the Sonoran Institute to take a look at this landscape, and the way in which humans and different types of urban development impact prime wildlife habitat in the wildlife and urban interface. As urban populations grow, increasing demands on our environment call for proper planning of urban development, as well as protection for these wild lands.

Sine 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.