The Legacy Ranch subdivision, which has no public support, is an environmental and legal disaster waiting to happen. Behind it is some fishy politics that compel us to follow the money.
The environmental catastrophe posed by plunking down an entire town adjacent to Ravalli County’s twin jewels – the Bitterroot River and the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge – should be obvious to anyone. According to the Humane Association of the United States, 39% of homeowners own a dog. If that figure holds true for Legacy Ranch, expect about 250 dogs harassing wildlife at the refuge and stock animals on nearby ag lands. According to the same organization, 33% of homeowners own a cat. And domestic cats kill between 1.4 billion and 3.7 billion birds a year. (Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute).
Another growing environmental concern that is only now being recognized but which seems to have no solution, is unused medication flushed down toilets. These meds – hormones, steroids, antibiotics, etc. – eventually find their way into our streams and rivers and our drinking water. A similar assault to water quality that is understood very well is the devastating impact fertilizers applied to lawns growing right up to the water’s edge is having on aquatic life. Though we do recognize and understand this problem, nothing is done to stop it.
Then there is the political/financial scandal attached to Legacy Ranch, about which very little has been written.
Legacy Ranch developers Donald and Alexandra Morton, have each contributed money to commission candidates Ron Stoltz and Suzy Foss prior to their November 2010 elections. The law requires elected officials to disclose any conflict of interest they may have before deliberating on a subdivision proposal. For the sake of propriety, and to be consistent with the law, Stoltz and Foss should acknowledge these campaign contributions prior to board deliberation. Then they should recuse themselves from voting on this development. Since they probably won’t, the voters should be aware that the developers of Legacy Ranch have made a personal financial investment in two decision makers who will decide whether the Mortons’ project is a go or no-go. That’s the polite way of saying it. There’s a simple word for what they’ve done with all this money changing hands, but I’ll leave it to the readers to draw their own conclusion.
Readers should also know that the developers’ consultants, Jason Rice and Raymond DiPasquale, of Territorial Landworks, made campaign contributions to Stoltz, and to Bill Fulbright in his successful bid for county attorney. Amy Rice, another Territorial Landworks employee, contributed to Foss’s campaign.
Whether the consulting engineers’ campaign cash to Fulbright has any relevance at all in the Legacy Ranch decision remains to be seen because, as of this date, April 22, 2013, no decision has been made. But rest assured that when – very likely when and not if – this project is approved by the commission, the county attorney will be called upon to defend Ravalli County following a likely legal challenge. Then we’ll see whether or not political favors are repaid.
There you have it. Dogs harassing wildlife; cats killing songbirds; a river and aquifer spoiled by contaminated waste; money changing hands between developers and elected decision makers. If there’s a worse legacy to leave than that, we haven’t seen it.