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Open Letter to Commissioners re: Legacy

Sunnyside Orchards Legacy Ranch is proposed on Eastside Highway in Dry Gulch with 659 new homes on 368 acres:

— roughly 400 feet from pristine Bitterroot River that feeds Columbia River and Pacific Ocean

—roughly 400 feet from Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge with no count of dogs, cats, or parties

—in a bottleneck valley 1-4 miles wide at each end and 15 miles at Stevensville, its widest point

—with prediction of 9,271 additional trips per day on an already deadly trail of crosses, vehicle fumes, and headlights on MT 203 and U.S. 93 Highways

— walled in by towering 7,000-10,000’ Sapphire and Bitterroot Ranges, a polluted death-trap

— among an abundance of home foreclosures from Bitterroot headwaters to 100 miles downstream to the Clark Fork River

— 100 miles of limited valley floor for one highway, Federal U.S. 93 that joins Canada to Mexico

—with developer guess of 320 more children in Lone Rock and Stevensville High School?

Let’s gather 9,271 vehicles all at one time, in current traffic, to go from Missoula to Darby and back to really experience that or swarm Lone Rock Elementary School with 320 kids, more than doubling the current enrollment as well as impact Stevensville High School….We can only imagine the impact because no one can predict the increased numbers and taxes.

Common sense and experience tell us big subdivisions may work in wide open country. But, unique, irreplaceable Bitterroot Valley between two, close, high-mountain, bottleneck ranges with a river running through foothills would critically suffer. Can’t afford it.

Sunnyside Orchards apple boom industry up Dry Gulch failed a century ago. Directly to the southwest, the railroad intentionally laid tracks across the river from westside to eastside to a future Bitterroot City and Bitterroot Inn. Neither passed planning stage. However, nearby, one Bitterroot City little red fire hydrant stands sentinel for a century as if to extinguish excessive expansion. Like a fire hydrant reminder of these failed attempts, we must stand up and say “No.”

Earliest Bitterrooters, the Salish, invited the first European missionaries to their Bitterroot homeland in 1841. Pioneers followed, giving 1889 birth to State of Montana. Like the Salish, we wave to ensure welcome, safety, respect. Yet, in 1891, our Salish were “legally” forced out by greed and government that confiscated permanent homes and farms of fifty years. Still, the people go unheard in protecting the sacred Medicine Tree. An end to this appalling “legal” legacy by our local government!

My grandmother, Octave Shaffer Holden, attended Lone Rock School in 1897 before her parents George and Martha Burton Shaffer donated land for Eight-Mile School. Lone Rock is Montana’s only school in continuous operation since 1885. Montana’s Lone “Diamond” district doesn’t deserve denial by big subdivision or county planners. Lone Rock Legacy lives!

USDA Larry Creek Campground is named after my Irish great-great-grandfather Larry “the Piper” Lavey. With select-cut forestry foresight, after big stuff rather than clear-cuts, Larry Lavey was ahead of his time. Over a hundred years later, select logging is again in process at the campground around picnic tables that replaced the three-generation Lavey-Holden sawmill. This is prime Bitterroot Valley Montana Legacy!

Regardless how long one lives here, most of us passionately protect Bitterroot integrity with foresight and selection. It’s our duty and livelihood to preserve pristine air, water, land, and sense of place that promotes agriculture, water, public services, health, safety, wildlife, and nature, as in home, education, hunting, fishing, forestry, recreation, history, and less imposing outlying housing (no order).

Commissioners, tell ‘em, “No large outlying subdivisions.” We can’t afford these impacts.

Cheryl Holden Rice

Stevensville

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