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Focus Areas

Engaging people and organizations across sectors, the Land Trust identified the following five focus areas for the new Community Planning program. Each focus area influences conservation in the valley and is risked by unchecked growth. Objectives across the five focus areas support compact community design for conservation of the beautiful lands and important natural resources in Blaine County.

For a more in-depth exploration of each focus area-- current conditions, shared goals and the Land Trust's objectives-- see the guiding document, Community Planning: Building Capacity to Steward a Livable Future.

In broad strokes, the community cherishes Blaine County’s natural environment and access to open space. They recognize the ongoing need to protect wildlife and natural resources, restore the Big Wood River and its floodplain, and prepare for natural hazards linked to climate change. More than ever before, the community recognizes the risk of losing surrounding open space to new, sprawling development.

Closely tied to the housing crisis, the community is boggled by the patterns of traffic congestion and the increasing length of work commutes into the Wood River Valley. With a legacy of supporting local transit services and active transportation facilities, the community voices support for sustainable transportation modes. Yet, data suggests that residents’ travel behaviors do not align with their stated values– Blaine County is largely car-dependent. The community supports walking, biking, and riding transit, as long as they can safely and conveniently get to where they need to go.

The community, especially long-time residents, are concerned about maintaining the quality of place and life that drew them to Blaine County. Residents say the values that underpin local life have been buffeted by growth and demographic changes. They also recognize the importance of shared spaces where people can come together to enjoy nature, volunteer for community causes, and get to know each other. Understanding how physical environments can be planned to enhance social connectedness in Blaine County, the Land Trust embraces community planning for livability.

With a changing climate, the community worries whether there will be sufficient water for a growing community, regional agriculture  and the Big Wood River’s ecosystem. Consistently, the community sees additional opportunities to reduce demand for water, increase efficiency and manage usage conjunctively, across the region.

Amenity migration to Blaine County, during the COVID-19 pandemic, exacerbated the County’s longstanding housing challenges and created a crisis. Housing costs remain unprecedentedly high, driving profits and incentivizing residential development. That said, new market-rate housing doesn’t equate to housing for our local workforce and long-time community members– much of the housing stock is unaffordable to them. The community is calling for creative policy solutions that are necessary for the people who keep the wheels of our community spinning.

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MISSION DRIVEN

While three of the focus areas– habitat conservation, water availability, and livability– intuitively relate to the value of conservation and mission of the Land Trust, the connection between transportation mobility and community housing to conservation is more nuanced. The connection is grounded in the principles of compact community design, relying on transportation and housing objectives to counteract the forces that drive sprawling development. If the valley is planned for increased land use efficiency in smart places, the Land Trust is better positioned to conserve the community's surrounding natural beauty. Other benefits of compact community design support sustainability through the efficient use of natural resources, reduced emissions, and social connectedness. Our new Community Planning program exists to explain the merits of the five focus areas to the cherished quality of life in Blaine County, as well as to prepare us for a livable future. 

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