Missoula County Open Space Bond and Levy FAQs

The 2006 Open Space Bond protected many of the places you love in Missoula County, from the Confluence of Rock Creek and the Clark Fork River to the River Road Community Garden and Travelers Rest State Park. Open Space bond funds helped families from Seeley to Frenchtown protect their agricultural land and reinvest in rural businesses. 2006 Bond funds extended the Milwaukee and Grant Creek Trails and opened public access to public land in Potomac. City residents are now enjoying the Barmeyer Trail on Mount Dean Stone and will soon have more access to the Clark Fork River, thanks to the Open Space Bond.

Open Space Bond funds were spent wisely. For every $1 of bond funds spent nearly $4 additional dollars were brought to projects through private donations and other funding sources. Ten non-profits and government agencies, and numerous partners, have protected 14,866 acres of land throughout the county using the 2006 Open Space Bond. This includes protection of:

  • 5,368 acres of land opened to public access and over 19 miles of public trail corridors
  • 40 miles of waterways and 1,003 acres of wetlands
  • 14,796 acres of wildlife habitat for diverse species including elk, moose, grizzly bears, Canada lynx, long-toed salamanders, and a variety of woodpeckers and songbirds.
  • 9,012 acres of agricultural land, including 4,258 acres of the county’s most productive Important Soils.

Each approved bond project was vetted through a rigorous public process with citizen input and each of the 49 approved projects conserve a special part of western Montana.

Why is a new bond needed?

The 2006 Open Space Bond is nearly gone, yet there is still critical conservation work to do for future generations. A new Open Space Bond ensures that our community can maintain our commitment to open space conservation as our community continues to grow into the future. It is a tool for our community to use in concert with long-term economic growth to help ensure that Missoula County remains the best place to live, work, and raise a family for generations to come.

The Open Space Bond allows our community to respond quickly to timely opportunities to protect and conserve the places that define the Missoula way of life. A new bond could:

  • Advance the Community Wildfire Protection Plan by buffering developed areas from wildfire and reducing residential development on forested land adjacent to public lands.
  • Improve public access to the Clark Fork River from downtown Missoula to Frenchtown and beyond.
  • Create and maintain miles of new trails on Mount Dean Stone and Marshall Mountain.
  • Protect the future of rural livelihoods for family ranches and farming operations.

How do we maintain the lands we have?

  • The 2018 bond would allow some funds to be spent on capital improvements that improve public access and restore lands degraded by overuse or lack of stewardship funding. For example, along the Clark Fork River in Missoula bond funds would restore eroded river banks and provide safe, ADA accessible access to the river.
  • The 2018 proposal includes a City stewardship levy to care for conservation lands such as Mount Jumbo and Mount Sentinel.
  • Conservation easement protected lands remain privately owned even while providing wildlife habitat and protecting water quality and, in many cases, providing public access. These lands remain on the tax rolls.  Private landowners and non-profits shoulder the burden of stewarding these lands and ensuring that the public benefits from their protection.

How much is this going to cost?

The proposed $15 million Open Space Bond measure will cost the median Missoula County homeowner less than $18 annually, or $1.50 per month. While in the City, the bond and a $500,000 City stewardship levy combined will cost the median Missoula City homeowner approximately $32 annually, or $2.70 a month. It’s cheaper to invest now than fix problems caused by rapid growth in the wrong places later.

What about affordable housing?

Missoula has growth policies in place to guide us as we grow and we’re working hard to solve our workforce housing shortage. The community decided during that process to grow inward and aim to control sprawl while we expand. Sprawl can be costly to taxpayers if significant infrastructure like sewer and water have to be extended. Mount Dean Stone, one of the community legacy projects the new bond can help fund, will be a lost opportunity for a new trail system, and it won’t be affordable, workforce housing built in its place on that irreplaceable open space. 

How can I help?

Sign up here to let us know you support the Open Space Bond initiative and to learn how you can help.