Open spaces disappearing

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Today I went for a walk. I walked on my sister’s property along the west fence line of the proposed Benches subdivision east of Columbia Falls. I followed a game trail through the thick cattails growing higher than my head in the wetlands scattered throughout the property.

These are the same wetlands that cover a large part of the “bottom” land on which Prairie Dog Development plans to build 30 resort cabins, an event center, office and parking for 60 cars, as well as a road to the upper bench land.

I couldn’t help but wonder how the 760 cars a day (according to city staff report) traversing the road built over 3 sections of the wetlands will affect the water and wildlife.

Of most concern are the road salt and dirt that will filter into the water. I delighted in seeing the whitetail buck and doe I startled from their grazing in the back section of the bottom, hidden from all the traffic zipping by on Highway 2.

Once this subdivision goes in and when the open land along River Road is also developed this major North Valley wildlife corridor will be narrowed to a 100-yard-wide strip my family continues to preserve. As I delighted in seeing the deer I realized that soon those deer will be considered a nuisance among the 48 houses planned for the upper bench area.

Their habitat will be bulldozed eliminating their food sources and their birthing and bedding areas. I walked through the grasses, snowberries, wild roses, and beside red osier dogwood, and even a wild asparagus patch. All of this habitat for ground nesting birds such as the western meadowlark will be gone as well as much of the Doug fir, larch and Ponderosa pine on the ridge lines of the property (everything less than 12 inches in diameter.)

To quote Kenneth Rosenberg, a Cornell University conservation scientist, from a report in the Daily Inter Lake Sunday, “One of the scary things about the results is that it is happening right under our eyes. We might not even notice it until it’s too late.”

He was speaking about the drop in wild bird populations. I’m speaking about the proposed subdivision east of Columbia Falls and the loss of our open spaces – “we might not even notice it until it’s too late.”

This subdivision will be on the Columbia Falls City Council agenda for possible approval at their Oct. 7th meeting. Please speak up before it’s too late.

Shirley Rogers Folkwein

Columbia Falls

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