Babbitt's Secret Growth-Control Plan

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In addition, the state can already purchase development rights on private property, a deed restriction that would forbid further development of those lands. Last year, for instance, the state parks department used Heritage Funds to purchase a conservation easement on the 22,000-acre San Rafael Ranch on the Mexican border south of Patagonia; last week the Nature Conservancy, which brokered the deal, sold the property to a rancher willing to operate the ranch under the terms of that easement. Growing Smarter Plus has provisions for purchasing development rights on other private properties, though it has not yet appropriated funds to do so.

Under the Growing Smarter Bill in 1998, voters dedicated $220 million as matching funds for municipalities that want to conserve open space by purchasing trust lands.

And then there is the Babbitt plan.

"The governor committed to me that she would seriously consider this with the secretary," Woods says. "They had a meeting. I talked with Bruce afterwards. I talked to the governor afterwards. They're putting staff on it. We'll see if we can move it to the fast track."

Contact Michael Kiefer at his online address: [email protected]

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Michael Kiefer