Developers and tree huggers join hands
as the upscale housing market increasingly demands the latest
amenity - wide-open spaces.
Paul Thomas waxes poetic about "little black dots" dropping onto
the canvas of pure white snow during calving season, which he
watched from his front porch. And don't get him started on the elk
that graze in his "backyard." Thomas, a real-estate developer in
southern California, derives the greatest pleasure from his second
home in the Stock Farm Club development in Montana, watching the
wildlife and drinking in the wide-open spaces. (Sure he's glad to
have the golf course, too, but it doesn't do much for him in
Thomas is not alone in his addiction to the "new green amenity."
It's attracting all manner of second-home buyers who earn their
share of frequent-flier miles jetting off to properties like the
Stock Farm Club, Charles Schwab's private paradise in the
Bitterroot Valley. Folks like Thomas are willing to pay a premium
to ensure that the open spaces - and their multimillion-dollar
views - remain undisturbed for perpetuity.
It's part of a growing "light on the land" trend driven by
developers who are discovering that there's gold in going green,
and conservationists who are finding more than a spot or two of
common ground with their historical antagonists.
"I see this as a huge positive and a wave of the future," says
endangered-species expert J. Michael Scott, a senior biologist with
the U.S. Geological Survey and professor at the University of
Idaho. Scott is buoyed by this trend because of studies that
indicate more than 60 percent of federally listed endangered
species are found on private, rather than public lands, making
careful management of these properties critical for the species'