Folks like Paul Thomas are willing to pay a premium to ensure that the open Spaces - and their multimillion-dollar views - remain undisturbed for perpetuity.

"The fact is, only the extremely well-off can afford to protect 1,000 acres at a time," Scott says. "It's a partnership that we should do everything we can to facilitate."

That same sense of optimism is heard more and more these days among leaders in the conservation movement, one that increasingly rejects the traditional knee-jerk reaction to development.

"There are definitely places that go out of the way to step as lightly as possible on the land," says Elizabeth Humphrey, executive director of the National Growth Management Leader­ship Alliance. "We need to acknowledge that making a profit is important, too."

Driving these profits is an American public with an increasingly higher Environmental IQ, suggests Melody Flowers, campaign director for the Sierra Club's National Challenge to Sprawl campaign. "There are consumers who are willing to pay top dollar to live in a place that is less impactful on the environment."

Carter Brooksher is one of them. When choosing a second home in the Colorado high country a few years ago, Brooksher, a "life-long environmentalist," found herself enamored with the opportunity to be part of the conservation-minded Roaring Fork Club, a pricey 45-cabin, 300-acre golfing and fly-fishing community outside of Aspen, Colorado, where automobile traffic is not permitted. Brooksher, who casts for brown trout from her porch, serves as board member for the local Roaring Fork Conservancy. The organization, dedicated to preserving and protecting the Roaring Fork River, was launched with seed money from the developer. Today, it continues to play a role in the life of the community, providing "on-campus" educational programs on the fragile ecosystem and involving residents in fundraising events and even hands-on water-quality sampling.