Prairie county, montana



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Air Quality

Good air quality is an important environmental health indicator. At this time, no monitoring data for the county is found through DEQ or EPA. Lack of industrial development probably puts Prairie County low on the priority list for monitoring, as there are no major sources of concern. According to an online environmental scorecard, in 1999 Prairie County ranked one of the cleanest 20% of all counties in the U.S. in term of (pm-10) emissions. Possible pollutants in the area could come from burning, emissions, dust, and small localized activities.


Soil Resources

Buffalo Rapids reports that irrigated soils are generally very deep, well-drained silty clays and fine sandy loams. The report also states that intensive cropping systems and rotations have a tremendous impact on the soils and that proper management is needed to maintain soil quality and limit soil erosion.



Scenic Resources and Views

The scenic badlands north of Terry and the Yellowstone River are visible from the interstate. The amount of open land is an advantage, with no urban sprawl or industrial sites to mar the landscape. Scenic View is one of Prairie County’s most popular destinations, noted in many different travel resources. Another scenic destination is Calypso Trail. The Terry Badlands, in general, are also famed for their scenic value.



Historic and Prehistoric Features

A cultural resource inventory and evaluation was completed in 1997 on all lands and facilities administered by the Bureau of Reclamation. This study, available at Buffalo Rapids Project Office, found some prehistoric lithic scatters, the Buffalo Rapids Project Historic District, and a historic dump.


Also, Prairie County is home to historic burial sites. Some examples would be the graves of Custer-era soldiers located by the Yellowstone River/Powder River confluence. There are also several Native American battlefields in the area. These would be the typical types of historic and prehistoric sites found in Prairie County, along with stone circles, homesteads, historic mines, and other cultural sites. The only place listed in the Montana National Register of Historic Places is the Grandey Elementary School. Other sites probably exist that haven’t been “discovered” yet.

Nonrenewable Resources

Approximately 55% of the mineral resources in Prairie County are owned by the BLM. Burlington Resources (railroad) owns approximately 6-8% of subsurface mineral rights in Prairie County (64,000-89,600 acres).


According to the U.S. Department of Interior, coal resources located in the Prairie County badlands (Wilderness Study Area) are mostly lower grade coal beds of lignite with some areas of subituminous coal that have an average bed thickness of less than two feet. Coal resources have three ranks: demonstrated lignite resources (the best quality, worth mining), coal reserves (a good backup), and subeconomic coal resources (not economically feasible to mine at this time). Prairie County Badland coal resources fall into the subeconomic rank. The coal resources calculated as being feasible in this ranking (thickness of bed and thickness of overburden) are measured at 2.45 million short tons, indicated at 12.0 million short tons, and inferred at 34.65 million short tons. Together these add up to a possible 49.1 million short tons of coal resources in the Terry Badlands Wilderness Study Area. As of this publication, three preference right lease applications for coal are held just south of the study area. There are also some coal resources in southeastern Prairie County, but no estimates were found on amounts or feasibility of these resources. In addition to the badland coal resources in Prairie County, there are significant coal resources around Big Sheep Mountain.
There is no known mineral production from the Badland area. Mineral resource potential for all metals is low. Sand and gravel deposits are thin and discontinuous, so mineral resource potential for these is low, too. Bentonite resources have low potential and are of low quality and quantity.
Although the Badlands study area is on the edge of the oil and gas producing Williston basin, five drill holes adjacent to the study area were dry. The right geology for oil and gas may be present along the western edge of the study area, but no resources are presently known. The potential for oil and gas is considered moderate.
Part of the Cedar Creek gas field of the Montana-Dakota Utilities Company is in the eastern edge of the county and supplies Miles City, Terry, and Glendive. A small portion of the prolific Pine Oil Field operated by the Encore also lies in Prairie County.
Other areas produce scoria, sand, and gravel, but most deposits are privately owned. The scoria deposits are a result of burning coal beds baking the surrounding materials. Sand and gravel are a result of alluvial, terrace, and glacial deposits.
Recreational Resources
Prairie County agates are well known for their high quality and unique composition. Rockhounds come from all over the United States to hunt agates, used for decoration, jewelry, and other creative uses.
Wind Power Resources
According to the Department of Energy's Wind Program and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, good-to-excellent wind resource areas are distributed throughout the eastern two-thirds of Montana. A map of Montanan indicating wind resources is attached in the Appendix. Windspeeds are variable in Prairie County, with winter and spring winds blowing from the west and northwest, as well as the occasional southwest Chinook wind and eastern winds most prevalent in the summer and fall.
See Appendix Map IV: Prairie County Average Annual Wind Speed, DNRC
Solar Power Resources

Montana has an abundant solar resource that can be used to save energy in buildings, farming and ranching, recreation, and other industries. Eastern Montana receives an annual average of five hours of full sun per day.



Manure Digester
Feedlots in the county could be a significant renewable source of methane. By using the byproducts from manure, livestock producers can dispose of manure from their operations in a safe, efficient, and sustainable way. One co-generated product of this system is methane gas, which can be burned as a green fuel for power generation or heat. Also, some bio-solid components produced by the system can be applied to land as fertilizer.
ISSUES, GOALS & OBJECTIVES: NATURAL RESOURCES
Issue: Prairie County needs development of minerals for jobs and tax base.
49.) Goal: Encourage Federal and State agencies and private companies and individuals to develop minerals and other natural resources.
Objectives:

49a.) Prairie County should make their policy towards encouraging development of minerals and other natural resources such as recreation. Prairie County insists that Federal and State agencies keep roadblocks to development of our natural resources to a minimum. Federal government owns approximately 55% of all the minerals in Prairie County. This makes the chance of mineral development bureaucratically difficult.
49b.) Prairie County will support development procedures and site-specific plans that provide for the long-term availability and responsible development of its mineral resources in an environmentally and socially responsible manner.
Issue: Water rights and future reservations are incredibly important to Prairie County’s economic future.
50.) Goal: Pursue all avenues to keep water rights and reservations within Prairie County.
Objectives:

50a.) Prairie County policy encourages other government agencies to be aware that Prairie County citizens and government will protect our historical and future agricultural and industrial uses of water at all costs including court cases if necessary.
50b.) The protection of existing water rights and historic water uses within the County is of primary importance to the County’s economic and cultural well being. Transfers in water uses should be carefully considered in relation to the history, traditions, and culture of Prairie County.
50c.) Prairie County shall promote, pursue, and protect the water rights of the people of the county for development of markets for existing as well as future, water rights for agriculture, municipal, industrial, and domestic purposes. In addition, Prairie County shall explore and promote alternative uses of water, including but not limited to recreation and hydroelectric power.

50d.) Prairie County shall promote, strive for, and help with the historical use of water by man, vegetation, livestock, and wildlife within the County.
50e.) Prairie County shall protect and preserve the private reservations and use of water within the county while maintaining economic stability.
50f.) Federal/State/County/Private agencies shall work with the Prairie County Conservation District(s) to promote proper use of water resources.
50g.) Prairie County shall strive to preserve water use to ensure both water quantity and quality while maintaining economic feasibility.
51.) Goal: Maintain good air quality for all its citizens to enjoy.
52.) Goal: Prairie County shall promote opportunities for the development of water-based recreation within the county without jeopardizing economic stability and individual and livestock rights.
53.) Goal: The Prairie County Land Planning Board is committed to maintaining a healthy ecosystem for residents.

Summary of Key Findings
POPULATION

  • In 2000, there were 1,199 persons in Prairie County.

  • Prairie County ranks 52nd in total population in the State of Montana in 2000.

  • Prairie County saw the largest decrease in population in the State of Montana between 1980 and 1990 (24.7%).

  • Population numbers in Montana have been steadily increasing since 1930. In the previous decade (1990-2000), Montana saw an increase of 120,935 people.

  • The median age in Prairie County was 34.4 in 1980 and 48.9 in 2000; the median age in Montana was 37.5 in 2000.

  • Approximately 33% of residents in Prairie County are over the age of 45 and approximately 20% are between 25 and 44 years old.

  • It is estimated that the population in Prairie County decreases by approximately eight residents annually.

  • Population projections based on historical trends indicate a continued decrease in population, estimated at 1,111 by 2025.



HOUSING

  • In 2000, there were 718 housing units in Prairie County; almost 75 percent were occupied.

  • Between 1990 and 2000, Prairie County saw an increase of 3.3% of homes used for seasonal or recreational use.

  • The homeowner vacancy rate increased by 3.1% between 1990 and 2000.

  • The rental vacancy rate decreased by 9% between 1990 and 2000.

  • Average household size in Prairie County in 2000 was 2.21 and 2.45 in Montana.

  • Between 1980 and 2000, the total number of housing units decreased by 55.

  • Between 1980 and 2000, the number of renter-occupied housing units increased by seven units.

  • The homeowner vacancy rate in Prairie County was 5.5% in 2000.

  • The home ownership rate in Prairie County in 2000 was 77.5%, comparable or higher than surrounding counties in Eastern Montana and higher than the statewide home ownership rate of 69.1%.

  • Almost half of the housing units in Prairie County were built in 1939 or earlier.

  • The majority of residents use utility gas to heat their home.

  • The average monthly cost of housing in Prairie County in 2000 was $283 and was $860 in Montana.

  • The average value for a house in Prairie County is $36,500.

  • The average value for a house in Montana is $99,500.

  • The Town of Fallon has a low income housing facility with four units.

  • Action for Eastern Montana reports that two households in Prairie County receive Section 8 housing assistance.

  • The USDA Rural Development administers two loan assistance programs in Prairie County that have not been utilized by residents.

  • Approximately 24 people were living in group quarters in Prairie County in 2000.

ECONOMICS CONDITIONS


  • Prairie County’s economy is strongly tied to agriculture.

  • The largest employers in the County include the Hospital, the County, Buffalo Rapids, and the School District.

  • Public lands are economically important to Prairie County, specifically for grazing, recreation, hunting, and tax revenue.

  • Prairie County gets 10-30% of forage for livestock from public lands.

  • Currently, 30 landowners cooperate with Fish, Wildlife & Parks in the Block Management Program.

  • Prairie County receives approximately 18 cents an acre from the government for payment in lieu of taxes (PILT) on government owned land.

  • Since 1970, wage and salary, farm and nonfarm proprietors’ employment has been declining.

  • Total number of jobs was 841 in 1970, 655 in 1990, and 663 in 2000.

  • Prairie County ranks 51st in the State of Montana in total personal income.

  • In 2003 per capita income in Prairie County was $22,284, compared to state per capita income of $25,406 and national per capita income of $31,472.

  • Prairie County ranks 28th in the State of Montana in per capita personal income.

  • The median household income in Prairie County in 1999 was $25,451.

  • Income from non-labor related sources (dividends, interest, rent, Medicaid) is a growing component of total personal income in Prairie County.

  • The percentage of income from non-labor sources is projected to continue to increase as the population ages and number of jobs in the County continues to decline.

  • 93 people reported Prairie County as their residence in 2000 and worked in another county or state.

  • 80 people traveled to Prairie County for employment in 2000.

  • Approximately 17% of residents in Prairie County live at or below the poverty.

  • In 1997, almost 20% of farms in Prairie County received half a percent of the market value of the agricultural products sold and 2.5% of farms received almost 30% of the market value.


Local Services & Public Facilities


  • Prairie County relies primarily on property taxes to fund county operations.

  • The current allocation of PILT payments is a drain on the County treasury.

  • The Prairie County 911-dispatch system is operated through Baker.

  • Prairie County is served primarily by rural and volunteer fire departments.

  • Volunteers staff the Prairie County Ambulance.

  • There are no commercial air facilities in Prairie County.

  • Water is obtained in Prairie County through privately owned and operated wells.

  • The only waste water systems in the County are administered by the Town of Terry.

  • The public school in Prairie County boasts an average six students per teacher.


Land Use

  • The BLM owns approximately 41% of land in Prairie County; the State of Montana owns approximately 5% of land; the railroad owns 1% of land in Prairie County.

  • Private landowners make up 53% of property ownership in Prairie County.

  • Approximately 4% of Prairie County is enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and this constitutes 25% of Prairie County’s cropland.

  • Prairie County ranks 4th in dry edible bean production in the State of Montana.

  • Approximately 80% of the land in Prairie County is considered rangeland.

  • Livestock and livestock products are major sources of income in Prairie County.

  • The amount of land in acres in farms and the average size of farmland increased from 1997 to 2000 by 4%.

  • In 2001, there were 213 farms in Prairie County.


Natural Resources

  • The BLM has control of approximately 55% of the mineral rights in Prairie County; Burlington Resources (railroad) owns approximately 6-8% of subsurface mineral rights in Prairie County.

  • The Prairie County Conservation District has one of the largest held water reservations in the area.

  • Groundwater resources in the County provide drinking water for families, stock water for livestock, and irrigation for crops.

  • Buffalo Rapids Irrigation District manages irrigation water for approximately 9,195 acres of land in Prairie County.

  • There are currently no superfund sites in Prairie County.

  • In 1999, Prairie County ranked among the cleanest and best 20% of all counties in the U.S. in terms of air quality.

  • Prairie County currently has four stocked water reservoirs.

  • Approximately 75% of Prairie County mineral ownership is held by entities outside the County.


List of Figures and Tables:
Figures:

Figure A.1 Prairie County Population Trends 1920-2000

Figure A.2 Montana Population Trends 1920-2000

Figure C.1 Employment by Type: Wage/Salary and Proprietors

Figure C.2 Farm Employment versus Nonfarm Employment 1970-2000

Figure C.3 Average Annual Unemployment Rates 1990-2000

Figure C.4 Total Personal Income by Major Components, 1970-2000

Figure C.5 Net Flows of Earned Income Entering Prairie County

Figure C.6 Per Capita Personal Income, Prairie County and Montana

Figure C.7 Average Earnings Per Job: Prairie County and Montana 1970-2000

Figure C.8 Prairie County Market Value and % of Farms

Figure C.9 MT Market Value and % of Farms

Figure D.1 Revenue by Source, Government Activities

Figure D.2 Expense by Source, Government Activities

Figure D.3 Expenses and Program Revenues, 2005

Figure D.4 Ambulance Charges for Services and Expenses, 2005

Figure E.1 Cropland

Figure E.2 Agricultural Land Use

Figure E.3 Top Commodities in Montana

Tables:

Table A.1 Surrounding Counties 2000 Population and Rank in State

Table A.2 Surrounding Counties Population Trends 1980-2000

Table A.3 Population by Age Group 1980-2000

Table A.4 Population Education

Table A.5 Historical Population Education 1980-2000

Table A.6 Location of Population 1980-2000

Table A.7 Estimates of Average Annual Rates of Components of Population Change

Table A.8 Population Projections 2005-2025

Table B.1 Occupancy Characteristics of Housing Units, Prairie County, 2000

Table: B.2 Homeowner and Rental Vacancy Rate, Prairie County 1990-2000

Table B.3 Occupancy Characteristics for Prairie County and Montana, 2000

Table B.4 Homeownership Rates in Eastern Montana

Table B.5 Residential Units by Number of Rooms

Table B.6 Housing Units by Date of Construction

Table B.7 House Heating Fuel

Table B.8 Housing Units by Householder’s Age

Table B.9 Housing Units by Householder’s Size, 2000

Table B.10 Comparison of Median Household Income and Monthly Costs of Housing

Table B.11 Section 8 Monthly Rent Standards for Prairie County and surrounding

Counties

Table C.1 Prairie County Employment by Type and Industry 1970 - 2000

Table C.2 Business Establishments in Prairie County: 2000
Table C.3 Personal Income from Labor and Non-Labor Sources by Major Category

1970-2000

Table C.4 Prairie County Transfer Payments, 1970-2000

Table C.5 A Comparison of Total Personal Income in Eastern Montana, 2003

Table C.6 Comparison of per capita personal income in Eastern Montana

Table C.7 Per Capital personal income, Prairie County, Montana, U.S.

Table C.8 Median Income, Prairie County and Montana, 1980-2000

Table C.9 Prairie County Household Income, 2000

Table C.10 Median Household Income by age of Householder

Table C.11 Commuter Data

Table C.12 Commuters to Prairie County, 2004

Table C.13 Commuter Data, 1970-2000

Table C.14 Poverty Levels, 1980-2000

Table C.15 Total Government Payments in Prairie County, 1995-2003

Table D.1 Prairie County Revenue and Expenses, 2005

Table D.2 Public School Enrollment

Table E.1 Land Ownership in Prairie County

Table E.2 Land Use Data

Table E.3 Prairie County: Irrigated versus Non-irrigated Cropland, 2002

Table E.4 Prairie County Commodity Rank in State of Montana, 2002

Table E.5 Montana Commodity Rank in Nation

Table E.6 Prairie County Livestock Numbers,2002

Table E.7 Land in Farms and Average Size of Farm in Prairie County

Table E.8 Farm Characteristics: Prairie County and Montana, 2001

Table E.9 Noxious Weeds in Prairie County

Table F.1 Prairie County Water Rights

Table F.2 Species of Special Concern in Prairie County


APPENDIX I
GROWTH POLICY REQUIREMENTS (MCA)
Montana Code Annotated
76-1-601. Growth policy--contents. (1) A growth policy may cover all or part of the jurisdictional area. (2) A growth policy must include the elements listed in subsection (3) by October 1, 2006. The extent to which a growth policy addresses the elements of a growth policy that are listed in subsection (3) is at the full discretion of the governing body.

(3) A growth policy must include:



  1. community goals and objectives;

  2. maps ad text describing an inventory of the existing characteristics and features of the jurisdictional area, including:

    1. land uses;

    2. population;

    3. housing needs;

    4. economic conditions;

    5. local services;

    6. public facilities;

    7. natural resources; and

    8. other characteristics and features proposed by the planning board and adopted by the governing bodies;

  3. projected trends for the life of the growth policy for each of the following elements:

    1. land use;

    2. population;

    3. housing needs;

    4. economic conditions;

    5. local services;

    6. natural resources; and

    7. other elements proposed by the planning board and adopted by governing bodies;

  4. a description of policies, regulations and other measures to be implemented in order to achieve the goals and objectives established pursuant to subsection (3)(a);

  5. a strategy for development, maintenance, and replacement of public infrastructure, including drinking water systems, wastewater treatment facilities, sewer systems, solid waste facilities, fire protection facilities, roads, and bridges;

  6. an implementation strategy that includes:

    1. a timetable for implementing the growth policy;

    2. a list of conditions that will lead to a revision of the growth policy; and

    3. a timetable for reviewing the growth policy at least once every 5 years and revising the policy if necessary;

  7. a statement of how the governing bodies will coordinate the cooperate with other jurisdiction that explains:

    1. if a governing body is a city or town, how the governing body will coordinate and cooperate with the county in which the city or town is located on matters related to the growth policy;

    2. if a governing body is a county, how the governing body will coordinate and cooperate with cities and towns located within the county’s boundaries on matters related to the growth policy;

  8. a statement explaining how the governing bodies will:

    1. define the criteria in 76-3-608(3)(a); and

    2. evaluate and make decisions regarding proposed subdivisions with respect to the criteria in 76-3-608(3)(a); and

    3. a statement explaining how public hearings regarding proposed subdivisions will be conducted.

(4) A growth policy may:

  1. include one or more neighborhood plans. A neighborhood plan must be consistent with the growth policy.

  2. Establish minimum criteria defining the jurisdictional area for a neighborhood plan;

  3. Address the criteria in 76-3-608(3)(a);

  4. Evaluate the effect of subdivision on the criteria in 76-3-608(3)(a);

  5. Describe zoning regulations that will be implemented to address the criteria in 76-3-608(3)(a); and

  6. Identify geographic areas where the governing body intends to authorize an exemption from review of the criteria in 76-3-608(3)(a) for proposed subdivisions pursuant to 76-3-608.

(5) The planning board may propose and the governing bodies may adopt additional elements of a growth policy in order to fulfill the purpose of this chapter.


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PRAIRIE COUNTY GROWTH POLICY FINAL DRAFT



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