Boise Ridge: Story of a Mountain Past, Present


Comprehensive land-use planning in the Boise Foothills dates back to the Mid 1970s with the inception of the Ada Council of Government's (ACOG) Concept Plan. Ada County and Boise City had comprehensive land-use plans, but both plans were becoming outdated. At that time, many projects were developed in the county and later annexed into the city. City and county plans were inconsistent, and the city had little control over design for county projects. In 1975, the Boise City area of impact boundary was included into the Local Planning Act of 1975 which gave the city planning control over areas that would be annexed in the future.

In 1978, during development of the Boise City Comprehensive Plan (Metro Plan), the Metro Plan Steering Committee knew that it was physically impossible to make Boise's downtown the geographic center of the city. However, the downtown area could act as the demographic center by increasing densities in the southeast and northeast areas and by permitting development in the Foothills. Because of controversies centered on Foothills development, the decision was made to "permit Foothills development" instead of encouraging it. Based on the issues and concerns surrounding Foothills development, the Metro Plan Steering Committee recommended policies that were adopted and set forth in the Metro Plan.

The major issues facing the Metro Plan Steering Committee were the engineering aspects of Foothills development and the impact from traffic on the community. Environmental concerns associated with wildlife, wetlands, and public open space were not addressed in detail. This plan left individual projects with little guidance regarding transportation, environmental, aesthetic, recreation, and open space issues.

In 1993, the Ada County Ridge to Rivers Pathway Plan was adopted. The comprehensive pathway plan was designed to improve pathways in Ada County. In 1994, the Foothills Plan Background Report was completed describing the resources associated with the Foothills, their context, and sensitivity. In 1996 the seven federal, state, and local managing agencies in the Foothills signed an MOU outlining management objectives in the Foothills.
Then, on August 26, 1996, a human-caused fire consumed 15,300 acres (22 square miles) of the Boise Foothills. The fire encompassed all of Hulls Gulch and a large portion near Bogus Basin. Rehabilitation work started immediately to mitigate possible flooding. Agencies spent $3.3 million to reduce erosion and restore the watershed. A 5-year monitoring program began shortly after rehabilitation efforts. This event accentuated the need for management of human activities in the Foothills. In 1997 the Boise City Foothills Policy Plan was adopted as an amendment to the Boise City Comprehensive Plan. The plan contains policies that govern future development in the Foothills in a manner that protects public safety and the environment.


In 2000, the Boise Foothills Management Plan was completed, describing the location and importance of plants, wildlife, riparian corridors, soils, slopes, recreation and public open spaces. The plan outlined the need for conserving natural resource values, educating the public, and providing sustainable recreation and resource use.

All told, Boise's thirty years of planning efforts set the table for an important community decision: how does the community protect public open space in the Boise Foothills in the face of growing development pressure? With leadership from the Mayor, City Council and a grass-roots community coalition, the citizens of Boise passed a $10 million serial levy on May 22, 2001. This serial levy provides the city with an important tool to work with private property owners in conserving important open space corridors and creating a valuable public resource for future generations.



The story of the Foothills tells of citizen heroes stepping up to save land when no one thought it could be done and of public agencies coming together to craft management agreements unheard of in the West. Enjoy this Outdoor Idaho episode, "The Foothills." Learn more about the history of Foothills preservation. Find out about the experts' favorite wildflowers and discover where you can go travel the Ridges to Rivers trail system. Come explore Boise's backyard, "The Foothills."