The Bitterroot Valley’s most significant environmental problems today include toxic wastes, forest degradation, soil issues, water issues, air pollution, climate change, biodiversity losses and new pests (Diamond, p. 35). This post will focus on the issues of toxic wastes, forest degradation which relates to air pollution and soil issues. All of these problems are historic because most of these issues are due to humans’ impact on nature and climate change that has been a result of modern agriculture and industrialization. First, toxic waste is a result of the mining industry in Montana that began in the 1800s and the resulting issues of toxic clean-up that still happens today (36). Forest degradation is a result of logging which began in the Bitterroot Valley in 1886. The loss of trees from the area has taken away an essential ecosystem for many animals, and along with climate change, has created an area with lots of wood kindling which is why there are so many forest fires in this area every summer which creates air pollution from the smoke (42). Two factors from human history have led to soil problems (and thus farming) in the Bitterroot Valley. The first is nitrogen exhaustion which was due to commercial apple orchards and erosion from overgrazing, logging, forest fires and other issues (47). The second factor for soil problems is salinization (or too much sodium in soil) which is caused by the use of tractors, soil tilling devices and weed-killer on the land (48).
I think Montana does offer a good model for understanding the world’s environmental issues. Montana is definitely on a smaller scale than places like LA or Salt Lake City which always face issues such as smog because of lots of factory pollution and overpopulation. Montana, however, being on a smaller scale does offer an example of how to solve these issues if scientists come up with ways to remedy these issues.