Diamond summed up the environmental issues that Montana is currently facing as “almost all of the dozen types of problems that have undermined pre-industrial societies in the past… problems of toxic wastes, forests, soils, water (and sometimes air), climate change, biodiversity losses, and introduced pests” (Diamond, 35.) To elaborate, Montana, and its Bitterroot Valley in particular, is currently facing numerous environmental problems, most of which have a basis in how the land has been treated by people who lived here decades to centuries ago and cared more about their current acquirement of wealth than the lands long-term ability to continue to be profitable, let alone habitable. Abandoned metal mines, numbering in the tens of thousands, and many of which are a century old, leak acids and toxic metals into the ground and waterways (Diamond 36.) Commercial logging began in 1886, and peaked around 1997, with the use of DDT, and clearcutting considered an acceptable practice. Because of the lack of trees, water temperature rose, fish populations diminished, and snow melted too quickly for it to properly nourish the land. There was also an increase in forest fires because of numerous practices, such as not appropriately thinning samplings (Diamond 44.) Other problems with the balance of Montana’s ecosystem included the land being depleted of nutrients from too many years of growing apples and overgrazing land (Diamond 47,) a general shortage of water because of naturally small amounts of rain leading to fighting and resentment between farmers and landowners (Diamond 51,) and issues with native species numbers depleting, invasive species numbers growing, and the spreading of diseases (Diamond 54-55).
Bitterroot Valley and the rest of Montana does seem to be a good example of what it looks like when numerous environmental problems compound. I think the biggest factor that makes it a good example of these types of things, however, is just how much of it was caused by people. Montana was, and still is, a beautiful place, and so it attracted newcomers, many of which were ignorant to the fragile balance of the ecosystem in Montana, or simply didn’t want to spend the time it took to care. That kind of attitude has been going on for a long time, in numerous places, and it definitely seems to be a big factor in whether or a not a place will recover or eventually collapse under the excessive stressors and no longer hold the appeal that brought so many people there in the first place.