Montana’s Environment: Burnt & Poisoned

As made evident in the first chapter of Diamond’s book “Collapse”, Montana is plagued by environmental problems ranging from poison seeping into its soil from old mining techniques, to a near perpetual burning of its forests as a result of improper logging techniques and too stringent fire control in the past. It seems difficult not attribute these issues to human interference, as opposed to accepting that they’re an issue with precedent in history, as undoubtedly the poisoning caused by mining techniques, particularly especially harmful ones like cyanide heap leaching, must be attributed to the miners and their presence. The same can be said of human interference in the timber industry and the subtle changes in the structure of national forests over the past few decades. Historically, the forests grew in such a way that they experienced “a lightning-lit fire about once a decade” (Diamond pg. 45). These fires served to help the forests by burning away the smaller, more flammable Douglas Firs before they were tall enough for ignition to threaten the foliage of the taller Ponderosa pines. However, uncontrolled logging and better fire suppression have actually served to make the risks of forest fire greater, as the Ponderosas are cut down and their smaller more flammable cousins are allowed to grow to dangerous size. This results in much more intense fires far more frequently, and has no historical precedent prior to human interference.

I believe that Montana certainly offers a wonderful example of environmental issues such as these from around the world in that it’s issues, and those expressed in Diamond’s Bitterroot Valley examples, are ones which can be related to by readers from around the world. Furthermore, these issues are also incredibly relevant due to the importance that the environment plays in life within the state of Montana.