The Bitter Truth About the Bitterroot Valley

The Bitterroot Valley faces a number of environmental struggles, most notably the fallout from mining and excessive human interaction in the realm of logging and undergrowth. These problems have historical beginnings, but still resonate and effect many residents today. Mining, which was a source of major income for many early Montanans, has metamorphosed into a very prevalent issue, with an array of chemicals seeping into the soil and waterways surrounding the mines. As Jared Diamond states, “. . . 6,600,000 cubic yards of sediments contaminated with arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead, and zinc have been washed down from Butte’s mines. . .” (Diamond, 39) creating problems not only for the surrounding soil but also for the drinking water of Butte residents. Logging companies similarly created problems for Montana’s environment, as they focused on removing the largest, most fire resistant trees and leaving the younger more fragile ones. They also allowed the understory to grow to such a degree that fires now advance in size so quickly that they are borderline impossible to extinguish.

While some of the problems that affect Montanans and their land are localized to the American Northwest, many others can be generalized to societies and landscapes across the globe. The issues of water pollution and deforestation can very easily be approximated to a vast number of areas such as third world populations in India and Africa and the rainforests of Central and South America, respectively. Many of the issues thrust upon Montanans are the result of human ignorance, which is also a common trend worldwide. People not possessing the foresight to attempt to negate or diffuse as many potential issues resulting from harvesting resources from the land has caused an immense number of problems throughout history, and is the main route through which the environmental problems of the Bitterroot Valley can be used to explain numerous worldwide problems.