The Bitterroot Valley: Historically Unclean?

Montana’s Bitterroot Valley is a place most famous for its smaller towns, clean rivers, open air, and recreational opportunities. However, even a seemingly pristine location has faults. In Diamond’s “Under Montana’s Big Sky”, he discusses environmental problems evident in the Bitterroot Valley. Among those issues, are increasing population, occasional poor air and water quality, deforestation, soil and nutrient runoff, introduced pests (such as the Mountain Pine Beetle), lack of rainfall, and toxic wastes from mines. While all are serious environmental issues, Montana is still considered one of the most environmentally conscious states. So, why do these problems exist? Well, a lot of the natural problems facing the Bitterroot are explainable by Montana’s dry climate and high altitude. Thus, causing a shorter growing season, and little rainfall, which then leads to increased risk of forest fire (poor air quality), and a lack of plant growth, or a lack of biodiversity among the plant community. And well I wouldn’t call the Bitterroot Valley’s environmental problems a historical issue, I would say that historically, when more people come to an area, environmental problems tend to arise. Increased population can account for deforestation, and the subdivision of land. People arriving and mining the land explains Montana’s superfund site problem, and people immigrating to new places bring with them varieties of new invaders, be them plant or animal.

Montana, and the Bitterroot Valley are good models for understanding the world’s environmental issues because, the issues plaguing Montana are not beyond repair. Yes, Montana faces the same environmental problems that Los Angeles or Beijing face, yet it is still considered one of the most pristine environmental areas on Earth. I think, by analyzing Montana’s seemingly small-scale environmental issues, we could find solutions to them that then could be used to assist in areas of higher concern.

1 thought on “The Bitterroot Valley: Historically Unclean?”

  1. I agree with you in that Montana and the Bitterroot Valley serve as good models in understanding environmental issues on a more global scale. I think that the problems that Los Angeles or Beijing face are similar to Montana’s but are not the same. Environmental problems differ between geographical locations. Yes, Beijing, Los Angles, and the Bitteroot Valley are all being polluted by humans, but the scale and type of pollutant is what varies between them. I’d say that the pollution in bigger cities is in a much more direct relationship to humans, such as the smog in LA. Obviously, humans cause forest fires which pollutes our air but, fires are a natural occurring event as well. Therefore, I think that environment problems vary between place.

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