Tradition and Tribulation – The Bitterroot Valley

HST 207 – Blog Post


Mary Hill Young



At this point in time the Bitterroot valley, and many of the surrounding areas, are suffering from the same interconnected grouping of environmental issues: oil and gas companies, extractive mining and farming procedures, and deforestation. There are of course, a myriad of other contributing factors, but these few factors are the largest, most harmful, and overreaching of the industries at play here. Every single one of these issues has a deeply historical basis. The original European and immigrant settlers to the area had not learned, or not wanted to learn, any alternative to their invasive and extractive tactics they had always employed. This created a cultural trend that, in deeply traditional Montana, has continued to this day, despite its destructive nature.

The environmental issues that have plagued Montana are, while certainly not a microcosm for those that the world struggles with nonetheless offer intriguing parallels worthy of exploration. The most important parallel to be drawn is how human indifference to the environment and our own destructive habits sets us on an inevitable and downward spiral. The adherence to tradition, despite the consequences, that is clearly evident Montana’s economic and environmental downturn is also visible on the worldwide scale.

2 thoughts on “Tradition and Tribulation – The Bitterroot Valley”

  1. You’re definitely right that there are many other issues facing Montana. However, I think the primary ones come from oil and gas extraction as well as deforestation. You also make a good point that some of the destructive tendencies have held around because of tradition. In some way I’d like to fight against these traditions. Many people I grew up with rely on those traditions to support them and their families, which complicates things for me and sometimes makes it hard to speak my mind. That being said, there is certainly a balance, and there are steps we can take to lessen our impact on the land from farming and even extraction. When I took a soils class, I learned of the impact traditional farming techniques can have on the land. For example, while turning topsoil in a certain more aggressive way may benefit you in the short term, in some cases it’s better to rotate crops and learn from native culture across the world. That is definitely boiling it down to suit my narrative, but hopefully it gets my point across somewhat.

  2. While I certainly think it’s true that an unrelenting adherence to tradition can be routed back to the source of many of Montana’s environmental problems, I believe quite the opposite is also true. I believe adherence to progress without looking back at what was beneficial of our traditional past can be just as detrimental. Take Montana’s sudden and total shift away from logging. While it’s true that clear cutting was undoubtedly a major source of forest fires, the public’s total rejection of any form of logging is as well. Such as when proposals are introduced to chop down and remove certain trees in order to deter such rampant and uncontrollable wildfires, many local legislatures reject these as it is public belief that all proposals related to logging are only to sustain some corporate greed. I think ultimately what us as a society needs to learn is to be open to all ideas and suggestions, but with a healthy amount of skepticism.

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