Montana Outdoors

February 9, 2007

I’m glad they’re gone

Filed under: Environment, Montana, Nature, Outdoors, Writing — montucky @ 8:37 pm

In 1992 a billionaire developer bought 140,000 acres of Montana’s wild country near Big Sky from the Plumb Creek Timber Co. and built the ultra-exclusive Yellowstone Club, a members-only ski and golf resort, featuring homes with $1,000,000 minimum price tags. Fees for Club Membership alone are $300,000. Now under construction is a 53,000 square foot house complete with its own ski lift that can be boarded from inside the house, and it accesses one of the largest ski areas in Montana, but this one is private. Price: $155,000,000, setting, in my opinion, a brand new record for a rich man’s arrogance. 218 square miles of wild country is now gone forever, having become an exclusive playground for the absurdly rich.

Plumb Creek Timber Co. now plans to sell 10,000 acres of the 80,000 acres it owns in the Swan Valley of Western Montana for private development. (10,000 acres is the equivalent of 15.6 square miles. If the shape of it were to be roughly 3 miles by 5 miles, it would take a darn good hiker over 5 hours of solid hiking just to walk around it.) The Swan valley has seen residential building for many years on small spots of land back in the woods, but in the last few years, the property sizes have gotten much larger and today’s newcomers have a different idea of their homes and the land around them. They want to see the rugged Swan Mountains and so they simply get rid of the trees, often a section (one square mile or 640 acres) at a time. The results in terms of the natural beauty of the place and the impact on the wildlife there are nothing short of devastating. (The impact on the wildlife does not affect that area alone, but because it also alters their natural migration routes its impact will be felt for hundreds of miles around that specific area.) It seems to me it’s another huge example of modern man’s greed, selfishness and arrogance.

The fishing access site at Deep Creek along the Bitterroot River west of Missoula has been devastated within the past ten years by illegal use of off-road vehicles, dumping of trash, paint from paint-ball parties and other acts of vandalism. There are two 20-ft deep cuts in the hills near the site created by hundreds of off-road vehicles illegally roaring up the hillsides. “People are just plain ruining this site,” said a Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks conservation specialist. “We’ve had our signs run over, shot and pulled down. People have no regard for any rules and regulations. They don’t care about anything that we’re trying to do here.”

As I read these stories in the news and witness first-hand the wanton destruction of and the selfish disregard for the natural world in this “Last, Best Place” I can’t help but think of the men who lived here in the past and truly loved this land now called Montana. A brief list of just a few, chosen at random and in no particular order, includes: Chief Joseph (Nez Percé), Chief Looking Glass (Nez Percé), Chief Two Guns White Calf (Blackfoot), Chief Sitting Bull (Lakota/Sioux), Chief Gall (Lakota/Sioux), Chief Dull Knife (Cheyenne), Chief Little Wolf (Northern Cheyenne), Chief Plenty Coups (Crow), Chief Rain-In-The-Face (Hunkpapa Sioux). These were real men, true leaders of their people who cherished the natural world in which they lived. I’m glad they’re gone, because, were they here today to see what I see, I couldn’t bear to look into their eyes and see the sadness there.

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