Montana Outdoors

January 26, 2008

Changing of the guard

Filed under: Montana, Nature, Outdoors, Photography, Photos, Pictures — montucky @ 7:26 pm

About fifteen years ago a wildfire swept through this area and, although it wasn’t an especially hot one, it killed a lot of trees. Once it was over, we did exactly the right thing to the area: we left it alone.

Changing of the guard

In her own time, nature will repair just about every catastrophe that strikes her wild country. She cannot, however, repair a subdivision.


  1. So true. Even here in Alaska, subdivisions and high-rise buildings are being developed at an alarming rate.


    Comment by ak_adventurer — January 26, 2008 @ 9:35 pm

  2. We’re getting a lot here. Now, with the water problems that are developing across the south and southwest, I’m afraid we may see a lot more soon. That’s creating tremendous pressure on the wild country and a lot of other problems as well!


    Comment by montucky — January 26, 2008 @ 10:08 pm

  3. Right arm!!
    My stump speech too.
    Your photos are such a treat for me. North Carolina gets snow but Charlotte seems to be in some kind of pocket that never gets any. My kids didn’t get to build snowmen when they grew up but my brother and I used to sled over the cleared fields up near Greensboro. This was the 1950’s though. The climate seems to have undergone a bit of a change since then .


    Comment by nouveaufauves — January 26, 2008 @ 11:08 pm

  4. aye, ’tis sad.


    Comment by Sumedh — January 27, 2008 @ 12:03 am

  5. nouveaufauves,

    Snow is beautiful, but it is a mixed blessing. Tonight we had a couple of inches followed by freezing rain. That isn’t much fun!


    Comment by montucky — January 27, 2008 @ 1:25 am

  6. Sad it is, Sumedh! On the bright side, at least some environmental issues are getting increased attention lately. I wish I could think we knew what we’re doing though.


    Comment by montucky — January 27, 2008 @ 1:27 am

  7. well… and some wildfires are necessary as some cones won’t open until burned…

    i think the number one problem facing this planet is overpopulation. people need shelter… maybe subdivisions are the best way to go, but they need housing… what is the solution? better housing or fewer people?


    Comment by winterwoman — January 27, 2008 @ 7:08 am

  8. winterwoman,

    Yes, we actually need a lot more wildfires than we have now, more, but smaller as they were in the days before we, with all of our wisdom, attempted to stop them entirely.

    It seems to be an obvious thing that at some point to save the species, population will have to be limited or limit itself. The Earth, after all, is a finite place. Everywhere now we are seeing the problems of overpopulation, but it is in the places we don’t seem to focus on yet that I think the problem is the most severe and the most threatening.

    The word “subdivision” has taken on an entirely new meaning out here in the west. It is no longer only a fairly high density group of homes being built in close proximity to a city or town. More and more, catering to the very rich, subdivisions are being created with lot sizes of 20 or more acres in areas that were previously part of our forest system and thereby part of the western watershed. I read something the other day that stated 10,000 acres per day are now being used up for new development. In the Swan Valley here in western Montana, for example, one very rich individual purchased a very large parcel of land and cut down 400 acres of trees so he could have a better vies of the mountains. Only the size is uncommon: the practice is not.

    With all of our knowledge, we still don’t know just how much wild country it takes to maintain human life on Earth in terms of oxygen-rich air and water, our top two necessities, both of which come from the natural world. We don’t know how many plants and what kind of diversity it takes, what kind of animal species are required to maintain the balance of plant life, etc.

    The largest private land owner in Montana is Plum Creek Timber Company. It owns 1.2 million acres in the state and millions more in other western states. It developed out of the huge land grants originally given to the railroads as incentive to build their network of rails. In 1999, Plum Creek became a real estate development trust and has been getting away from managing its lands for timber, a renewable resource, and has been developing them for homes because the land is now more valuable with that use. In so doing, all of those trees grasses and plants and the wildlife that prevailed with them for balance are now disappearing, and at a rapid rate.

    I’ve gone on long enough, but I think you can see where some of my concerns are. As I spend time poking around in the remaining roadless areas, it is becoming very plain to me just how fragile and threatened those areas really are, even out here where to the casual review they seem to be endless.


    Comment by montucky — January 27, 2008 @ 11:36 am

  9. A different sort of photo today, but I always agree with your losing-nature-rants. Wisconsin, though not as spectacularly beautiful as the hidden West, has some remarkably beautiful areas and luckily there are no population centers near enough for people to be very interested. We prefer to keep our quiet state just that – quiet.
    And I still rant about the idiots who trash MY country’s land. It belongs to them, too. You’d think they’d give a damn.


    Comment by barbara — January 27, 2008 @ 12:05 pm

  10. Isn’t it ironic though that those who seek out the beautiful areas and go there to live end up destroying the essence of those very places, just by being there! Many just don’t understand, others are too selfish and arrogant and short-sighted to care.


    Comment by montucky — January 27, 2008 @ 1:14 pm

  11. your original post here made me think of what my nephews asked a couple of weeks ago-why do we have volcanoes if they are so dangerous/bad/scary, etc….

    as we read on about them we learned just how important they are to the balance of the earth, as you point out here in the comments about other aspects…

    I don’t know about other folks, I know I am very ignorant of all the things you mention in your blog. I have learned a lot over the year I’ve read through your stuff. my daughter is very in tune to it though. she just “gets” it and has from an early age. seeing the correlation between all the loss of trees, counting all the dead animals on the roadside because they have lost their homes and don’t have anywhere to go. seeing that all the humans in all those new houses are going to be hurting when there aren’t enough trees to help the air we breathe. seeing the delicate balance of it all really helps to put it into perspective. there is a reason it was all created this way.

    I guess I sometimes don’t know how to react to it all. I believe we should be good stewards of what we have, including our home here on earth. but as you say, it is finite, it will end. but I don’t think it’s our job to speed that final result on its way…


    Comment by silken — January 28, 2008 @ 7:58 am

  12. silken,

    It’s interesting and gratifying to see your daughter’s level of understanding. I just wish everyone could be so open and see so clearly!

    I think one of the key words in all of this is “balance”. Back before mankind’s scientific advances and the subsequent changes we began to make in the natural world, a natural balance existed which made life on the planet possible in the first place. I think if I had been here then and had much influence, I would have advised, “be very, very careful”.

    Even today with all of the “knowledge” we have acquired, we just don’t know what all it takes to keep that natural balance or when it will be out of balance, but we know certainly that we do need air and water for sure. Therefore, it deeply concerns me that, despite this lack of understanding, we keep destroying piece after piece of the wild country that provides both of those things. (Obviously there are many, many other things that make our lives here possible, I’ve just mentioned the top two. And, if you reflect on it, most of the other things are running into difficulty too.)

    For some reason, young folks (like your daughter) seem to recognize the issues fairly quickly and quite clearly. Being old, I see the situation from a different perspective. I clearly remember what it was like around here from about the mid 40’s when I began to have an awareness of the world around me. The scary part is the changes that have taken place and the accelerating pace of those changes. That part of the world that is still in its natural state has shrunken drastically.

    There are problems everywhere with water supplies, pollution, the exhaustion of our energy supplies, room for agriculture, and on and on, and yet our foremost efforts are to keep on supplying to an increased demand, further exhausting what this earth can supply, rather on conserving and protecting it. Perhaps that is why children can relate to the issues better than most adults: they have a clearer acceptance and understanding of what are really “needs” and what are “wants”.

    I envision mankind today in the position of Pahom in Leo Tolstoy’s story “How Much Land Does Man Need?”.


    Comment by montucky — January 28, 2008 @ 12:19 pm

  13. We have a answer for subdivisions around here, we call them Tornadoes, I know thats bad !!! 🙂


    Comment by Bernie Kasper — January 30, 2008 @ 4:18 pm

  14. You know, Bernie, that may be nature’s answer. And up here we have forest fires.


    Comment by montucky — January 30, 2008 @ 4:36 pm

  15. Actually she can repair a subdivision and much faster than you would suppose. There is a tv special showing how the earth would recover after the last human is gone. Doesn’t take that long before there is no trace left.

    Great photos. This would be a good place to paint if one had some thermo underwear.


    Comment by wrjones — January 30, 2008 @ 5:11 pm

  16. wrjones,

    I haven’t seen that TV special but I’d like to. It’s probably right, although the main premise isn’t all that pleasant to consider!

    Thermo underwear is pretty common here, all right, but I do seem to see more painter in the summer than winter.

    Thanks for your visit and comment!


    Comment by montucky — January 30, 2008 @ 8:18 pm

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