Sunday, August 9, 2009

Libby, Montana ...

I think for many years, the part of Montana that was most neglected by historians and others was the far west, the logging country near the Idaho border along the Bitterroot, Clark Fork, and Kootenai river valleys. The community of Libby represents the essence of that country as well as anyplace: it's an intriguing, Twin Peaks-like little town, one that's suffered greatly in recent decades due to the corporate destruction of its lumber economy. When Libby finally garnered some broader attention over the past few years it was due to a still-greater tragedy: a massive asbestos contamination caused by a nearby mine that's sickened hundreds of local residents.

This photo of Libby was taken back in 1926 for the U.S. Forest Service. The view is to the southwest, looking across the Kootenai River and towards the Cabinet Mountains.


  1. "Corporate destruction of their lumber economy",,,,jessus you crack me up sometimes,,,Ha,,,Ha,,,,,

  2. Heh ... you should read up on some of that area's history sometime, Jeff. Libby -- and the forests around it -- were doing fine for decades when the locally-owned J. Neils Lunber Company ran the mill. They had a strong philosophy of sustainable harvest, cutting just what was needed for the mill and to keep the forests regrowing, and so local employment was high and the forests were healthy and there was never a timber supply problem. But then the whole operation was bought by an out-of-state corporation, that didn't care about the long term... they just wanted a quick return on their investment. So they ramped up logging like crazy, without regard for the future, actually trucking the vast majority of the logs to out-of area sawmills. And then after they'd devastated all of the land in their control -- basically digging their own grave -- they tried to lay the blame elsewhere. (They'd already started closing down the Libby mill long before that, because their was more money to be made by trucking the logs away.)

    Basically, it's a terribly-sad case of out-of-state corporate power raping our natural resources and leaving us to deal with the economic, social and environmental consequences. It's something that's happened a lot in Montana's history.