An Analysis of Brad Tyer’s Opportunity, Montana

An Analysis of Brad Tyer’s Opportunity, Montana

Brad Tyer’s, “Opportunity, Montana: Big Copper, Bad Water, and the Burial of an American Landscape.” Is a memoir examining Montana’s troubled affiliation with the West and their efforts to restore a contaminated environmental legacy. In 2002, Brad Tyer, moved to Montana, a state with a long history of America’s imagination as an unspoiled landscape. Brad was searching for a  river he could identify as his own but what he came across instead was 100 years’ worth of  waste filling the Clark Fork River, years-long engineering project to reclaim it and an abandoned community known as Opportunity (Tyer 5). In the book, Tyer describes Montana as a region that was exploited for its rich copper deposits during the nineteenth century. The state was among the regions with the vast amounts of copper deposits globally, leading to the development of electricity in America during the twentieth-century as well as developing some of the country’s most outlandish riches. The poisonous by-product from these mining activities was either spilled into the river or dumped in Opportunity.

Tyer shows how the state is gradually changing in this century as Montana’s perception is now of a natural landscape and no longer metal. The region is now filled with unspoiled nature and blue streams of America’s “last best place” as stated by the author (Tyer  22). To parallel reality to the myth, well-meaning environmentalists, as well as exurbanites, are attempting to reclaim the Clark Fork River back to its previous state. While doing so, vast amounts of contaminated soils are being extracted and discarded again in Opportunity. As Brad analyses Opportunity’s history, he is filled with queries of environmental integrity and the ethics of troubling one society with a whole region’s dumping.

In the book, Brad describes Opportunity as a town stalling at the joint of a sinking  economy and a fledging recovering boom (Tyer 17). The town’s story contains a unique history of the nation’s dream and a crucial determinant in accepting the country’s as well as the international mandate for modern suitability. As Brad investigates the ruins of the region, he also reviews the equivalent emotional geography of well-known disaffection.  “Opportunity Montana” has a part reportorial narrative as well as personal history. The book covers a narrative of progress and the price of father and son, copper and water and also the regions efforts to redo its prior mistakes.

In the book, Tyler also details how the success of Anaconda, another small town in the region, led to sacrificing a huge part of surrounding acres to the degradation accumulating day in day out from the Washoe Stack, up to its closure in 1981. He also does a detailed assessment of how EPA piled a new disaster on the town by shifting Milltown wastes from the Clark’s Fork River close to Missoula to Opportunity. EPA was hoping that the soil would be fit for Opportunity and was even telling the local communities that the soil would be new topsoil for the town. However, the environmental solution did not work as anticipated, leaving Opportunity in a worse state than it was previously. Communities in Opportunity received a small part of SuperFund monies for environmental reclaiming in the form of Beaver Creek Park. However, the core of the park, the Opportunity School constructed in 1914 for the locals by the Anaconda Company is being neglected. It was active from 1914 up to 1981 when the smelter ceased operating and begun to serve as the community’s central point (Tyer 18). Reclaiming the school is challenging since it previously used asbestos; hence the federally sponsored park is only partly complete as the SuperFund support ceases to exist.

In his book, Tyler also describes the Pintler Scenic Route, which he considers to be one of his beloved roads. It was the first Montana road to be paved wholly. During its early decades, the road ran through Opportunity to Phillipsburg onto Drummond, but at the time of Tyer’s assessment of Montana, he finds out the highway goes through Interstate 1-90,Opportunity/Anaconda exit to the west and proceeds north to the Drummond exit on a common interstate (Tyer 23). He finds a new 21st century stop center at the Anaconda 1-90 exit with a Montana Department of Transportation marker about the Pintler route as well as the mountain ranges.

Tyler also covers how the wildlife in Montana is being controlled and destroyed, even the policies regulating human interactions with the wildlife. Wildlife in Montana, as well as the neighboring Wyoming community, is a difficulty managed resource. Out of the less than a thousand endangered bears living in Montana’s 147,046 square miles margins, close to a dozen are murdered by folks, hunted with guns or hit by trains (Tyer 22). Some are grouped as “management removals” which means Montana’s wildlife personnel kill the bears any moment they become a danger to the local communities, as they are continuously driven to do.   A fed bear, according to the local bulletins, is a dead bear. In addition to this, wolves which were reintroduced in the region during the 1990s are now closely monitored by the state with a toolkit filled with trapping authorizations as well as hunting licenses. Wolves were once considered endangered species up until 2011 when they were delisted under the endangered category. Ranchers in Montana now kill wolves since they kill calves. Most of the state’s genetically untainted buffalo are held in a common national wildlife refuge as well as Yellowstone National Park. Montana’s Department of Livestock agents regularly smog the buffalo with helicopters as well as ATVs when they go across the borders into cattle territory. Powerful politicians of Montana are afraid of a brucellosis outbreak, a disease that results in stillbirth and is usually carried by the bison. Therefore annually the state murders multiple buffalo stubborn enough to roam. In addition to this, the state’s governor permitted a lottery-focused buffalo hunt for sportsmen. Tyler also mentions how some local advocates such as Trout Unlimited and Mountain Elk Foundation never get tired of reminding visitors of the paradox, of the fact which is true that there are no powerful groups lobbying for habitat and wildlife preservation than fishermen and hunters.

Tyler describes Opportunity and the greater Montana as a place that has gone through too much cruelty. The town which is a countryside area of Anaconda founded in 1912 by the Anaconda Copper Company, is formerly a rural town for discharged smelter employees. For a large part of the 20th century, the bordering Opportunity ponds which extend close to four thousand acres were used as a pit for Anaconda’s smelter waste and mine tailings. Currently even more dump in tons is washing downstream from Butte, scattering across the floodplain and accumulating behind the Milltown Dam. This waste is being bundled up with front loaders loaded into rail cars and transported back up to Opportunity (Tyer 27). Brad approximates that five hundred people reside in Opportunity currently. The Clark Fork flows between toxic banks adjacent to Opportunity. The copper that electrified America has a price and Opportunity is the one paying it. The reclaiming of the Clark Fork also has a price which Opportunity is paying too.

In his exploits and travels through Montana, Tyer noted the drive into Anaconda is a gateway into the country’s industrial past. One begins by passing the freeway indication signifying the turnoff to Wisdom, fifty miles to the southwest. For ages, out at the other end of Mill Creek Road where it joins State Highway 43, there was a sign at the junction with opposite arrows indicating the road to Wisdom as well as Opportunity. Tyer observes that the sign had since been replaced during a resurfacing project ten years ago.   The turnoff to Wisdom is proceeded closely by an unnatural- appearing grassy knoll, close to a mile and a half long. Brad learns the entombed remains of the Anaconda Pond, which was previously a dump pit where poisonous heavy metals settled out of suspension and dropped to the bottom before the water carrying them was released into Mill Creek, passing through Opportunity heading to the Clark Fork.

Brad Tyler’s text offers us an opportunity to discuss the crazy doubleness of the state which is a subject that has previously been neglected. The region’s storylines spread across Montana and around America and the entire world as well. We need more Authors like Brad Tyler to follow up on such environmental issues and whose writing is elegant, straightforward and heartfelt.



Works Cited

Tyer, Brad. “Opportunity, Montana Big Copper, Bad Water, and the Burial of an American Landscape.” Tyer, Brad. Opportunity, Montana Big Copper, Bad Water, and the Burial of an American Landscape. Texas: Beacon Press, 2014. 34-74.,Montana,+Big+Copper+,bad+water&source=gbs_navlinks_s.