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Opportunity, Montana

Big Copper, Bad Water, and the Burial of an American Landscape

Opportunity, Montana by Brad Tyer
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A memoir-meets-exposé that examines our fraught relationship with the West and our attempts to clean up a toxic environmental legacy
In 2002, Texas journalist Brad Tyer strapped a canoe on his truck and moved to Montana, a state that has long exerted a mythic pull on America’s imagination as an unspoiled landscape. The son of an engineer who reclaimed wastewater, Tyer was looking for a pristine river to call his own. What he found instead was a century’s worth of industrial poison clotting the Clark Fork River, a decades-long engineering project to clean it up, and a forgotten town named Opportunity.
At the turn of the nineteenth century, Montana exploited the richest copper deposits in the world, fueling the electric growth of twentieth-century America and building some of the nation’s most outlandish fortunes. The toxic by-product of those fortunes—what didn’t spill into the river—was dumped in Opportunity.
In the twenty-first century, Montana’s draw is no longer metal but landscape: the blue-ribbon trout streams and unspoiled wilderness of the nation’s “last best place.” To match reality to the myth, affluent exurbanites and well-meaning environmentalists are trying to restore the Clark Fork River to its “natural state.” In the process, millions of tons of toxic soils are being removed and dumped—once again—in Opportunity. As Tyer investigates Opportunity’s history, he wrestles with questions of environmental justice and the ethics of burdening one community with an entire region’s waste.
Stalled at the intersection of a fading extractive economy and a fledgling restoration boom, Opportunity’s story is a secret history of the American Dream and a key to understanding the country’s—and increasingly the globe’s—demand for modern convenience.
As Tyer explores the degradations of the landscape, he also probes the parallel emotional geography of familial estrangement. Part personal history and part reportorial narrative, Opportunity, Montana is a story of progress and its price: of copper and water, of father and son, and of our attempts to redeem the mistakes of the past.

From the Hardcover edition.
Beacon Press; March 2013
ISBN 9780807003305
Read online, or download in secure EPUB
Title: Opportunity, Montana
Author: Brad Tyer
  • News
Legacy of mine waste investigated in 'Opportunity, Montana' - The Missoulian
Fri, 29 Mar 2013 07:26:46 -0700
The MissoulianLegacy of mine waste investigated in 'Opportunity, Montana'The MissoulianThe idea for the book about ...
Dramas of Family and State Unfold in 'All the Houses' - The Texas Observer
Thu, 10 Dec 2015 07:11:00 -0800
The Texas ObserverDramas of Family and State Unfold in 'All the Houses'The Texas ObserverIntuiting the threads that ...
Copper Mining in Montana: The Environmental Impacts - Mother Earth News
Wed, 05 Nov 2014 11:45:08 -0800
Mother Earth NewsCopper Mining in Montana: The Environmental ImpactsMother Earth NewsIn 2002, journalist Brad Tyer strapped a ...