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another new review

September 10, 2013
Milltown Reservoir restoration in progress.

Milltown Reservoir restoration in progress.

Estimable environmental author and Pomona prof Char Miller (disclosure: I’ve occasionally worked with Char on a freelance basis; he used to teach at San Antonio’s Trinity University, whence he contributed to The Texas Observer, where I worked (and work again) as an editor) has done me the great good kindness of reviewing Opportunity, Montana from a vantage of no small expertise.

Although I have walked the trails that hug the Clark Fork River as it flows through Missoula, Montana, I’ve never canoed those cold waters. If I ever did, I’d want Brad Tyer in the stern as my guide, showing me how to navigate its boisterous length, how to read the complex natural landscape and built environment as we floated by.

After a 2011 run down the powerful snow-melt-pushed river, in which he and his fellow travelers barreled downstream so fast that they covered in “twenty minutes what usually takes an hour,” the flotilla swung on to a gravelly beach. This was not just any rest-stop: Above them was the wide and welcoming deck of one of the Garden City’s best watering holes, the Finn and Porter Restaurant; beer awaited. “Missoula is nice like that.”

That much I knew.

What I had not known until reading Tyer’s unsettling, page-turner of a new book, “Opportunity, Montana: Big Copper, Bad Water, and the Burial of an American Landscape,” was the complicated past and present of the Clark Fork—and why we should care about its turbulent history and contemporary dilemmas.


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