Livingston, Montana and the Mining Conundrum

In today’s Christian Science Monitor, Ben Arnoldy describes the tumbling cycle of raw-materials mining and its impact on small towns like Livingston, which despite successfully attracting artists, restaurateurs and upscale fly fishers, still suffers withdrawal when blue collar jobs go bust. The piece avoids reference to another long-standing problem in mineral-rich areas: communities willing to relax environmental rules in order to get new jobs, only to be stuck with the longer-term impact of mining waste on their local rivers. “The global economic crisis is part of the problem. The auto industry uses half the production of platinum and palladium, so Detroit’s woes are rippling out to Montana communities such as Livingston and Big Timber. But the real culprit is the US dollar, mining experts say, and therein lies reason for hope that mining here might yet revive.”

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  • I don’t really see the doom and gloom in this article for Livingston
    All towns, including Livingston and Big Timber, need to diversify their revenue generating capabilities in order to not become the next ghost town. I grew up in Paradise Valley, fly-fished there from my youth, and lived in Livingston when I could go down to Dan Bailey’s and be taught how to tie the latest fly by one of the many women making a living there. I left town for college, built and sold a company, bought 110 acres on the Yellowstone River and turned it in to a conservation easement. From then til now, the town is far more diversified, including both tech companies and aesthetic businesses (art) that only exists because people with money come to visit from New York and California (etc).
    If anything, Livingston’s problems aren’t with the global economy but with the lack of leadership at the local government level. Livingston was “left in the dust” by Bozeman…which at the turn of the 19th century, had nothing going for it compared to Livingston and Butte. Bozeman instead became a “destination” with its university and its high-end realestate, where the socialites from other states came to claim their own piece of the west and decorate it with their expense designers. It was this money, not the mines or timber, that drove Bozeman to be one the most sought after small towns to live in in Montana. My guess is that it will weather the long economic storm ahead of us better than Livingston because it is a “destination” that brings in money from outside.
    If Livingston wants to do a service to its citizens, it would pour money into Main Street, advertise itself as the gateway to Yellowstone Park, bring in outside developers with tax breaks, and create a service economy based on its one great, eternal asset: Yellowstone National Park. Heck, it doesn’t have to pay a dime for that brand.
    As it stands, Park County will allow Tom, Dick and Harry to subdivide 20 acres in to 20 lots with trailers on each lot. Just travel up Paradise Valley, home to some of the greatest fly-fishing in the world and you’ll see what poor development planning can do to the region. This type of development won’t bring in outside wealth, who want pristine developments and controlled environments.
    It’s this development policy which causes more detriment to the rivers than mining (which has severe federal regulation now). We need more Arthur Blank’s of the world to buy up large sections of land in Montana and create destination dude ranchers, fly-fishing businesses, hunting businesses, etc that continue to bring outside money in and employ locals with jobs.
    Thanks, MidCurrent, for such a great site!
    Jeff Reed