Web site of Scott McMillion - Journalist, author of Mark of the Grizzly, senior editor of Montana Quarterly

Posts Tagged ‘environment’

“The Reef Makers”

By Scott McMillion
Nature Conservancy Magazine
Summer, 2010

Also at stake in the Gulf of Mexico: Miles of restored oyster beds

Nature Conservancy Magazine online posted an update to this article:

In December 2009 Nature Conservancy magazine reported on a project to build 1.5 miles of oyster reefs on the Alabama coast. About 60 percent of the manmade reefs were installed when the Deepwater Horizon exploded on April 20.

The oil spill now threatens the new reefs. The project, described below, is halted and the Conservancy and partners are helping with oil containment efforts when and where they can.

Excerpt from “The Reef Makers“:

Oysters don’t sing. But they do make music. Drag a set of long-handled oyster tongs across the muddy bottom of Alabama’s Fowl River Bay, and you might hear the melody. It’s something the old-time oystermen call chirping.

It’s an odd sound, this clinking of oyster shells on rusty steel rakes: Imagine a wind chime doing its job under a couple feet of water. While this is sweet music to an oysterman’s ears — it sounds like money, food, another day of keeping the wolf from the door — the tune rings hollow around here these days. In 2009, state officials closed Alabama’s shores to oyster harvest.

The oysters of Fowl River Bay, Heron Bay and Portersville Bay, all part of the vast Mississippi Sound/Mobile Bay ecosystem along the coast of Alabama, have been hammered over the past few years and many have died, leaving empty shells that make a flat song. They’ve suffered what the locals call a perfect storm of perils: major hurricanes, extensive drought and a proliferation of killer snails.

Click here to read the entire story.

“The Perfect Storm” First in a Four Part Series about wildfire

By Scott McMillion

Bozeman Daily Chronicle

June 29, 2008

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK – It started out dry and then it got drier. The rains stayed away, but the wind showed up in a fury and it stayed mad all summer, puffing out its cheeks over and over again. There was lightning all over the place. An outfitter got careless. So did a woodcutter. By July, the fires took over.

Nearly 800,000 acres – more than a third of the park – burned during the summer of 1988. It seemed like the fires were everywhere. You could count the smoke columns. Two, three, four at a time on some days. Ominous mushroom clouds big enough to create their own weather.

Millions of ancient trees went up like matchsticks and the smoke drifted across the nation. Scorched twigs and pine needles wafted 20,000 feet high in the smoke columns, then fluttered to Earth 100 miles away. Nerves frayed. Tempers exploded.

The summer of 1988 reintroduced America to wildfire. Big fire. Major fire. Unstoppable fire. Fire that hadn’t been seen in decades.

Such fire was no stranger to the continent. From Maine to California, wildfires had destroyed communities and killed thousands of people, burned millions of acres in decades past.

In Wisconsin, the 1871 Peshtigo fires burned nearly 4 million acres and killed 1,500 people.

The Great Burn of 1910 scorched 3 million acres of Montana and Idaho and killed 85 people.

But these horrid memories lived mostly in the distant past, before slurry bombers and helicopters and chain saws, before Smokey the Bear, before television could bring the flames to your home every night. Could these things still happen?

The summer of 1988 showed that they could.

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“The Aftermath and the Lessons” Second in a four-part series about wildfire

By Scott McMillion
Bozeman Daily Chronicle
June 30,2008

After the fires of 1988, scientists from around the nation trooped to Yellowstone National Park, analyzing the aftermath. They found an amazingly resilient landscape.

Click here to read the entire story.

“Ted Turner Puts his Money where his Heart Is”

By Scott McMillion
Bozeman Daily Chroncile
April 17, 2008
Photography by Erik Petersen
Through his philanthropy and his activism, Ted Turner, at 69, is working on hunger, malaria, global warming, red-cockaded woodpeckers, nuclear annihilation and the volunteer fire department at the tiny town of Alder, Montana. Plus he’s writing a book, skiing at Big Sky and hoping to hear the howl of a wild wolf before he dies.

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“The War on Weeds: In Hells Canyon the Lines Are Drawn”

By Scott McMillion
Nature Conservancy Magazine
Summer 2007
Photography by Karen Ballard

The toughness that drove most settlers from Hells Canyon is what kept this place so fruitful for wildlife. For the most part, it’s been spared the energies and damages of mankind, the opposable thumbs and the itch to tinker. Hells Canyon still supports that amazing diversity of life, still has what the rest of the American West once had: vast acreages of native plants and big populations of native critters to eat them and each other. It’s an ecosystem that works.
But much of this is threatened. We saw the invaders.

Click here to read the entire story.

“On the Wing: Chris Boyer’s Aerial Photography Shows the Way We Use our land.”

By Scott McMillion
Big Sky Journal
Summer, 2006

       Chris Boyer has a thing about junkyards. Flying at low elevation across Montana, you or I would likely dwell on the prairie undulations or jagged riverine breaks, the erose peaks or that great big sky we’ve entered.
       Boyer marvels at all that, too. But he focuses on the junk, the atolls of our discards that speckle the land. He takes special interest in these monuments to our ethic of disposal and replacement, miniscapes that, if left alone, will disappear only at the speed of rust.

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