“People come from all over the world just to fish this river,” says Max Hjortsberg, a local ecologist and poet, as his fly arcs through the warm July air. Beyond our drifting boat, a broad bottomland rises to alpine summits. Vaulting a vertical mile from the valley floor, one mountain dominates the rest—Emigrant Peak.
If the scenery seems like something out of a movie, that’s because it is. Much of A River Runs Through It (1992) was filmed here in the aptly named Paradise Valley, and the anglers and summer-getaway builders have been flooding in ever since. They come here because the country is big and wild and beautiful; when people imagine Montana, this is what comes to mind.
What they’re probably not thinking of is industrial-scale gold mining, which is what two companies wanted to do just over the border from Yellowstone National Park. Environmental groups feared that the resource-extraction-friendly Trump administration would OK the projects. It did not, and now Paradise Valley’s experience looks like a model for successful land conservation in the Trump era. Continue Reading →