Blogging under the Big Sky:

This morning, during some quick, pre-fishin web browsing, I cam across this article on change in Montana. Without a doubt, the state has changed, particlarly in the Bozeman area, as it has grown and the economy has shifted away from traditional resource extraction industries.

For a decade or two, college-educated people who want to live in decent towns, fish in clean rivers and hike in high mountains have been descending on western Montana. Unlike the farmers, ranchers and miners that have traditionally run the state, they tend to be green and lean Democrat -- and they are changing the state's politics.

To the regret of many longtime Montanans, these New Westerners are getting awfully thick on the ground, especially in Gallatin County. They are building monster houses, seeding the periphery with big-box stores, and sullying the Montana that they and their birdhouse-building kids came to celebrate.

As with decline around Malta, no one has come up with a sure-fire scheme to control growth around Bozeman.

Still, once you get out of any Montana town and pick up some speed on a highway, the big sky, limitless space and staggering absence of traffic have a way of soothing a traveler. Emptiness out here has a kind of holiness. It blows away worries about sprawl in the west or decline in the east and seduces a driver, even in a rental car, into thinking of himself as a rugged individualist.

Despite the changes, Montana remains a beautiful place, and the fishing remains fabulous. Yesterday we floated the Upper Madison River. In about two hours we'll be casting onto the Yellowstone.

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