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Yellowstone: Beyond Growth

Throughout my time in Montana, I have noticed a change. The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is full of beauty, treasure, passion, and growth. Growth is thought of as a positive experience, one in which usually brings prosperity and joy. The case of Bozeman, Montana; this growth is negative. What once was a wild playground is now a transformed and gentrified city, smack in the middle of some of the most deserted mountainous regions in the lower 48. 

I originally moved to Bozeman, Montana for a degree at Montana State University; which was once a small university with limited athletics and small enrollment numbers which usually reflected its pull for in-state tuition. I was offered scholarship money to further my studies in Business Administration and Small Business Management. I was excited to move away from the busier portion of the Rocky Mountains, the Mile High City of Denver. Growing up in Denver, I was able to see first-hand how much a city and region can change for the worse. We as Coloradans were raised to treat the land, as well as your neighbor with the utmost respect; and for a large portion of my life, Colorado felt like it blossomed with a southern hospitality, just with an even more spectacular backdrop. 

Bozeman, how I know you weren't meant for this. The Gallatin Valley was just that, a valley with rich opportunity and a population that cared for each other, and the "Montana Wave" was still a thing. Speed limits were suggestions, where people either drove that limit, or a few under to take their time and fully enjoy the day. From a recent interview I took part in with a local artist, it was mentioned that people who aren't from Montana have began to drive like they live, fast and with no-control. What used to be a heaven for cattle and wheat is now a mountainous tragedy that promotes condo-living in what used to be God's Country. Bozeman is a hot-spot for change. 

As you walk down Main Street today, you will see what once used to be a main drive with local businesses and affordable services. Now this stretch is full of cars, drunk college students, and coffee shops that charge more for a scone than an eatery would in Downtown New York City. Bozeman has become a playground for the rich, and with the criticized Yellowstone Club catering the 1% an hour to the south, and Big Sky Resort boasting Montana tourism to places such as California and beyond, what once was Bozeman feels now no different than places such as Boulder, Colorado or even ritzy towns as of Laguna Beach, California; but again, with wild mountains surrounding. 

As you come into Bozeman on I-90, you will notice that you may only be passing semi-trucks for around 200+ miles surrounding, and then BOOM. You're stuck in traffic for about 5 exits, and aggressive "out-of-state" cars are passing you at 90+ mph. This is the new Bozeman.

Luckily, the nearby Yellowstone National Park and the mountain ranges around hold true to their beauty and wilderness. If you look beyond your typical tourist spots of Old Faithful, Mammoth Hot Springs, and more; the park and the mountains surrounding are home to some of my favorite memories to date. Some of my best photos have come from these areas, and my most wild encounters with Bears, Moose, Mountain Lions, and more have stemmed from these ranges. 

All I ask is that this stays true. I moved here to adapt to Montana, not to force Montana to adapt to me. Sadly, many don't take a step back and realize the beauty of simplicity. Individuals tend to carry more baggage with them to a new place than realized. Bozeman was never meant to have brand-new Mercedes G-Wagons or Red Ferrari's driving down Main. Hell, the roads weren't meant for that either.

Bozeman is no-longer Montana. 

If you look to the beauty beyond the valley, Montana is still here. Montana is not meant to be touched, it's meant to be preserved. Look to history, and stop the negative growth before it's too late. 

This is still God's Country, we need more Bald Eagles and Osprey, not Yellowstone Club Private Jets.

-Chris Wood

Lamar Valley, MT - February

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