In November of 2014 I studied coal development in rural southeastern Montana, where my family has lived and ranched for the last forty years. Situated along the Tongue River and Custer National Forest, the land supports cattle ranchers, farmers, an Amish Community, and the Northern Cheyenne Reservation.
A new coal mine is slated to be developed in the area, near the confluence of Otter Creek and the Tongue River. 90 miles of railroad tracks would be built along the Tongue River, in order to connect the coal to existing lines. Eventually this coal would be shipped by rail across the Pacific Northwest and loaded onto freighters bound for China. The railroad would condemn thousands of acres of fertile, family-owned, farm and ranch land.
In order to witness this place and listen to the thoughts of the people most directly impacted by the proposed mine and railroad, my father and I rode the entire route of the proposed railroad on horseback. Our horsepacking expedition covered the 90-mile route in 9 days.