Personally I would go cross platform and try Torque 3D or such, but I'm a Ubuntu user...
Well, according to Gabe Linux is the new big platform for games. I might check out Torque, thanks.
Apart from that there are many different ways to implement an environment and the way of implementing the feature depends on the way your terrain works.
Ok, I think see what you are saying: It's hard to make a one-size-fits-all.
If your primary target is to create a game and not to learn the technology I highly recommend to evaluate the available engines and go with one of them!
Interesting. My primary target at the moment is indeed to create a game. Which engine would you recommend? I would like to have something more on the programming end and less on the value tweaking end since I want to be able to make some unique features.