Even though Sen. James Risch, R-Idaho, introduced a Scotchman Peaks Wilderness bill in December, another bill will have to be reintroduced this year. Now is the time to get your comments or concerns to Sen. Risch and make it known that many local citizens are not part of the supposed “wide-spread” support that we hear about so often, including from our outgoing and out-of-touch commissioners. There are several significant issues that many local residents are concerned about. Sign-ups for the FSPW newsletter, the support of the former commissioners and the Greater Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce do not constitute widespread local support. There are many issues of concern about this proposal.
The boundaries extend several miles from the upper scenic goat rocks, to within 300 feet of the Lightning Creek Road and encroach on private land holders to the south. There is no need for such a wide border around the upper scenic areas (most of which is in Montana, by the way).
Thanks to the USFS decommissioning or closing roads and not leaving trails, removing bridges, stopping snowmobilers and not maintaining roads, most of Lightning Creek is now de facto wilderness. Lightning Creek was an area of significant historical use by residents, a place where many people learned to hunt, fish, camp, pick huckleberries and enjoy the outdoors. Now, thanks to the lack of management by USFS, the access and use has been severely restricted and it is not a big leap to assume that a next step would be to add much of this to a Scotchman wilderness.
A wilderness brings additional layers of additional rules, regulations and wide powers to the USFS. In a wilderness, the use of snowmobiles, snow bikes, wheeled game carriers, wheeled rescue litters, chainsaws, mountain bikes and, without special authorization, using helicopter for rescues or firefighting are not allowed. 36CFR261 gives the USFS wide powers to stop essentially any activity in a wilderness, including, specifically listed, the entry or being in the area (261.57 (a)), possessing camping equipment (261.57 (b)) and the use of firearms (261.57 (c)), among others. Do we expect that they will do that? No, but should we be giving them that power and others for perpetuity?
Future land management, even for fire reduction or wildlife habitat improvement, would be severely restricted. Parts of Scotchman are key winter range for elk and mule deer. Dying trees and excessive windfalls are common, increasing fire risk and decreasing wildlife use. In spite of hearing the contrary, there is commercial timber on the southern margin of Scotchman. The last USFS timber sales in this area were focused on the lower slopes, while more commercial timber continued upslope. What if future generations actually want to manage/care for the land and wildlife (different than what the Forest Service does now)?
Passage of the wilderness will bring even more visitors to Scotchman, a peak already heavily used by too many people, due to the campaigning for this wilderness. Of course this dramatic increase of hikers has resulted in the infamous goat problems on the peak. Before FSPW existed, it was not common to see another hiker on the trail and, if you were lucky, you might have seen some goats somewhere around Scotchman. We’ve already seen the area closed, due to a goat biting a hiker. A hiker was killed by a goat in Olympic Park. Goat-people problems tend to be fixed by either removing (expensive) or killing (cheap) the goats or restricting visitor access (by the stroke of a bureaucrat’s pen). Expect this for the future.