I met Phil Hough, executive director of Friends of Scotchmen Peaks, about five years ago when I was campaigning for Bonner County commissioner.
Although I had climbed Scotchman Peaks (the pain was still vivid), I knew nothing about the proposal for wilderness. After being given a “Basic 101 on Wilderness,” I told Phil I personally supported the proposal, because I, like many others, moved here because of the recreational opportunities available. However, if elected commissioner, he would have to convince the board there was overwhelming support from the county.
Community consensus grew in the next few years to include not only outdoor enthusiasts, but also those representing economic interests such as the Idaho Forest Group. In March 2015, the Board of County Commission formally approved by resolution support for congressional legislation designating Scotchman Peaks (the portion in Idaho) as wilderness.
Last June, I went back to Washington, D.C. (no expense to the county) with Phil Hough and Bob Boeh, representing the Idaho Forest Group, to visit with our Idaho representatives about introducing legislation. We wanted to convince them that this wilderness proposal would contribute to the local economy and quality of life, was supported by the majority of residents, and was the best use of the land. Senator Risch and his staff have particularly instrumental in this effort since he is a member of the Energy & Natural Resources Committee which handles these issues.
By the way, in 2006, then-Gov. James Risch created five management categories for Idaho’s 9.3 million roadless areas. The Scotchmen Peaks area was designated as “wild land recreation,” which is the most restrictive categories. Also, the Idaho Panhandle National Forest Management Plan, published in January 2015 after a 10-year study, listed the Scotchmen Peaks area as “proposed wilderness” — which means the area is already managed as wilderness by the Forest Service. However, the designation by Congress would give this area permanent protection — that’s the key issue!