Now that a Scotchman Peaks Wilderness Bill has been introduced in Congress, the question is raised again, “How will this affect our community?” Studies have reliably shown an economic benefit to communities located near designated wilderness. Does this mean large numbers of tourists from all over the world will descend on Scotchmans? Of course not. The economic advantage comes in part from people desiring the lifestyle of a community permanently and uniquely touched by a beautiful and free place left in its natural state.
Let me give you a few examples of how living with our wilderness neighbor has enriched and enhanced our community, in addition to the protected traditional uses of hunting, fishing, and hiking. It is a story about family and friends, and how shared values of special wild and free places are enshrined and preserved by our community. In addition to leading many summer and winter hikes through the wilderness, Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness (FSPW) has brought in inspirational naturalists, historians, geologists, trackers, and even, lichen and mushroom gurus to share their knowledge. Walking Jim Stolz, a legendary distance hiker and songwriter, came to the Hope School to inspire our youngest schoolchildren with the wonders of nature. Each October, dozens of talented artists come to Hope, and spend the fall weekend painting in and around the Scotchmans, before sharing their labor of love with our community. Led by FSPW in the summer, poets, writers, sculptors, and painters put on their backcountry gear and go into the heart of the Scotchmans to enjoy and capture its beauty. Essays inspired by literally growing up with the Scotchmans in your backyard are written by seniors at Clark Fork High School for the annual scholarship contest. Each 4th of July the FSPW float and supporters roll through Clark Fork, and the sound of “This Land is Your Land” from our local marching band echoes off the mountains. For the past 12 years, free maps and newsletters are distributed throughout our community. There are many ways the wilderness presence enhances our community, even without putting much gear on.
The Scotchman Peaks area has been a wilderness for millions of years. It was a wilderness before the Native Americans arrived, and much later, the Europeans and Americans. You may have heard of proposals to take away our federal land or even sell it to raise money. It’s time to take our Scotchmans wilderness permanently off the auction block, so that no matter how many generations follow us, Scotchmans will always be a wild and free place for all to enjoy. Let’s all get behind Senator Risch’s leadership in placing a Scotchman Peaks Wilderness Bill before Congress, and permanently protect our special place.
FSPW board member