Wilderness aids habitat, maintains flexibility

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As a sportsman and a retired Fish and Game conservation officer, I care deeply about Idaho’s fish and wildlife. To conserve these critters, we must also conserve their habitat. Protecting wilderness areas, such as the proposed Scotchman Peaks Wilderness, is one tool to do that. But just what will fish and wildlife managers be able to do if the proposal becomes a reality?

Here are Sections 4(C) and (D) of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness Act, introduced by Sen. Jim Risch:

(C) FISH AND WILDLIFE — Nothing in this Act affects the jurisdiction of the state of Idaho with respect to fish and wildlife on public land in the state.

(D) MANAGEMENT ACTIVITIES — In furtherance of the purposes and principles of the Wilderness Act (16 U.S.C. 1131 et seq.), the secretary may carry out management activities to maintain or restore fish and wildlife populations and habitats to support fish and wildlife populations within the wilderness area if the management activities—

(1) are consistent with relevant wilderness management plans;

(2) are conducted in accordance with appropriate policies, such as the policies established in Appendix B of the report of the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs of the House of Representatives accompanying H.R. 2570 of the 101st Congress (House Report 101–405), including the occasional and temporary use of motorized vehicles; and

(3) as determined by the Secretary, would:

(A) promote healthy, viable, and more naturally distributed wildlife populations that would enhance wilderness values; and

(B) accomplish the purpose of the management activity with the minimum impact necessary.

Section 4(D)(2) references a set of policies enumerated in a House Report from the 101st Congress. Among other things, the House Report provides that:

• Angling, hunting, and trapping are legitimate wilderness activities, subject to applicable State and Federal laws and regulations.

• Helicopters and fixed wing aircraft overflights may be used to conduct approved fish and wildlife research activities. Aircraft must be used in a manner that minimizes disturbance of other users, including humans and wildlife.

• Aerial counts and observations of wildlife may be permissible for management of wilderness wildlife resources. Capturing and marking of animals, radio telemetry, and occasional temporary installations (such as shelters for cameras and scientific apparatus and enclosures and exclosures essential for wildlife research or management surveys) may be permitted, if they are essential to studies that cannot be accomplished elsewhere.

Wilderness protects valuable fish and wildlife habitat while giving managers the flexibility that they need to do their work. The legislation expressly provides that Idaho Fish and Game “may carry out management activities to maintain or restore fish and wildlife populations and habitats”.

If the proposed Scotchman Peaks Wilderness becomes a reality, sportsmen will continue to hunt and fish in the Scotchman Peaks, just as they do in the Selway-Bitterroot and Frank-Church – River of No Return Wilderness Areas.

Greg Johnson is a retired Idaho Fish and Game conservation officer. He served for 31 years in that capacity.

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