CLARK FORK — Representatives from U.S. Senator Jim Risch’s office and Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness are hosting a public meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 11 to discuss a proposed wilderness designation in Cabinet Mountains.
The meeting is set for 6 p.m. at the Clark Fork Junior/Senior High School. It was originally slated for the Clark Fork Senior Center, although the venue was shifted to ensure there is enough room for people to attend.
Risch, a Republican who represents Idaho in Washington, D.C., announced last month that he is introducing legislation to designate approximately 13,900 acres in Idaho a wilderness area. Friends of Scotchman Peaks has been promoting the designation since 2005 and over the years established a diverse coalition of public and political support in Idaho and Montana. Supporters include Idaho Forest Group, in addition to past and current boards of county commissioners in Bonner County with strong conservative bents.
The meeting is meant to acquaint people with the proposal and answer any questions the public may have about the designation or its boundaries.
“Our goal, as we’ve tried to do over the years, is to provide accurate information,” said Phil Hough, executive director of Friends of Scotchman Peaks.
The wilderness proposals has enjoyed nearly universal support in the community, although the proposal is not without its detractors.
The Idaho contingent of Redoubt News has put up a call for action urging its adherents to challenge the wilderness designation for Scotchman Peaks.
The online post is presented as a news article, but lacks the hallmarks of a traditional news story, such as attribution to purported facts, a byline or a connection with reality.
“A broad misunderstanding is really a nice way to put it. The information is not accurate,” Hough said of the post.
The post falsely states that the wilderness designation will restrict a host of forest activities including hiking, hunting, fishing, and huckleberry picking.
“Wilderness does not restrict any of those things. The only thing that wilderness restricts is motorized and mechanized activities,” said Hough.
The post further claims that the designation is the handiwork of Beltway politicians and “radical environmentalists” intent on controlling public lands for their narrow interests.
“When you look at the broad community support we have you’d be hard-pressed to call (Idaho Forest Group Vice President of Government Affairs) Bob Boeh or any other of the current county commissioners ‘radical environmentalists,’” Hough said.
Hough said there has been confusion over the proposed boundaries of the proposed designated wilderness in Idaho and it’s hoped the meeting will clear the air. The proposed boundaries emerged through collaborative planning between the U.S. Forest Service and the public through management plans for the Idaho Panhandle and Kootenai national forests, which were developed from 2003 to 2015.
The only change to the proposed boundaries in Idaho is a setback requested by Risch on Lightning Creek Road, Hough said.