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Scotchman Peaks group plans hikes, trail work

PUBLIC LANDS — The Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness are launching another ambitious season of guided hikes, outings, trail work — along with gentle advocacy for securing wilderness designation for a little piece of heaven northeast of Lake Pend Oreille.

The group's newsletter, Peak Experiencelists a number of upcoming attractions, starting in Sandpoint with the May 28  State of the Scotchmans program — always a worthwhile gathering. Guest speaker this year is Doug Scott, who was involved with writing the original 1974 Wilderness Act. He'll be speaking on the role of grass roots advocacy — how wilderness gets done.

The Scotchmans group is scheduling a long list of hikes for the season to acquaint people with portions of 88,000-acre proposed wilderness area.

New this year are Field Day Fridays, geared to doing something fun, educational and meaningful outside every Friday from June 12 through Sept. 25.

The biggest trail news is the impending start of rebuilding the lower mile of Trail #65 on Scotchman Peak, the most popular day-hiking destination in the area.

Consider lending a hand.

Scotchman Peaks Wilderness endorsed by Missoulian

PUBLIC LANDS — The Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness recently won a critical endorsement for protecting 88,000 acres northeast of Lake Pend Oreille from Bonner County Commissioners.

Last weekend, the group continued to win mainstream acceptance for the proposal, with the editorial endorsement of the Missoulian:

Scotchman Peaks Wilderness Area should be next on Montana's agenda
Of all the wilderness proposals under consideration in Montana, the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness Area, which spans 88,000 acres of a roadless area on the Montana-Idaho border, is the one that appears to enjoy widespread support. Montana's federal lawmakers should work with their counterparts in Idaho to craft legislation to designate the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness.
—Missoulian

Scotchman Peaks’ brewing support, time to toast

PUBLIC LANDS — You know you've arrived when someone names a brew in your honor.

MickDuff's Brewing Company's new Goat Hope Ale is debuting in honor of the Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness and the group's efforts to protect an 88,000-acre wild area northeast of Lake Pend Oreille.  The suds are named for the mountain goats that often great hikers who make the trek to the summit of Scotchman Peak.

Last month, the Scotchman's wilderness proposal was endorsed by the Bonner County Commission.

Now it's time to tap into the party on Thursday, April 9, starting at 5:30 p.m. at MickDuff's, Third and Cedar in Sandpoint.

Live music and one handcrafted keg of extra-hoppy, golden-pale ale will be available through 8:30; proceeds from all pints of Goat Hop Ale will go directly toward working for wilderness.

Check in regularly with the FSPW to join them on hikes, trail work days, kids outings and education days throughout the year.

Bonner County commissioners endorse Scotchman Peaks Wilderness

Updated 5 p.m. with quotes and more detail.

PUBLIC LANDS — Bonner County Commissioners unanimously passed a resolution on Tuesday calling for the U.S. Congress to designate the Idaho portion of the Scotchman Peaks as a wilderness.

This is another milestone in an effort to protect a worthy spread of  mountain real estate northeast of Lake Pend Oreille.

“The Scotchmans is a perfect area for wilderness,” said Cary Kelly, chairman of the three-man board.

“There’s not a lot of timber that could be used because of the soil composition and terrain and no big mining interests. There’s not really any opposition other than from the element that doesn’t want any federal rules on our forests.”

The entire 88,000-acre wilderness area proposal straddles the Idaho-Montana border in the Kaniksu and Kootenai national forests.

The steep, rocky, mountainous area northeast of Lake Pend Oreille has been recommended for wilderness by Forest Service management plans that were debated for more than a decade and approved in January.

The Idaho side of the proposed wilderness area encompasses about 14,000 acres of national forest land, including Bonner County's tallest mountain. Scotchman Peak, elevation 7,009 feet, is a popular hiking and mountain goat viewing destination overlooking Clark Fork.

“It’s one of the few areas that commissioners can support as wilderness,” Kelly said. “It’s kind of the exception to the rule.”  

The Sandpoint-based Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness was founded in 2005 to work with the region's communities, elected officials and outdoors enthusiasts to find common ground for protecting the roadless area.

“We appreciate the leadership and support from the Bonner County Commission,” said Phil Hough, the friends group’s executive director.

Individual commissioners in adjoining Sanders County, Montana, have shown support for the wilderness, he said. Other formal endorsements have been approved by the Sandpoint City Council and Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce as well as the current and former Montana governors, he said.

“For a county commission to offer unanimous support for wilderness, while not unheard of, is pretty unusual,” Hough said. “It’s a reflection of the widespread support for the wilderness among residents of Bonner County and around the region.”

Kelly said the Bonner County board has supported the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness proposal since 2006, but the time was ripe for a formal endorsement.

 “Only Congress can designate wilderness, and the (friends) group is trying to move forward with the proposal in Washington, D.C.,” he said.

“Most attempts at declaring wilderness probably are not very popular with a Republican conservative House and Senate. But we’re looking at the exception to the rule and the commission is urging Idaho congressmen and senators to try to support this proposal.”

Brad Smith, North Idaho conservation association with the Idaho Conservation League, was at the meeting and reported the vote on his ICL blog.  Smith posted the following resolution approved by the board of commissioners:

WHEREAS the Scotchman Peaks provide outstanding views and recreational opportunities to residents and visitors of Bonner County, Idaho; and

WHEREAS the Scotchman Peaks contribute to the economic vitality of the region through recreation, tourism and as an attraction which draws individuals and businesses to our area; and

WHEREAS the Scotchman Peaks provide habitat to a diversity of native flora and fauna; and

WHEREAS there is broad public support amongst residents of Bonner County to protect the Scotchman Peaks; and

WHEREAS protecting the Scotchman Peaks will benefit current and future generations of Bonner County by endowing them with an enduring resource of wilderness.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Bonner County Board of Commissioners call upon the United States Congress to enact legislation designating the Idaho portion of the Scotchman Peaks as a wilderness area, consistent with the boundary delineated in the revised Land Management Plan for the Idaho Panhandle National Forests.

Scotchman Peaks Wilderness group optimistic, plans activities

PUBLIC LANDS — The Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness based in North Idaho and Western Montana is celebrating the group's 10th anniversary on a high note this month. 

Recent passage of the Montana Heritage Act indicates that Congress is able — and even somewhat willing — to designate Wilderness, says FSPW program coordinator Sandy Compton.

The group has not yet succeeded in winning official wilderness designation for the 88,000-acre roadless area that straddles the Idaho-Montana border. But since the group was founded in 2005, it's attracted nearly 5,000 "friends," Compton said.

“Our new commission in Bonner County is very supportive,” said FSPW executive director Phil Hough, who's based in Sandpoint. “We’ve worked hard in our two Western Montana counties to gain support in a number of ways, including opening an office in Libby and helping create the Lincoln County Prosperity Forum Series."

  • The 10th anniversary celebration will begin in Sandpoint, Friday, Jan. 9, with live music, silent-auction and picnic-style food at Tango Café in the Columbia Bank. Get tickets here.
  • The FSPW  schedule of winter group hikes begins on Jan. 11 with an easy-to-moderate snowshoe trek up Lightning Creek.
  • March events in Troy and Thompson Falls will feature author and historian Jack Nisbet speaking on David Thompson’s explorations of the Kootenai and Clark Fork valleys in the early 1800s.

Stewardship has joined wilderness advocacy in the group's approach to securing protection for the peaks that overlook Lake Pend Oreille and the Clark Fork River. 

FSPW volunteers and staff have contributed hundreds of hours of work to:

  • Build or improve Scotchman Peak Trail 65 and Star Peak Trail 999.
  • Monitor weeds, conduct multi-day white bark pine surveys, work on stream restoration and assist with trailside tree planting for the national forest “Treasured Landscape” program.
  • Coordinate summer hike programs for adults as well as for young children.
  • Assist wolverine researchers by setting and monitoring remote camera stations in Idaho and Montana.
  • Create a Winter Tracks program to teach tracking skills and wildlife monitoring methods to area youth, including kids from Spokane.
  • Plan summer 2015 trail projects on the lower portion of the Scotchman Peak Trail and continue to work on trails in Lightning Creek.

Volunteers Building New Trail

Volunteers are helping the Idaho Panhandle National Forests build a new trail to a stunning view from a forest fire lookout overlooking the Clark Fork River and the proposed Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness northeast of Lake Pend Oreille. The Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness already has put in multiple days of routing, brushing, log cutting and carving the tread to the Star Peak Lookout over the past two years.  The peak where an historic lookout is located formerly was known as Squaw Peak. The next work party is set for Friday ( Aug. 9).   Meet at the trailhead (see map) at 9 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time (10 a.m. Mountain). Following work days are Aug. 23 plus the weekend of Sept. 21-22/Rich Landers, SR Outdoors. More here.

Scotchman Peaks Wilderness friends leading group hikes

HIKING — The annual summer series of group hikes organized by the Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness will begin June 4 with a trek into Thunder Creek northeast of Lake Pend Oreille.

The moderately difficult hike is just the first of 15 hikes the group is offering this summer along with three cooperative trail work projects coordinated with the Forest Service.

In addition, the friends group is offering two hiking workshops with author, naturalist and historian Jack Nisbet.

The group hikes are geared to exposing the public to the rugged and scenic 88,000-acre roadless area the group is proposing for wilderness designation. The area straddles the Idaho-Montana border northeast of Clark Fork, Idaho, and ranges into Montana.

"We have some great hikes, as usual, but we are expanding our focus to include more stewardship and education,” said FSPW program coordinator Sandy Compton.

Wolverines, fishers featured in Sandpoint program

WILDLIFE - Two researches will present what they learned from studies on fishers and wolverines in the Cabinet and Selkirk mountains in a free program Thursday, 6 p.m., at the East Bonner County Library in Sandpoint.

Idaho Fish and Game Department biologists Lacy Robinson and Michael Lucid, along with area volunteers on snowshoes and snowmobiles have been setting bait stations and cameras in remote areas to survey for the elusive members of the weasel family.

The photographs tell much of the story.

The researchers got help from snowmobilers where the machines are allowed, but when they ventured into more remote areas, they were helped by snowshoers from the Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness to help install, monitor and remove bait sets designed to catch wolverines - on film.

"We didn't photograph any wolverines," says FSPW program coordinator Sandy Compton, " at least not in the Cabinets, but we did catch a lot of their cousins." In both ranges, cameras caught portraits of fishers, pine martens and weasels, as well as the occasional surprise visitor. In the Selkirks, they also caught a wolverine.

In 12 study stations, remote cameras were trained on trees baited with beaver carcasses and household sponges soaked with smelly concoctions designed to attract mustelids and be hard enough to get to that the critters would have to leave a little something behind to get a bite of the beaver.

Gun brushes and double-sided sticky tape placed below the beaver gathered hair samples from each animal that went for the bait. This was collected and is being analyzed for DNA, which will give Robinson and Lucid an idea of how many individual animals visited the bait stations.
  

Snowshoers making tracks this weekend

WINTER SPORTS — This has been a glorious and brilliant weekend for exploring the winter outdoors in the Inland Northwest, especially for snowshoers who absorb it all at a quiet pace that seems in step with the season.

Ice shrouded everything on top of Star Peak northeast of Lake Pend Oreille, Idaho, when a Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness group arrived on a snowshoeing daytrip Saturday.  The Idaho-based wilderness advocates lead numerous group snowshoe treks into the wild and unforgetable scenery on winter weekends. 

On snowshoes that kept him afloat over the ample snowpack, George Momany of Spokane marched through a winter wonderland under brilliant blue skies up to the top of Mount Spokane on Saturday.  I joined him. We saw numerous snowshoers up and down the mountain on treks short and long.

Sno-Park requirement at Mount Spokane

Snowshoers should make a commitment to visit Mount Spokane State Park more than once a season and take advantage of the bargan.  A one-time Sno-Park permit costs $20 per vehicle  while you can enjoy unlimited entry to the lower portions of the mountain by purchasing a $40 season Sno-Park pass.

If you want access to the upper snowmobile parking lot and Selkirk Lodge parking area near the nordic ski trails, and additional $40 groomed trail system season pass is required.

Get info and purchase Sno-Park permits online here