PUBLIC LANDS -- After more than 10 years of grassroots efforts to gain widespread support in the Idaho Panhandle and into Western Montana, a bill to designate an Idaho portion of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness has been introduced in Congress.
Today, U.S. Senator Jim Risch (R-ID) introduced the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness Act of 2016. The legislation would designate approximately 13,900 acres of Idaho’s Scotchman Peaks as a Wilderness Area.
A larger portion of proposed wilderness on the Montana side of the area northeast of Clark Fork, Idaho, apparently would have to be dealt with in a Montana-sponsored bill. The total that's been proposed by advocates and approved by the Forest Service is 88,000 acres.
The bill still must navigate public hearings, two houses of the 115th Congress.
“If passed, this legislation would allow future generations of Idahoans to enjoy Scotchman Peaks, while at the same time protecting the needs and rights of local communities and tribes,” said Senator Risch. “This bill was introduced today to start the public process, and will not move forward until I hear from Idahoans directly about this topic.
"I look forward to holding a public hearing in the next Congress to receive input.”
The legislation already enjoys broad support locally and across Idaho, and was introduced at the request of the Bonner County Board of Commissioners. Endorsements of this wilderness designation include one of Idaho’s largest forest products companies, all three Commissioners of Bonner County where the wilderness area stands, and the Greater Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce.