PUBLIC LANDS – A North Idaho mountain biking club has detoured from the generally position of cyclists to endorse a proposed wilderness.
“North Idaho currently has no designated wilderness, and we believe the area is worthy of Congressional designation,”wrote Mike Murray, president of the Pend Oreille Pedalers, in a letter to Idaho Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho
Sen. Risch introduced legislation to protect the 14,000 acres in Idaho as the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness during the waning days of the 114th Congress. Risch listening to constituents about the proposal before reintroducing the bill in the 115th session.
The area is being managed as a “recommended wilderness” under the Idaho Panhandle National Forests land management plan and is, therefore, off-limits to "mechanical" equipment such as bikes. The letter acknowledges that mountain bikes are not allowed in wilderness areas.
“Even if the area weren’t recommended for wilderness, you wouldn’t see many mountain bikers in the Scotchman Peaks,” said Murray. “The area is simply too steep to ride.”
Phil Hough, executive director of the Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness, welcomed the endorsement.
“We greatly appreciate the support of the Pend Oreille Pedalers,” said Hough. “There are many great trails in the Panhandle National Forests where mountain biking is and should be allowed. In the Scotchman Peaks, we believe that wilderness is the highest and best use of the land.”
The wilderness proposal in Risch's bill includes less than 14,000 acres of national forest lands in Bonner County near Clark Fork. The the full wilderness proposals supported by the friends group also would include 74,000 acres on the Montana side of the border in the Kootenai National Forest. However, the Montana Congressional delegation has not yet worked up a bill.