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Wednesday, May 27, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Opinion >  Guest Opinion

Phil Hough: Vote in favor of Scotchman wilderness

Phil Hough

In May, Bonner County residents will vote on a nonbinding advisory measure on the Scotchman Peaks proposed wilderness. This is another opportunity for our community to step forward and demonstrate broad and diverse support for wilderness for the Scotchman Peaks.

Many people agree that while a large portion of our national forest lands should be managed for timber harvest and motorized recreation, there are also special places like the Scotchman Peaks, which should be managed for wilderness.

In the Scotchman Peaks you can explore, in quiet solitude, natural places where a person is only a visitor; places beyond the fast-paced movements and sounds of machines; where you can still hear the cow elk whistle to her calf as you approach; we want to keep it that way.

Lined with old-growth cedar and hemlock trees, clear, clean water flows through the Scotchmans’ deep and steep canyons into Lake Pend d’Oreille. Forested slopes and ridges hold a wide array of wildflowers, huckleberries, beargrass and morels. The Scotchmans are home to many types of iconic animals including grizzly bear, bull trout, Canada lynx, wolverine and mountain goats.

Both the Wilderness act of 1964 and the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness bill proposed by Sen. Jim Risch hold the promise of an enduring resource of wilderness. They contain specific provisions that allow the U.S. Forest Service to continue to fight fires, and use helicopters and motorized equipment for human health and safety. They also state that Idaho Fish and Game will continue to manage fish and wildlife populations within the area.

Groups like the Idaho Back Country Hunters and Anglers, Idaho Wildlife Federation and Panhandle Chapter of Trout Unlimited support designation, because protecting fish and wildlife habitats as wilderness ensures that sportsmen will have access for high quality hunting and angling.

The proposed Scotchman Peaks Wilderness are public lands managed by the Idaho Panhandle National Forests. This will not change with designation.

The Scotchman Peaks area is are already closed to off-road vehicles, snowmobiles, mountain bikes and road building. This will not change with designation. Wilderness designation will not create any new closures.

There are no active mining claims in the area proposed for wilderness and designation would not allow for new mining claims.

For a decade, we have been part of the Panhandle Forest Collaborative, whose diverse members have moved past old conflicts and found shared values. We have come together to support timber projects that are good for our forests and our economy, and to support protecting special places. This balanced and common-sense approach is what our communities want and need.

Designation will assure the highest level of protection for the land and for wildlife, preserving a place where our children and their children can experience it in the same way as those who have come before us.

We have a duty to pass on a piece of our North Idaho outdoor heritage to the next generation. Wilderness designation is pro-active and ensures that these public lands will be managed and enjoyed just as they are today, in perpetuity.

Many businesses, civic groups and community leaders agree, including the Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce, Idaho Forest Group, Panhandle Nordic Club, Spokane Mountaineers, Pend d’Oreille Pedalers and both current as well as former Bonner county commissioners support Wilderness designation.

As President Lyndon Johnson said upon signing the Wilderness Act:

“If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them more than the miracles of technology. We must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning.”

We hope Bonner County residents will join us by voting in “favor” of Sen. Risch’s Scotchman Peaks Wilderness proposal this May.

Phil Hough is the executive director of the Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness, a founding board member of the Idaho Trails Association, and past president of the American Long Distance Hiking Association – West.

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