Many people are celebrating the recent introduction of a bill into Congress that would protect the Idaho portion of the Scotchman Peaks area as Wilderness. Idaho Senator James Risch introduced the bill into Congress on Dec. 8.
The Scotchman Peaks proposed wilderness straddles the Idaho/Montana state line in a high, rugged mountain range between the Clark Fork and Kootenai rivers. It represents the largest area of wild and undeveloped land in northwestern Montana that is not permanently protected.
Besides celebrating, many people are also asking, “What about Montana?” Risch’s bill protects only the Idaho portion of the Scotchman Peaks, and does not protect the larger potion in Montana. Only our Montana delegation can do that. People are asking “Can’t we join forces with Idaho and protect the entire Scotchmans area? If they can do it why can’t we?”
This is magnificent wild country, with pockets of giant old growth cedar, abundant native wildlife, huge rocky ridges and peaks, and stunning views of Lake Pend Oreille and the Cark Fork and Bull River Valleys as well as the glorious peaks of the nearby Cabinet Mountains Wilderness.
The rugged slopes of the Scotchmans are a natural for protection under the Wilderness Act. They are not suitable for roads or timber production, and Wilderness designation would not affect the Kootenai National Forest timber program in any way. There are no significant conflicts with mining or other uses.
In this time of such conflict and polarization in our nation, it is wonderful to think of following Idaho’s example, and unifying around a positive goal that is good for our communities, and that ensures current and future generations will have access to the spirit-lifting solace of this wild and natural place.
Doug Ferrell, board chair
The Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness
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