Jim Peterson wrote a disappointing letter in support of the proposed Scotchman wilderness. He wrote that he supports the wilderness because it “poses no threat to our timber-based economy, motorized recreation or mountain biking and no existing roads will be close.” Even though he describes his website, Evergreen, as having the goal of “fact-based information about forestry and forest management”, Jim left out any “fact-based information” to back up his claims.
Regarding timber, the heavily timbered southern flank of Scotchman was inventoried in the 1970s by the Forest Service with the last timber sales in that area located at the base of the mountain. The slopes were excluded, not because of a lack of commercial timber, but because of the Roadless Area boundary. The commercial timber in the Scotchman area might be important in the future, but a bigger issue now is the unmanaged forest, increasing fire risk and degrading big game habitat, which, curiously, Jim writes extensively about as a gigantic problem all over the West.
Jim’s claim that there is no threat to motorized recreation or bicycles is a smoke-and-mirror word game played often by the wilderness supporters. Those uses were stopped by a Forest Service closure order in April 2015 that was issued with the implementation of a wilderness-like management plan for the area. Prior to that order, snowmobiles were legally accessing East Fork (inside the proposal), snowbikes were recreating on Scotchman Peak and bicycle-wheeled game carriers were being used in three drainages in the Scotchman area. The problem is, the Wilderness Act of 1964 states that only Congress can create wilderness. The Forest Service has no policy or directive from Congress that tells them to create wilderness on their own. Perhaps that is why there are no readily available maps, notices or signs that explain these restrictions. There were no local hearings to explain the plan. The Forest Service only takes it upon themselves to manage recommended wilderness as though it was designated wilderness in Montana and northern Idaho – it’s not national policy. The claims that Jim and others make would be true if the current restrictions were legal. One thing is certain, a wilderness designation would make those restrictions legal and permanent.
Bonner County can kill this lockup of public lands on May 15 by voting no on the Scotchman Peaks wilderness. Let’s kill this thing, and then we will work to restore access in Scotchman and the surrounding area for all the public, not just for a handful of environmental extremists and wilderness ideologues who want a personal playground on our public land.