Making the case for wilderness designation for the Scotchman Peaks

By Carey Chisolm
Reader Contributor

As a recent retiree who moved to North Idaho from the Midwest, I have been interested in the discussion about the wilderness designation of the Scotchman Peaks area. I have vacationed here consistently for over 20 years, and my wife’s family has roots in the area. Her mother’s family grew up on Bull River and attended school in Noxon. Her father’s family lived just outside of Clark Fork – her grandfather worked on the Cabinet Dam and her grandmother taught at Clark Fork High School. My father-in-law spent summers working for the USFS as trail and fire crew. Their stories about the Cabinets intrigued me from my first visit. My hikes in the area always have wonderful flora and fauna surprises.

Surrounded by so much natural beauty, it is easy to become desensitized to how special and wonderful this area is. Having grown up or lived in Virginia, Texas and Indiana, the opportunity to enjoy a wilderness area where you can be the only person around for miles is a rarity to be treasured — not only now for ourselves, but for our children and the generations to follow.

It is perhaps easy to become complacent and take for granted the special opportunities afforded through wilderness designation – the unique flora, fauna and geology just as it was centuries ago.

Yes, wilderness designation creates trade-offs and will limit some recreational activities involving motorized equipment and but it’s important to remember that neither of those things are happening right now in the Scotchman Peaks. This is federally owned land (ALL of us own it— and have responsibility for it) and already designated as roadless. Moreover, there are many of us who would relish the opportunity to have one of the few wilderness designated areas in many miles, and the only one in northern Idaho.

Since it’s inclusion in the Roadless Area Review and Evaluation studies in the 1970s  and subsequent Idaho Panhandle Nation Forest management plans recommending it for wilderness protection, the next logical step in the process for the Scotchman’s is Wilderness designation via Sen. Jim Risch’s bill that he introduced last Congress. Let’s keep this treasure as pristine as possible for those who follow us on our time on Earth. Hopefully, it can be as inspirational to those who climb these peaks in 2075 as for those who do so now! I ask that Sen. Risch reintroduce his legislation this year so northern Idaho can finally get its small slice of wilderness.

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