Point / Counterpoint:

Proposed Scotchman Peaks Wilderness bill

In support of wilderness

By John Zieski
Reader Contributor

As an avid hunter, hiker, backpacker, I enjoy spending time on our public lands with my wife.  I am also a Christian, registered Republican, who leans conservative. I spent 20 years working in saw mills and understand the benefits of the timber industry in our communities.

In other words, I am not a “greenie.” Because I do not consider myself to be a “greenie” doesn’t mean I do not care about my environment. In fact, being a steward of the land is Biblical, and something I believe in strongly.

Since I enjoy the outdoors so much, I care about keeping as much public land public as possible. I have read about federal lands being sold or turned over to the states to manage, and I see that as one of the biggest threats to public lands being lost forever.  A wilderness designation in the Scotchmans would ensure that the 14,000 acres in the northern panhandle of Idaho would remain public. Doing so would set guidelines as to the usage of the area so people can always hunt, fish, hike, ride horseback and more. While no vehicles would be allowed, could you imagine hiking or hunting in the Bob or the Frank Church wilderness areas and having roads or trails with vehicles driving around? It just wouldn’t be the Bob or the Frank Church anymore.

After reviewing the Wilderness Act of 1964, I found that preserving the Scotchman Peaks would safeguard the area for future generations in a more natural way. We are so lucky in the Northwest to have so much public land that is available for multi-use recreation, and I am a fan of that. I believe everyone should be able to have a place to enjoy for each of their chosen forms of recreation.

For most of our protected public lands, motor bikers, off-road vehicle users, and bikers share the trail with hikers, backpackers, and horseback riders. However, I feel there is a need for more remote and wild places that are only accessible by foot or horse. That is a major reason I support wilderness in the Scotchmans. On Saturday, you may want to ride your ATV on a designated trail but want to get away from the loud noise and hike or hunt in the wilderness on Sunday.

I feel that we all have the right to our own form of recreation, including the kind that is remote, quiet and as wild as possible. In fact, many of the areas on my bucket list require backpacking in an area that looks today as it did 100 years ago.

So, to all my mountain biking, motor biking and snowmobiling public lands advocates:  If you have never been up trail 65, you’re really missing out. Protecting the Scotchman Peaks as Wilderness will only enhance everyone’s experiences and open new windows of public lands opportunities to explore and enjoy. Consider taking a hike and see things for yourself. No one is proposing wilderness for all of North Idaho, just 14,000 acres, which will ensure it remains public for our children and grandchildren to enjoy.

 

Wilderness proposal unacceptable

By Stan Myers
Reader Contributor

Dick Kramer in his Scotchman article (Reader, February 2) left out important information, mixed up some laws and missed some important points. In the interest of accurate information regarding Scotchman, I will address the topics that Dick wrote on.

Dick stated that travel plans “show restrictions of motorized vehicles that in effect protect recommended wilderness.” The current travel plan shows no restrictions, there are no prominent signs that show these restrictions and the 2015 Visitors map DOES show the area as OPEN for snowmobiling. We are told we must go find the forest plan to see these restrictions. So, if you are cited for using a snowbike or terribly obtrusive wheeled game carrier in Scotchman, it would be like being pulled over for speeding, while going under the posted speed limit, but told the speed limit was changed decades ago, the signs haven’t been changed and it’s your fault for not knowing.

I was amazed to read that “logging and road building were prohibited in Scotchman because it would preclude wilderness designation,” because there are two areas with old roads and clearcuts included in this proposed wilderness! These are even outside the USFS “roadless” areas (because they are roaded), yet the USFS considered them worthy of wilderness, which is absurd. How could there be any threats to the area from future logging if clearcuts can now transform into wilderness?

In all that detailed history of USFS public meetings and comments, Dick didn’t mention a single meeting in Clark Fork or other areas outside Sandpoint. He also didn’t mention 36CFR293.5, which instructs the USFS to hold public hearings at locations affected by the actions (proposing wilderness). Even though every visitor to Scotchman Peak drives through Clark Fork (I bet Dick did too, on those field trips he describes), the USFS apparently decided that it would not be affected by this. Dick blames local residents for not catching one of his “Sandpoint area” meetings years ago, but I blame the USFS for ignoring federal law.

FSPW apparently also never held a serious meeting in Clark Fork or other nearby locations to talk, listen and see what might be worked out (or not) . The recent Clark Fork meeting was held at the request of local concerned residents. The “building understanding, acceptance and support for wilderness”, at the local level, are flat-out false. That is why the Clark Fork meeting was pretty much a complete rejection of this. We’ll see if they have more of these in Bonner County, outside of Sandpoint.

Dick apparently confused 36CFR261.57, which gives the USFS power to prohibit firearms specifically in wilderness areas, with other laws concerning safety and shooting near building, campgrounds and cities. The USFS makes this power clear in their shooting guide. No need for a good “government conspiracy theory,” Dick, it is simply the law. There is no requirement for analysis or public comment and you may say this will never happen, but we not interested in letting the USFS decide, forever for the future, which civil rights we get to enjoy in Scotchman.

Another serious concern, is the de facto wilderness created, north of Scotchman, on the east side of Lightning Creek. Despite this being an area of great historical use, the USFS has decommissioned long-used roads without leaving ATV or foot trails, obliterated side roads, pulled bridges to block snowmobile access, and closed off miles of existing roads, all of which has formed a large border zone that you can well bet FSPW would love to grab and lock up next.

What if future generations want to log or manage the land? The reality is, regardless of what wilderness supporters may claim, once a wilderness is designated, serious forest and wildlife management is over forever, thanks to either USFS non-management or lawsuits by environmental groups. Scotchman has large areas that are important for elk and mule deer during different seasons, but due to the current lack of management by the USFS, are being degraded by dying trees and fire. The 2015 fire reduced this (it wasn’t a mosaic style fire) and threatened homes north of Clark Fork. There is opportunity in the future for the USFS (if they ever manage the forest again) to partner up with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and other conservation groups to carry out forest health projects in Scotchman, but this, assuredly, will not happen if this becomes wilderness.

If you agree that this wilderness, as currently proposed, is absolutely unacceptable, that the process has ignored local communities, that this will likely be the first step to something bigger and that the area and wildlife will need real management, then call the Bonner County Commissioners at 265-1438 and Senator Risch at 208-667-6130 and voice your opposition!

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