By Alan Harper
We have a healthy timber industry in North Idaho. A forester by trade, I have always made my living in the woods. For the last 20 years, I’ve been lucky enough to work for Idaho Forest Group.
I don’t just work in the woods; it’s also where I play. Within one day’s drive of our place, we can be in a wilderness in Central Idaho or Montana, but there are no wilderness areas in northern Idaho where we live. My wife and I ride our horses together as often as we can. And there’s nothing like packing into the backcountry with the horses and mules and going hunting with my wife, kids and our friends. On horseback, we can get as far as 10 or 15 miles into the wilderness. That’s farther than most people can walk into these areas that are non-motorized. Fewer people and less noise puts less pressure on wildlife. That means there’s more to hunt, and our experience is much better than it would be outside of the backcountry. Living here allows us to strike the perfect balance between work and recreation, and we couldn’t live anywhere else.
Balance is my philosophy on a lot of things, and managing National Forests is one of them. When I hear the Forest Service talk about “multiple use,” I think they should think about which use makes the most sense for a given area of the forest. Some places are best suited for timber harvest and others should be managed for non-motorized recreation, and other areas should be managed for motorized recreation. As forest users, we can come together and fine common ground around these issues and help shape the way our public lands are managed.
Not too long ago, my wife and I made it to the top of Scotchman Peak in the Idaho Panhandle National Forest. We rode our horses most of the way up and hiked the rest. It was a crystal-clear day, and the bear grass was in full bloom. When we got to the highest point, Lake Pend Oreille looked close enough to touch, and we knew we were seeing something special.
Scotchman Peaks is the perfect example of an area that should be managed for its wilderness character, like the forest plan says. It’s very rugged country up there, and the trees that grow at such high elevation and in such rocky ground won’t make high-quality lumber. Scotchman Peaks is beautiful, it’s undisturbed and it makes sense to keep it that way.
I’m living proof that the timber industry can not only coexist but thrive alongside conservation. Idaho is one of the few places left in this country where a person can make a living in the woods and enjoy places like Scotchman Peaks. On May 15, I hope you’ll vote “in favor” of Sen. Risch’s wilderness proposal, and make sure it stays that way.
Alan Harper is the forest resource manager for Idaho Forest Group, a company he’s been employed with for 19 years. Alan is responsible for the procurement of 440 million board feet of logs for the four northern mills in Idaho and Montana.