Consider the Future of Public Lands…

Dear Editor,

The ballot for the upcoming May 15 primary election will include an Scotchman Peaks Wilderness “advisory” question, as follows: “Do you favor Senator Jim Risch’s proposal for congressional designation of a 13,960-acre Scotchman Peaks Wilderness Area in Bonner County.” Although non-binding, the results potentially have a significant impact on the chances for legislation. Bonner County voters now have a very important opportunity to demonstrate the strong and diverse support the Scotchmans have earned over the decades. Regardless of political affiliation, all residents of Bonner County can, and should, vote on this measure.

While the Wilderness Act does limit certain types of activities in designated areas, we are fortunate in North Idaho to have vast acreages of public lands open to a variety of uses in some of the most beautiful landscapes in the country. Wilderness designation of the Scotchman Peaks area would not eliminate opportunities for traditional uses of public lands in the region and would set aside a small piece of our public lands to be preserved in a relatively pristine state.

As an avid mountain biker, bicycle shop owner and board member of the local bike club, the Pend Oreille Pedalers, much of my life is devoted to riding in beautiful, wild places and helping ensure that opportunities to ride in these areas are maintained. Some of my most memorable mountain bike rides have been in the wild and rugged backcountry of North Idaho. We are fortunate to have abundant areas of public land in north Idaho for mountain biking and other activities, and where the mountain biking community can develop and maintain cycling opportunities. There is enough room on the landscape for both backcountry mountain bike riding and for protecting certain special places as Wilderness — the Scotchman Peaks Area is one those places.

So, I urge voters to vote in the May 15 primary and pay special attention to the Scotchman Peaks Advisory question at the end of the ballot. I plan to vote in favor, and I hope others will carefully consider the future of our public lands when they cast their votes.

Charles Mortensen 

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