The Scotchman Peaks Wilderness proposal: Yes or no on the advisory vote?

A point/counterpoint

Scotchman Peaks: Multi-use is best option
By Tony McDermott
Reader Contributor

There is no doubt that the FSP, ICL, IFG, former BC commission chairman Cary Kelly, and the USFS are all engaged in a public relations campaign to influence the May 15 vote. Kelly’s letter, bulk mailed, to all voters, followed by IFG’s Boeh’s Bee article, along with FSP bulk mailed 5×8 post card and hired lobbyists contacts with area voters support this campaign. This same well-funded group traveled Washington, D. C., in 2015 to convince Sen. Risch that wilderness had majority support.

Thankfully our senator pushed the pause button and is currently awaiting the outcome of the upcoming May initiative.

I am now convinced that these players got together in a smoke-filled room and came to agreement. Boeh’s emotional plea to county voters is evidence that the deal was concocted without public involvement or transparency. This under-the-table deal between FSP, ICL and IFG was not a legitimate collaborative process. Was the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) considered by senator Risch’s staff when meeting with these groups in Washington, D.C., in 2015?

The public deserves to know the details. Who got what in exchange for what? Why have so many foresters employed by Idaho Forest Group done a floppy chicken act and now support this wilderness proposal? Did the county pay for Kelly’s trip to D.C.? Who paid and how much did it cost to bulk mail Kelly’s letter along with Hough’s post card to county voters? If FSP has 6,000 supporters, why have they hired lobbying agencies to contact county voters? What federal regulation authorizes the USFS to treat S.P. as wilderness without Congressional designation?

These same players want it all or nothing and have stated so publicly. County voters, to include the folks in Clark Fork, would get behind a preservation designation “Scenic Trail” that would in fact preserve the trail system leading to the summit and everything above the timberline. This proposal flies in the face of the backroom deal and is not considered an option.

These outspoken supporters all sing the same song contending that some of our most treasured land will be preserved, accessible and protected. It already is, and it’s called a roadless area.

Kelly’s letter is downright laughable.  He and his ilk are dead wrong stating the “USFS will continue to manage for fire, insects and disease and the Department of Fish and Game will continue to manage fish and wildlife.”

A wilderness designation for Scotchman will in fact eliminate timber management, wildlife habitat/species management, wheeled vehicles, fire management, the use of chainsaws and power tools, snowmobiling and helicopter landings for anything except public rescue efforts. The only fire management allowed in wilderness is the keep the fire from exiting wilderness boundary.

Idaho Fish and Game does not manage wildlife in wilderness. Why? One example, of many, is Federal Judge Winmill’s order for IDFG to destroy all the elk study data collected through radio collaring of 55 elk and four wolves in the Frank Church as an extreme violation of the wilderness act.

Additional opposition includes the following:

(1) The Idaho Legislature. HJM 14 passed this session with a super majority. All North Idaho legislators both in the house and senate voted in favor.

(2) Five North Idaho Fish and Game commissioners from 1972 to 2018 opposed.  The current IDFG director and staff are opposed.

(3) Clark Fork’s mayor and City Council opposed.

(4) County commission is split and reportedly will oppose if the May 15 vote goes against.

(5) Foundation 4 Wildlife Management’s board of nine directors opposed. A poll of its membership conducted with 98 percent of the respondents opposed.

This is a critically important local issue, with national implications, involving severe restrictions on public land use. For me the issue is clear. Continued management for multi-use is the best management option for the Scotchmen. On May 15, I intend to vote “against.”

I encourage all Bonner County sportsmen and other voters to do the same.

Tony McDermott is the former Idaho Fish and Game Commission Chairman.


Scotchman Peaks: A community gem
By Phil Hough
Reader Contributor

Bonner County voters will be asked if they favor the Scotchman Peaks on the May 15 primary ballot. Although a non-binding, advisory vote, our County Commissioners and Sen. Jim Risch have said they will honor the outcome. This vote matters; your vote matters!

The Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness believe that our public lands can be managed for all multiple uses. This includes wilderness as well as timber, mining, grazing, wildlife habitat, motorized and quiet recreation. In the 2.5 million acres of the Idaho Panhandle National Forests, there is room enough for all these uses.  There are places that are most appropriate for each use. For the Scotchman Peaks proposed wilderness area, which makes up 0.5 percent of the Idaho Panhandle National Forest, the rugged, wild landscape isn’t well suited for many of these uses. When looking at which part of Bonner County is best suited for Wilderness, the Scotchman Peaks area is the clear candidate.

For the last 10 years, Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness have been an active part of the Panhandle Forest Collaborative. Members of the collaborative have moved past old conflicts.  We have found that we can do more good for Idaho’s public lands, wildlife and rural economies when we put aside our differences and work together. In the Panhandle, diverse stakeholders have come together to look at the big picture of how we can manage our forests responsibly, so that all of these multiple uses can be accommodated. Finding ways to improve and agree on timber projects that are good for our forests and our economy, and to support protecting special places like the Scotchman Peaks are part of responsible management.

This balanced and common sense approach is what our communities want and need. Many businesses, civic groups and community leaders agree. This is why the Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce, Idaho Forest Group and many current and former county commissioners support Wilderness for the Scotchman Peaks.

In the Scotchman Peaks, you can find quiet places beyond the fast-paced world we live in today.

Lined with old-growth cedar and hemlock trees, clear, clean water flows through the Scotchmans’ deep and steep canyons into Lake Pend Oreille.  Forested slopes and ridges are home to abundant wildlife including grizzly bears, lynx, wolverine and mountain goats.

Groups like the Idaho Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Idaho Wildlife Federation and Panhandle Chapter of Trout Unlimited support designation, because protecting fish and wildlife habitats as wilderness ensures that sportsmen will have access to high-quality hunting and angling.

Bonner County continues to grow and change at a rapid pace and we don’t know what the future will bring. We need to set aside certain places while they are still wild and undeveloped, so we can preserve what makes Bonner County so special. Wilderness designation will give Bonner County the certainty that the Scotchman Peak area will never change.

Please join us by voting “in favor” of Sen. Risch’s Scotchman Peaks Wilderness proposal this May.

Phil Hough is an avid outdoorsman and executive director of the Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness.


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