Kootenai Stakeholders Find Agreement

Posted on Monday, December 21st, 2015 by »

Doug Ferrell, FSPW Board Chair, reports on progress being made by the Kootenai Forest Stakeholders:

In December, after many years of work, the Kootenai Forest Stakeholders Coalition (including representatives from the timber industry, wilderness and conservation groups, small business owners, hunters, recreation groups and local officials) came together and took a huge step forward to resolve long standing conflicts over best management of our natural resources. The KFSC voted unanimously to approve an agreement for timber harvest guidelines, motorized and non-motorized areas and wilderness designations for key roadless areas in the Yaak, Cabinets, and Scotchman Peaks!

FSPW has been an active participant in the Stakeholders group for many years and supports this agreement, looking forward to the future promise that it holds.  This landmark agreement includes the Scotchman Peaks, wild areas in the Yaak and expands on recommendations for Cabinet Mountains Wilderness nearly doubling it in size, for a total of approximately 180,000 acres of Wilderness recommendations!

This agreement also includes a more ambitious approach to forest management than projected by the new forest plan by using a series of vegetative management guidelines that will enable the Forest Service to actively manage more acres per year, generally with less intensive management per acre and more of a focus on ecological values.

Included in the agreement are recommendations for permanent designation of areas open to motorized recreation, mainly snowmobiling, totaling some 57,000 acres. These areas are open to motorized recreation today, with access permanently protected under the Stakeholder’s agreement.

Further work needs to be done for these agreements to be adopted. But a strong path forward has been charted and important progress made towards these eventual goals.

Key issues that need further work include finding a way for the forestry guidelines to be adopted and used by the forest service administratively, or to be clarified thorough legislation if needed.  Guidelines for managing the permanent recreation areas need to be worked out. And, further collaboration is needed to bring together full consensus on certain boundaries.

Specifically in the Scotchman Peaks there are two locations, Savage Basin and Dry Creek, which have full consensus support for Wilderness, except from the Troy snowmobile club, who hesitated over endorsing these locations, even though these areas have been legally closed to all motors for decades and (according to both the Forest Service and the Mt Dept of Fish Wildlife & Parks) should continue to be managed as a high value, secure wildlife habitat. We believe further collaboration will secure full consensus on two areas in the Scotchman Peaks.

Over Thanksgiving weekend, I hiked with visiting family to the top of Berray Mountain in gorgeous clear weather. For those of you who have not had a chance to contemplate the world from the top of Berray Mountain, from the top you can see many of the major peaks in the Scotchmans to the west, as well as many of the major peaks in the Cabinets to the east. (Berray Mountain is located  east of Billiard Table Mountain in the Scotchmans and just across the Bull River.)

The view was so glorious on that sparkling and windless day that we hung around on the high south porch of the old lookout up there for quite a while, eating and drinking and trying to figure out the names of the many white topped bumps on the long horizon. A great day to remember!

We hope this big endorsement will help us protect some of the precious wild country of the Kootenai!

About The Author:

Phil Hough is the Executive Director of the Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness.

An avid long distance hiker, Phil's experience on the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail and Continental Divide Trails brought a passion for wild places and motivated him to work towards protecting the one of the last and largest wild places in northern Idaho and Western Montana, the Scotchman Peaks.

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