One Step Closer

Posted on Thursday, May 10th, 2012 by »

Recently the Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness were one of eight parties that joined together to submit a letter with agreed upon recommendations for the draft forest plan.

Eight individuals, representing 4 conservationists and 4 folks from the Timber Industry met regularly for several months to look at common areas of interest.  We did not try to settle every issue facing the national forest, but what we found was that there was a lot we could agree upon.

Most of our areas of common agreement were general visions with some broadly outlined suggestions.  Much work remains to figure out how the details will work.  But every worthwhile venture begins with a vision, one which brings us one step closer to Wilderness for the Panhandle and for the Scotchmans.

Call it collaboration, but let’s be clear, this is about more than compromise (yes there is some of that).  This collaboration is about how to work towards improvements in managing our natural resources in ways that we all find mutually agreeable.

Let’s start with some basics:

To a person there is agreement that there is a desire and need to have a healthy, vibrant, sustainable timber industry. It’s our heritage, it’s an important sector of a diverse local economy, it’s a means by which the forest service can conduct restoration, reduce the threat of wildfire and achieve other ecosystem goals found in the forest land management plan. In our working group, there are questions of where, when and how much; but there is no question of “if”.

To a person there is agreement that wilderness is important for many reasons and a valuable component of forest management. It would preserve our heritage as well as our future, conserve species and habitat, provide opportunities for hunting, fishing, primitive recreation and solitude. In our working group, there are questions of where, when and how much, but no question of “if”.

This is worth repeating: the conservationists at the table support active management of our forests, and the timber folks support wilderness.

It really should not be surprising.  The two goals are NOT mutually exclusive. The Idaho Panhandle National Forest contains over 2 million acres, room to achieve many objectives. There are wilderness quality landscapes which the timber industry agrees are not ecologically desirable, or economically feasible to log – their best use is as wilderness. The conservationists agree there are landscapes where logging can be done sustainably with economic and ecological benefit.

We all agree that our communities benefit by getting the best of both.

Again, the broad vision statements are pretty easy to agree upon, they make sense to most folks. The devil is in the details and the details will still require more work, but we are one step, a big step, closer to getting them worked out.

Since our beginning the Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness has worked to develop a community consensus where wilderness protection for the Scotchmans is valued highly and sought after by a broad spectrum of the public. We have long believed in these vision statements.

We are not against active management for timber, nor are we against grazing, mining, managed OHV recreation or other uses of the national forest. We believe that on the 2 million acres of the Idaho Panhandle National forest and on the 2 million acres of the Kootenai national forest we can find lands suitable for sustainable timber production and forest product jobs and other natural resources industries such as mining and grazing as well as managed recreation (both motorized as well as primitive) AND the benefits of natural resource conservation, both environmental as well as economic.

We also believe that wilderness is an important component of this balanced use of the land and that the Scotchman Peaks represents one of the areas where clearly the greatest benefit is to be found in Wilderness designation.

We are glad that there are others who agree with us and who are willing to work towards these common goals.

You can read more about this recent effort on an article published by the Spokesman Review:

www.spokesman.com/stories/2012/may/10/common-ground/

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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