As winter is starting to fade, we are looking forward to signs of spring in Bonner County. Streams are beginning to trickle and flower buds are slowly opening. With spring comes a new season, and we are hoping it is also the season for Scotchman Peaks.
Last March, the Bonner County commissioners endorsed a community proposal to safeguard the Scotchman Peaks for future generations. It would preserve roughly 14,000 acres in northern Idaho as wilderness. We passed the resolution supporting the protection for Scotchman Peaks because it would safeguard outstanding views, sustain recreational opportunities, and boost our local economy.
The namesake for the proposal is Scotchman Peak, towering at 7,009 feet — the highest point in Bonner County. Atop this incredible place, you can see Lake Pend Oreille and the Clark Fork River in the Cabinet Mountains. While hiking up to the alpine vistas, people are awed by the massive old growth cedars and incredible wildlife. Scotchman Peaks is home to grizzly bears, lynx, mountain goat, bull trout, and other species of plants and animals. As a county commissioner, I feel blessed to have this amazing place right in my backyard.
People come near and far to Scotchman Peaks to hike, hunt, fish, pick berries, and other activities. And while they are here, they spend their money in our stores, hotels, and at our outfitters who take them into the peaks. Outdoor recreation is big business in Idaho. In fact, according to the Outdoor Industry Association, outdoor recreation generates $6.3 billion in consumer spending and is responsible for 76,700 direct jobs across the state. This translates into $1.8 billion in wages and salaries.
Indeed, people choose to live and work in Bonner County and the surrounding areas because of our incredible public lands. This is where they want to raise their families and grow their businesses.
A year ago, we joined a growing group of sportsmen, other local governments, local organizations, small businesses, the Idaho Forest Group, and our local chamber of commerce working to protect our unique Scotchman Peaks.
We are hoping that our Idaho portion of the Scotchman Peaks is protected this year. We are seeing shared natural heritage disappear far too quickly, but this is something we can preserve for future generations. Our children and grandchildren will thank us for this enduring legacy.
Cary Kelly is chairman of the Bonner County Commission.