Where Do We Go From Here

The Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness, and others, have been involved for many years in the effort to protect the Scotchman Peaks as Wilderness to ensure it will always stay the same. Naturally, we are disappointed by the outcome of the recent Bonner County advisory vote.

We are proud of, and want to thank, our board, staff, campaign partners, volunteers, and the many supporters! Together, we executed a campaign that was run with honesty, integrity and hard work. We stayed with positive messages and continued to build community and partnerships. Local voices from diverse backgrounds stepped up, including timber folks, mountain bikers, hunters and anglers, conservative politicians, business people and many prominent community leaders. The community of people dedicated to conserving this special place is growing stronger and more diverse!

FSPW volunteer, Jim Mellen, gazes at the view from Scotchman Peak in the proposed Scotchman Peaks Wilderness. Photo credit:  John Harbuck
FSPW volunteer, Jim Mellen, gazes at the view from Scotchman Peak in the proposed Scotchman Peaks Wilderness.
Photo credit: John Harbuck

Ideology sometimes overwhelms consideration of issues on their merits. Unfortunately, in this election, misinformation spread quickly. Inaccurate information about land ownership or management, particularly false claims about fire management and search and rescue, left some voters confused or uncertain about what Wilderness designation means. While some voted against the proposal on principle, others who voted against it likely did so because of confusion and uncertainty caused by this misinformation. When not sure, a “no” vote may seem to be the safer option.

Despite this, over four thousand eight hundred supporters voted in favor of Wilderness. This is a number to be reckoned with, not ignored, especially considering the many obstacles in the path of a victory. Despite the outcome, or perhaps because of it, this vote has strengthened the bonds of the community of folks dedicated to Wilderness. If you voted in favor of Wilderness and are not yet on our support list, we invite you to become a friend [insert link] and sign up for our free quarterly newsletter and/or weekly updates.

Clearly, many people care deeply about public lands. There is also a clear need for more education about public lands, natural resources and recreation management.

We are dedicated to providing a better understanding about the need for Wilderness, its challenges, opportunities and values, including the freedom, hope, and promise it provides.

While it takes congressional designation to fully implement the forest plan’s vision of Wilderness, this vote does not change the current management of the Scotchman Peaks by the forest service. We will continue to be strong advocates for preserving the wilderness characteristics now while looking to the future for designation. And, we will work to keep these wild lands as they are right now, open to all people, closed only to motors and machines (except when needed for fighting fire or for emergencies involving health and human safety).

Students learn about the region’s trees during FSPW’s Winter Tracks program.

We have been doing “boots on the ground” work for 13 years to make sure that trails stay open to the public. This work is as important now, as it would be after Wilderness designation. With shrinking budgets, volunteers are needed to keep trails open. We will continue to train volunteers in the use of pulaskis, cross cut saws and other tools and organize field days to build and maintain trails suitable for hikers and horses.

Our hiking maps and volunteer led hikes will continue to offer opportunities for individuals to explore the area.
Our weed warriors will continue to monitor and work on mitigating weeds (to help, pick up a copy of our Scotchman Peaks/Cabinet Mountain weed guide.)

Our Mountain Goat ambassador program, in partnership with the forest service and Idaho Department of Fish and Game will continue to deploy volunteers to educate people about safe and responsible behavior around mountain goats, making the trail safer for both. This program is vital to keeping the area wild and keeping it open to the public.

Our Winter Tracks program over the last 4 years has provided unique wintertime, outdoor education for over 700 kids from over 14 schools, from four counties and three states, teaching tree identification, animal tracking, animal behavior and biology, orienteering and avalanche awareness, so they can appreciate the natural landscape.

Our Wilderness & Remote First Aid and CPR certification program will continue having certified over 60 people in the last 5 years).

The path to Wilderness legislation is often a long and winding trail. Sometimes, hiking to the top of a mountain you come across a false summit and seem to be closer to the top than you really are. Then in a few more steps, you realize there’s more work to be done to bag the peak. We are on that long ridge, with more steps to go and a better vision of what it will take to get there.

We are committed to building a stronger community of supporters and providing the boots on the ground care-taking and natural resource education needed to get there and needed to taking care of the Wilderness character right now. It is just too important.

We need places that are wild and free, places unaltered by the hand of man, places with the freedom to roam in awe and wonder of the wild outdoors. If we fail to leave a legacy of Wilderness to this next generation, then we fail all future generations. Their future is not as bright if they lose the opportunity to see the world as we have seen it.

2016 Scotchman Peaks Photo Contest winner Leslie Keibert kept her proper distance when caught these two with her telephoto lens.
2016 Scotchman Peaks Photo Contest winner Leslie Keibert kept her proper distance when caught these two with her telephoto lens.

We will not give up the goat! The mountain goat, iconic of the Scotchman Peaks, stands tall, surviving, even thriving, as it faces the challenges of an often-harsh landscape. The goat is patient and endures. Over time, more folks will join us and the goat, as we all stand with firm resolve to protect the Scotchmans, some of our area’s last remaining wild lands.

Our community of Wilderness supporters and stewards is growing, but there is always room for more people. If you want to do more to help keep the Scotchman Peaks open to the public, come swing a Pulaski as part of our trail crew, become a Mountain Goat Ambassador and educate hikers, or become a Winter Tracks volunteer to touch the lives of area students in winter months, or just come join us for a hike!

Join us as advocates for keeping these wild lands as they are right now, open to all people. Like the goat, we will not give up on the Scotchman Peaks!

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Categories: Blog, Right Now
About The Author:

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

He has hiked the "triple crown": the Appalachian Trail, Continental Divide Trail and the Pacific Crest trail (twice). He has also paddled the length of the Yukon river. Phil's love of wilderness guides him as he works to save the incrediblly wild Scotchman Peaks, one of the last and largest roadless places in northern Idaho and western Montana.

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  1. Thanks for the update Phil. Wish I lived closer.

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