If the Scotchman Peaks proposal is impacted by what’s happening national for wilderness then certainly the most significant of those events are the events which are taking place in our immediate region.
The 2009 Lands Omnibus Bill included Wilderness designation for the Owyhees, Idaho’s first new wilderness are in over two decades! Senator Crapo has already turned his attention north to the Clearwater region.
Senator Jon Tester’s Jobs and Forest Recreation Act will bring over 600,000 acres of new wilderness to Montana, including areas in the Beaverhead Deer Lodge, Lolo and Kootenai National Forests. It’s a bill filled with possibilities. After this legislation passes, Montana will have it’s first new wilderness in over two decades and wilderness conversation will shift, just as it is shifting in Idaho, to what areas might be next for Wilderness protections.
Both the designation of the Owyhee’s and the introduction of a bill for Montana have fundamentally changed the conversation about wilderness in both states. Some people are talking about wilderness in different, generally more positive, ways than in the past. Many people are simply talking about wilderness, which is better than silence.
It’s only natural that this new, and renewed, interest in (and acceptance of) wilderness would focus attention on our area.. The Panhandle of Idaho (the northern five counties) have zero acres of designated wilderness. That’s right, zip, zilch, nada, nothing. And, the Kootenai Forest of northwestern Montana there has been no new wilderness designated since the 1964 Wilderness Act created the Cabinet Mountain Wilderness. Perhaps just as amazing is that just under 4% of the entire Kootenai Forest is a designated as Wilderness. That’s the smallest percentage of wilderness in any of Montana’s national forests.
The lack of wilderness in the Idaho Panhandle and in Northwestern Montana WILL change. The time is coming, and coming soon, and we will talk more in future posts about how, with your help, we’ll get it done.