Letters from the West

Risch introduces community-backed wilderness bill for Scotchman Peaks in North Idaho

Scotchman Peak overlooks Lake Pend Oreille in North Idaho. It’s part of a proposed 13,900-acre wilderness area.
Scotchman Peak overlooks Lake Pend Oreille in North Idaho. It’s part of a proposed 13,900-acre wilderness area. Friends of Scotchman Peak

U.S. Sen. Jim Risch introduced a bill Thursday to protect 13,900 acres in north Idaho as wilderness.

The Scotchman Peaks Wilderness Act of 2016 would protect a rugged range of mountains on the Montana border, near the city of Sandpoint and Lake Pend Oreille. Its low-elevation boreal and old-growth forests support a unique diversity of plants and Canada lynx, wolverine, mountain goats, moose and grizzly bears.

“If passed, this legislation would allow future generations of Idahoans to enjoy Scotchman Peaks, while at the same time protecting the needs and rights of local communities and tribes,” said Risch, an Idaho Republican. “This bill was introduced today to start the public process, and will not move forward until I hear from Idahoans directly about this topic. I look forward to holding a public hearing in the next Congress to receive input.”

The bill, introduced at the request of the Bonner County Board of Commissioners, has wide support including one of Idaho’s largest forest products companies and the Greater Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce.

Support for Scotchman Peaks wilderness dates to the late 1970s. But in 2005, the Friends of Scotchman Peaks formed specifically to organize community support for wilderness designation for the area.

“Sen. Risch’s support of the homegrown Scotchman Peaks wilderness campaign reflects the far-reaching community support for permanent protection of one of Idaho’s often overlooked wild gems,” said Craig Gehrke, Idaho state director for The Wilderness Society.

Rocky Barker: 208-377-6484, @RockyBarker

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