County commissioners call on Congress to designate Scotchman Peaks in Idaho a wilderness area

Associated Press

Bonner County commissioners have unanimously adopted a resolution calling on Congress to designate northern Idaho's Scotchman Peaks mountains a wilderness area.

The resolution adopted Tuesday says the area offers outstanding views and recreation opportunities, and contributes to the region's economic vitality.

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The resolution also says the area provides habitat for a diverse array of native plants and animals. The commission normally opposes wilderness designations.

"The message we're trying to send is Scotchman Peaks is the exception to the rule," Commission Chairman Cary Kelly told the Bonner County Daily Bee ( ).

The 7,009-foot Scotchman Peak is Bonner County's highest point.

Commissioner Todd Sudick said he opposes further designations of wilderness areas in the county. "But I do support Scotchman Peak," he said.

Commissioner Glen Bailey said he supports managing national forests for timber harvest and mining, but also he backed the wilderness resolution. Wilderness designation restricts resource extraction and motorized travel.

"Scotchman Peak is beautiful, and it's something I would like to see protected and preserved for our families, for our children, for all of us to enjoy," he said.

Phil Hough, executive director of Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness, said he was heartened by the commission's action.

"It's a really important milestone," he said. "It's reflective of the strong community support, and we believe that step will be taken seriously by the delegation when they consider their options."

Brad Smith of the Idaho Conservation League said Scotchman Peaks has a wide support base.

"Designating the area as wilderness would not change any of the current access," he said. "There are no motorized trails or areas in this area."

Designating wilderness has been a big topic in the state in recent years as Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson tries to get Congress to approve such a designation in central Idaho.

That plan has stalled for years, however, and groups dismayed with the lack of results are asking President Barack Obama to use his executive power to create a 592,000-acre national monument that includes the rugged Boulder and White Cloud mountains.


Information from: Bonner County (Idaho) Daily Bee,