Wilderness designation sought for Scotchman Peaks

Wilderness policy is an often-divisive arena. In this arena, the Scotchman Peaks straddle many boundaries.

The scenic mountain range between the Clark Fork and Bull rivers has more geopolitical lines dotting its map than a United Nations seating chart. About 20,000 of Scotchman’s 88,000 roadless acres lie in the Panhandle National Forest on the Idaho side of the border. The Kootenai National Forest in Montana has the rest. Three counties in two states have jurisdiction of the area.

The Friends of Scotchman Peaks hope to change that. In the process, they hope to reframe the wilderness debate in the United States.

“We’re wondering – can we do this? – can we identify a place as an inspiring, appealing candidate for wilderness and make it go?” asked Doug Ferrell, a Trout Creek construction designer and founding member of Friends of Scotchman Peaks. “A lot of the wilderness community is wondering if we can pass a true wilderness bill anymore. Scotchman is a great candidate. It’s rugged, well-supported and needs protection.”

The Scotchman Peaks have many of the qualities that make wilderness a hard sell. You can’t see them from the ground – there’s no highway turnout where snow-capped peaks or sparkling waterfalls can wow tourists. Almost every trail into the area involves thousands of vertical feet uphill before any postcard vista appears. Scotchman is also too rocky, too wet and too worthless to develop.

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