Boise Weekly recently published a feature story as much about Montana as Idaho. "Uphill Battle: A proposed North Idaho wilderness hangs on bureaucracy, politics and old habits," written by Zach Hagadone, covers Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness and its efforts to preserve 88,000 acres along the Idaho/Montana border. We're talking Lincoln and Sanders counties, up near Troy and Noxon.
The future of the Scotchman Peaks area is similarly precarious. Covering 88,000 acres, the proposed wilderness is managed by the U.S. Forest Service and sits at a nexus of competing interests and ideologies. While the western portion of the area is in Idaho, the bulk of the mountainous terrain lies across the border in Montana. Three counties—one in Idaho and two in Montana—would host the wilderness, and it straddles both the Idaho Panhandle and Kootenai national forests.
Within those jurisdictions are groups seeking to protect wildlife, promote recreation and preserve hunting and fishing opportunities. At the same time, there are mining interests, depressed rural economies that would like to expand timber harvesting, and many residents who would rather the federal government get out of the land-owning business all together.
Hagadone uses the rugged ascent up Scotchman as a metaphor for the fight to preserve the land. (Not unlike Noël Phillips, who used the same ascent as a metaphor for relationships in a 2010 Headwall story—the first time I read about the peaks.) As Hagadone writes, "the path climbs into the forest at a 20 percent grade for the first half mile or so. This is the part that veteran hikers warn the newbies about. It's easy to lose heart—there are more than three more miles to go, climbing an average of 1,000 feet per mile." His literal boots-on-the-ground reporting will give you a good sense of the area, and why so many are invested in its future.
You can read the full story here.