Only Congress can create wilderness areas, which have tight land use restrictions. Sen. Jim Risch introduced legislation to protect about 14,000 acres of rugged mountain terrain at Scotchman Peaks in 2016.
But after locals rejected the idea in an advisory vote last Tuesday in Bonner County, Risch has said he will no longer push the proposal in D.C. According to the Bonner County Daily Bee, there were 5,672 votes against the wilderness designation and 4,831 votes in favor of it.
Phil Hough is with Friends of Scotchman Peaks, an advocacy group that’s worked for 13 years to get the wilderness area approved.
“There was some misconception that this was somehow a transfer of lands from the state to the federal government," says Hough. "The fact is, the U.S. National Forest Service through the Idaho Panhandle National Forest has managed these lands for over 100 years.”
But Stan Myers – who is from the area and led a group opposed to Risch's wilderness proposal – says the confusion about the wilderness designation came from folks on both sides.
“There’s no more people confused who voted against it than there were people who voted for it.”
Myers says he’s open to striking a deal, and will reach out to Sen. Risch’s office to continue the conversation.
“I hope we could sit down and we could compromise on some stuff.”
Find reporter Frankie Barnhill on Twitter @FABarnhill
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