Idaho Sen. Jim Risch has introduced a bill in Congress to create the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness Area in northern Idaho, which would encompass nearly 14,000 acres of national forest land in Bonner County.
Wilderness designation for the area has garnered widespread support in Idaho, including from the timber industry. Bob Boeh, vice president of government affairs the timber company Idaho Forest Group, said the movement for wilderness designation has helped educate the community on Scotchman Peaks, bringing in support from diverse interests.
"It's just a special place, and the highest and best use, I think, is to keep it wild as it is," Boeh said. "And a wilderness designation would ensure that that happens, permanently."
Boeh said the Scotchman Peaks area isn't an economically viable place for the timber industry to operate.
In 2015, the Bonner County Board of Commissioners unanimously passed a resolution calling on Idaho's delegation to protect Scotchman Peaks as wilderness. Idaho currently has almost 4.8 million acres of federal wilderness.
Cary Kelly, a member of the Bonner County Board of Commissioners, said he ran his campaign on the platform of protecting Scotchman Peaks, and other board members share his position.
"Previous commissioners and also future ones, when the topic has come up, they've all supported it," Kelly said. "I think the reason we do that, of course, is because it has wide public support."
Phil Hough, executive director of the group Friends of Scotchman Peaks, which has been working to gain wilderness designation for the area since 2005, said the wilderness would benefit generations to come.
"To keep and preserve the habitat in a clean and pristine state for a multiple of unique species of flora and fauna is really a gift that we can give to our children, and their children," Hough said.