Scotchman Peak Still A Hot Topic
by Kathy Rose
The “wilderness” designation for Scotchman Peak continues to be a hot topic in north Idaho. The Wilderness Act was passed in September of 1964, and according to westerncaucus.house.gov, there are 110 million wilderness acres – more than the 108 million acres of developed land in the country.
Late last year, Idaho Senator Jim Risch announced that he was going to introduce legislation to officially name 13,900 acres of Scotchman Peak as wilderness area. He was moving forward believing there was broad community support, based on the feedback from the Bonner County Commissioners and the group “Friends of Scotchman Peaks”.
However, at an open forum held January 11, 2017 in Clark Fork, staff members saw something very different. In fact, several hundred gathered to express their objections to the proposed bill.
A panel of pro-wilderness officials spoke one-sidedly and explained that the wilderness declaration would not change anything as the land has been managed as a wilderness for years. They also repeated that the bill is strongly supported by the community.
Citizens were given time for public comments, but the discussion became so heated that one from the “Friends” group grabbed the microphone from a Clark Fork resident and to halt her testimony . The meeting did not go as planned (see Scotchman Peaks Group Not-So-Friendly After All)
In February 2017, the Clark Fork City Council voted unanimously in opposition to the designation. (See City of Clark Fork Says NO to Scotchman Peaks Proposal) All this begs the question of how much County support is there really?
The movement to create the wilderness area continues be thrust upon the County, as Senator Risch’s staff was back in the area this past Tuesday to try to garner a second round of support. The informational open house was structured much differently. The gymnasium at Hope Elementary School was lined with posters, each attended by a staff member who answered questions on an individual basis.
This type of control is an integral strategy of manipulation called the Delphi Method. A group of “expert” facilitators manage the discussion to lead people to a pre-determined conclusion.
Some citizens voiced concerns that it felt like a sales presentation with talking points used to address questions. Others felt like they were singled out if they did not agree.
Idaho District 1 State Representatives Heather Scott and Sage Dixon attended the event. Rep. Scott opposes the proposed bill and designation. Rep. Dixon commented that he is supportive of the Clark Fork City Council and residents, and is still learning about the wilderness issue.
There have been several suggestions to determine how the impacted communities truly feel, including having a non-binding ballot question. Certainly, citizen involvement on issues can make all the difference.
Contact Senator Risch with questions and feedback
or at his Coeur d’Alene Office:
U.S. Senator James Harbor Plaza,
610 Hubbard, Suite 213
Coeur d’Alene, Idaho 83814