SANDPOINT — Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness and EcoFlight teamed up on Wednesday to give aerial tours of the proposed wilderness area near Clark Fork.
“The main goal is to inform and inspire people. The best way to inform and inspire is with the awesome perspective that only an airplane can provide,” said Phil Hough, executive director of Friends of Scotchman Peaks.
The flights were offered to local media who report on the wilderness proposal and officials who weigh in on such proposals. Bonner County commissioners Cary Kelly and Glen Bailey took part in the flights, as did Karen Roetter, a representative for U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo’s office.
The flights departed from Sandpoint, crossed over Lake Pend Oreille and skimmed the dun-colored alpine peaks in the proposed wilderness area. Views from the plane underscored the ruggedness of the topography — steep slopes and impressively fortified canyons.
The flights also showed off the breathtaking beauty of the Cabinet Mountains and the creeks that cut between them.
“It’s always an uplifting feeling looking down at that wild rugged country and just realizing what a gem we have there,” said Hough.
The wilderness proposal enjoys a wide array of support in Bonner County even though its politics generally skew toward the conservative. The Scotchman wilderness designation is not a dog whistle.
The complexity of the terrain appears to be one of the best arguments for conservation management.
Kelly and Bailey have summited the 7,009-foot peak and gone on record as supporters of the proposal on grounds that timber harvest would be extremely challenging. Commissioner Todd Sudick joined Kelly and Bailey last year to forward a resolution asking Idaho’s federal delegation to introduce legislation.
“I had hoped, originally, we’d have more news to share about the new potential for a bill, which would have been a good opportunity to talk about that but that hasn’t really materialized yet. That part of it we have to wait on,” said Hough.
Hecla Mining Co. and Idaho Forest Group are also allies of the proposal.
Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness formed in 2005 to push for a congressional wilderness designation for the 88,000 acres of roadless area that straddles the Idaho/Montana border.
EcoFlight educates and advocates for the protection of remaining wild lands and wildlife habitat through the use of small aircraft. The aerial perspective and our educational programs encourage an environmental stewardship ethic among citizens of all ages.