When you vote next month in the primary election, language will be included on the ballot asking the community to decide “Do you favor Senator Jim Risch’s proposal for congressional designation of a 13,960-acre Scotchman Peaks area in Bonner County?”
To be clear, this is not “Jim Risch’s proposal.” I did not initiate this proposal and, more importantly, I will follow the decision made by you, the people of Bonner County.
While it is true I introduced this legislation in Congress at the urging of many Idahoans, and it does carry my name as the sponsor, the bill I introduced was at the request of the Bonner County Commissioners and the Friends of Scotchman Peaks in order to measure the community’s support for the proposal. Reflecting a culmination of efforts by them and so many others, this bill was initiated by the Bonner County community and now, appropriately, its outcome will be determined by the community.
For more than 10 years, the county commissioners and you, the people of Bonner County, have been engaged in a thoughtful dialogue about this issue. I listened carefully to the county commissioners and put a lot of reliance on their opinion. At least twice since 2006, various commissioners have presented unanimous support to the Idaho congressional delegation in requesting wilderness designation, most recently in 2015. I have been very impressed by their diligence over the years and by the broad coalition of support they have aggregated. Scotchman Peaks is unique because of that broad support.
When I introduced the legislation at the end of 2016, I did so to listen and to get a better sense of where you stood on the idea of a wilderness designation. The decision is not mine, it is yours.
After introducing language in Congress, I held two open houses in Hope and Clark Fork, where nearly 600 Idahoans came to voice their opinions. At the open houses, my staff displayed information and worked alongside specialists from the Idaho Panhandle National Forest, so people with questions about any aspect of wilderness could get answers.
After seeing the information and asking questions, people had the opportunity to submit comments and tell me what they thought about what they saw and heard. Overwhelmingly, I was told people were ready to see the proposal advance.
From day one, this has been a local, grassroots effort in Bonner County. And after many years of collaboration, on May 15, you will get to vote up or down. I encourage everyone to study the issue personally and make a reasoned decision as to whether the proposal is appropriate without reference to mine or anyone else’s name associated with it. I would then urge you to vote as you deem appropriate, and however it turns out, I am proud of the community’s work on this issue and to have been part of it and I will of course honor the outcome of the election.
Sen. Jim Risch is one of Idaho’s two senators serving in Washington, D.C. He previously served as the 39th and 41st Lieutenant Governor of Idaho and the 31st Governor of Idaho.