*The comment period for the wilderness evaluation process for the Salmon-Challis National Forest was extended to Feb. 28, 2019. This article was updated on Jan. 28, 2019 to reflect that change.*
Do you love wild places? If so, you are in the right place! Idaho is known as the wilderness state, and rightly so, with 4.8 million acres spread across 15 wilderness areas. From the vast expanse of the Frank Church-River of No Return to the iconic peaks of Sawtooths to the dramatic canyons of the Owyhee, wilderness designations have preserved Idaho’s most special places. Federally designated wilderness remains the gold standard for protecting wild places on our public lands and requires an act of Congress.
The Salmon-Challis National Forest contains some of Idaho’s wildest remaining unroaded areas, such as the Lost River Range, the Lemhi Range, and the Pioneer Mountains. You have the opportunity to weigh in on whether the Forest Service should recommend any of those areas for potential wilderness designation.
Take Action Now!
You can provide wilderness evaluation comments to the Forest Service until Feb. 28, 2019. Take a look at this helpful handout from the Forest Service for more information on what kind of comments they are looking for. We have also created a primer that will help guide you through writing your comments.
Suggestions for what to include in your comments:
- The Forest Service has recommended both Borah Peak and North Slope Pioneers for wilderness protection in the past – which we still support! Speak up in favor of keeping these areas in the plan as recommended for wilderness designation.
- Advocate for maintaining the wilderness character (natural, undeveloped, untrammeled, potential for solitude and primitive recreation) of other largely unroaded areas (such as the northern Lemhis).
- Use your personal experiences exploring the evaluation areas to provide meaningful input to the Forest Service to help define which areas are suitable to be recommended as wilderness.
Idaho still has other stretches of spectacular country just as deserving as existing wilderness areas that Congress has not yet considered for designations. Until Congress acts, the Forest Service should manage these areas to preserve their solitude and opportunities for unconfined recreation. Submit your comments now!
Wilderness Evaluation Process
As part of the forest plan revision process, the Salmon-Challis National Forest is required to complete a thorough wilderness evaluation. The Forest Service has identified several remaining remote areas called "Focal Evaluation Areas" which are still large enough and undeveloped to provide wilderness characteristics.
Following this evaluation phase, the Forest Service will analyze the impacts of wilderness recommendation for qualified areas and develop a range of alternatives. The final forest plan decision will include a formal recommendation for which lands Congress should consider for inclusion in the National Wilderness Preservation System. Recommended areas still require an act of Congress to be formally protected as wilderness but are afforded interim protections.
ICL and Wilderness
ICL has a rich history of wilderness advocacy. Our members were instrumental in the establishment of the Frank Church-River of No Return, Owyhee Canyonlands, and Boulder-White Clouds wilderness areas. Currently, our North Idaho office is actively engaged in an effort to protect the first wilderness area within Idaho’s nine northern counties and our Central Idaho office runs a very successful wilderness stewardship program.
We will continue to advocate for wilderness protection for the special wild places for Idahoans. Landscapes that are ultimately not recommended for wilderness can still have significant conservation and backcountry recreation values that can be protected through other means. We stand ready to work to find the best ways to protect your opportunities for backcountry adventures.