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Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness

Protecting a legacy of wilderness in North Idaho

Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness

Photo courtesy of Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness


By Christian Weaner

Phil Hough and his wife, Deb, are avid outdoor enthusiasts, having hiked the “triple crown” of long-distance hikes — the Appalachian Trail, Continental Divide Trail and Pacific Crest Trail (twice).

Yet, Phil, a founding member and the executive director of Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness (FSPW), believes the 88,000-acre National Forest land located here in North Idaho is some of the most beautiful country he has ever encountered.

“In my opinion, after having hiked the entire length of the United States on three different long-distance trails and seeing an abundance of public land management … it made me appreciate that we have something very special here,” Phil explained.

After growing up on the East Coast and spending most of his adult life in the Western U.S., Phil and his family moved to Sagle, Idaho, in 2002.

In 2003, the U.S. Forest Service began revising the land management plans for North Idaho — a process Phil was heavily involved in due to his affiliation with the Idaho Native Plant Society.

“It became pretty clear after about a year that there was really a need to have more attention paid to the wilderness question than the Forest Service was doing at the time,” Phil recalled.

Desiring to focus more attention on that issue, Phil and a group of colleagues came together to form FSPW. Officially founded in January 2005, FSPW began advocating for a proper wilderness proposal for the Scotchmans.

Over the years, Phil and the group have learned more about how public policy works in relation to forest designation, and how important it is to educate people about what wilderness areas are and why they are important.

“Our body of work is about bringing the public together in North Idaho and Northwestern Montana to demonstrate the broad-based support from all kinds of people — all walks of life — for wilderness,” Phil added.

In 2010, Idaho Department of Fish and Game commissioned a four-year study on the rare forest carnivores in the area. This project allowed FSPW to engage more than 300 volunteers, who put up cameras around the Scotchmans and helped collect data.

At the end of those four years, FSPW had a large collective of committed individuals desiring to stay involved, so the group started a youth education program called Winter Tracks. Winter Tracks, now in its 10th year, partners with schools throughout Bonner (Idaho), Sanders (Montana) and Lincoln (Montana) counties to plan outdoor field days and other education activities — engaging approximately 500 students per year.

FSPW’s work extends far beyond just education, however, as they hold trail maintenance service projects, offer community hikes and events, provide free online resources to learn more about the importance of stewardship and hear other people’s wilderness stories, and much more.

One upcoming event, for example, is the Wild & Scenic Film Festival that will be held Friday, March 22, at the Panida Theater, considered one of the nation’s premier environmental and adventure film festivals.

When pondering his work at FSPW over the last 19 years, Phil often comes back to the idea of author Edward Abbey, who wrote that wilderness is a necessity of the soul. That necessity must be protected and cared for, and that is the mission of FSPW.

“If we want to be able to provide the legacy of wilderness for our grandchildren — so that they can understand the wonder of wilderness just the way we did or our parents did — then we need to actively preserve that and protect that opportunity,” Phil concluded.

To learn more about Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness or to get involved, visit, like the Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness on Facebook or follow @scotchmanpeaks on Instagram.

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