Voters rejected the proposal for the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness, 5,672 to 4,831. As a result, Senator Risch will not reintroduce his legislation to designate the area, and wilderness legislation has no chance of passing without local Congressional support. So to a limited degree we have local control of a national forest, but as the article points out, management under the forest plan, which recommends the area as wilderness, won’t change. (The article suggests that Congress couldn’t change the forest plan; of course it could, but I don’t think there is a precedent for it.)
The unfortunate thing is that the voters seem to have been misinformed (which is something I would hope a congressman would take into account).
“The philosophy with wilderness areas is let it burn,” said Bonner County Commissioner Dan McDonald.
And, perhaps most importantly, (Forest Service spokesperson) Cooper said Forest Service personnel can and do manage forest fires in both recommended and designated wilderness areas. “We still do manage wildfire,” she said. In 2017, the Forest Service sent smokejumpers into the Salmo-Priest Wilderness area to fight a forest fire.
My own interpretation is that suppression response depends on the values at risk, and wilderness area values, aren’t lost when they burn (in fact probably the opposite) – like other areas managed primarily for conservation or recreation, which is how this area is being managed now.