The Wild Heart of Idaho!
The Secesh (pronounced Sea-sesh like a seashell), Buckhorn, and French Creek wild areas comprise the most scenic, most untamed, geologically and biologically diverse areas in the wild heart of Idaho, near McCall. The U.S. Forest Service has recommended 225,000 acres of these areas as wilderness; that’s big, but it’s a pittance. In my 25 years of working to protect Idaho’s 9 million acres of roadless areas as wilderness, it has been these three areas that have inspired the most enthusiasm to continue my advocacy to protect them. They are stunningly beautiful but accessible, and are surrounded by more roving, wild lands, one mountain range after another. If this appeals to you, well then, read on!
Each has significant opponents and threats to the wild nature of the land. In French Creek it is logging projects and road construction, that are now on hold. In the Buckhorn and Secesh areas there is a slowly renewing ardor for logging and the growth of both motorized and non-motorized vehicle use in this sublime landscape. On the Payette National Forest, where these wilderness values exist, there is a growing indifference to the loss, as weak conservationists look elsewhere to find support for easier places to protect.
The Secesh Crest of unroaded lands, (including the Secesh, Buckhorn and French Creek wild areas) is surrounded by the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, Caton Creek, Salmon River Breaks, Patrick Butte, and the Seven Devils Wilderness among others. Taken as a group, all of these areas are the preeminent place in Idaho for providing migration of wildlife from Montana to Oregon along the Salmon River system in this warming world. The intact landscape supports a remarkable number of animals: wolves, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, lynx, bears, martin, wolverine, fisher, salmon, trout, steelhead, migratory birds ospreys, eagles, bluebirds, and in lesser numbers, people.
The elevation runs from 3,400 feet to above 9,000 feet at Loon peak–from grasses at lower elevation to above treeline. This includes lodgepine pine, Douglas fir and Ponderosa pine, spruce, larch, aspen, and up to whitebark pine near the rocky summit. This region is extremely rugged and includes Victor Peak, Loon Peaks, and Storm Peak where a number of spectacular lakes occur: Enos, Twenty mile, Storm, Victor, Burnside, Hum, Box, Buckhorn, Cly, Prince, Tsum, Maki lakes and many, many others. Look at their names and you will learn: Hum is said to be named for the humming of mosquitoes; Storm peak for the violence of the winters in the peak’s vicinity. The Secesh River and the South Fork Salmon River flow through the Secesh wild area, beside the Buckhorn Creek region, both of which protect critical salmon and steelhead habitat.
The name “Secesh” comes some of the rich history of the region that was originally settled by secessionists at the end of the American Civil War. The name recalls the way that the people in central Idaho would like to live and see themselves as being—independent, gun-toting, and free. That is all illusionary, of course, as everyone living here depends on the largesse of federal subsidies for their very survival, but in nearby towns of Secesh Meadows, Warren, and Yellowpine the concerns of local citizens about access and fire threats have to be heard or a shootout, or more likely, a lawsuit, may ensue.
What is the future of this splendid western land? I can’t tell you, after 25 years of trying to divine its fate, but these things I can tell you: all of your outspoken opinions will count in both the short and long run. Your silence will count on the other side. And by-and-by, it will be decided somewhere in the middle, in due time. How much time is “due time” will depend upon how much noise we can make in the short time. If you would like to join us at the Secesh Wildlands Coalition contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org There is a poster that I will send you if you ask and we are considering publishing a book on the wild Secesh country within a year.