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Visit Idaho Parks, Trails, Forests for Free on Public Lands Day

Trail maintenance is the priority this weekend in the Scotchman Peaks area, as part of National Public Lands Day activities across the Gem State. (D. Taylor in Idaho/Flickr)
Trail maintenance is the priority this weekend in the Scotchman Peaks area, as part of National Public Lands Day activities across the Gem State. (D. Taylor in Idaho/Flickr)
September 23, 2016

BOISE, Idaho - Idahoans can visit the Gem State's many public lands this Saturday for the 23rd annual National Public Lands Day, with no fee for parking or need for a park pass.

Volunteers also use the day to help clean up and maintain their favorite public trails and parks.

More than 60 percent of Idaho is publicly owned, and three-quarters of Idahoans make use of it for recreation, according to the Outdoor Industry Association.

Phil Hough, the executive director of the group "Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness," said the land has special importance to him and others in the Idaho panhandle.

"Most people who grew up here and remain or move here have an attachment to the lands, and want to use them for recreation as well as their employment," he said. "So, it's very natural that we treasure our public lands. They're an important part of who we are, how we define ourselves in our region."

He said the Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness will be working on trails near the peaks today and Saturday to make them more hiker-friendly, and others are welcome to help them. Recreation in Idaho generates more than $6 billion in consumer spending annually, and supports almost 77,000 jobs.

Hough said his group, along with the local county commission, chamber of commerce and sportsmen, want stronger protections for the 14,000-acre Scotchman Peaks area, located in the Idaho Panhandle National Forests.

"The Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness also advocates for congressional designation as wilderness of the Scotchman Peaks area, which would protect and preserve the area in perpetuity, an important feature for our local residents and for our region and nation as a whole," Hough added.

More than 30 percent of land in the United States is publicly owned. Other events are planned across the state on Saturday to help maintain Idaho's parks and public lands.

Find events by state here.

Support for this reporting was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ID