Monday, September 11, 2017

Tom Jacobson Award

Mighty Mo Brewing Company
 is hosting the Montana Wildlife Federation for an Ales for the Outdoor event. Every beer you buy helps support Montana's wildlife, habitat, access, public lands, and hunting & fishing heritage.

Additionally, we will honor Representative Tom Jacobson with an award to recognize his contribution this last legislative session to finding collaborative solutions to contentious fish and wildlife issues and promoting our outdoors heritage.

So join us for good people, great beer, and a worthy cause.

Nick Gevock
Conservation Director
Montana Wildlife Federation                        
5530 N. Montana Ave
PO Box 1175
Helena, MT 59602
Toll Free: 800.517.7256
Phone: 406.458.0227

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Two Montanan Republicans Concerned With Daines' Actions Over Crazy Mountain Public Lands Access

7/31/2017 Daines' actions in Sienkiewicz case are despicable

"I am a 68-year-old native of Montana. I am also a lifelong Republican. Sen. Steve Daines' involvement in the Forest Service Ranger Alex Sienkiewicz case is not only despicable, but also deplorable..."

7/31/2017 Daines tramples Montana's outdoor heritage
"Sen. Steve Daines has shown his true colors, and I’m sick and tired of his acting on behalf of special interests like those on the east side of the Crazies. Daines has finally shown that he's totally against Montana hunters. His record since he's been in Congress has consistently been awful for conservation — defunding land and water funds, voting against clean water and pushing for massive logging over everything else on public lands.But now he's taken it a step further. Recently, Daines wrote to the secretary of agriculture, joining several landowner and ag groups' crusade against a forest ranger who was working to maintain a public easement into the Crazy Mountains."

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Gazette opinion: Montana’s Crazy land controversy


Gazette opinion: Montana’s Crazy land controversy

The Crazy Mountains are seen at the top of this aerial photo.
LARRY MAYER/Gazette Staff
The Crazy Mountains soar out of the prairie, suggesting peace and tranquility in this oasis of forest and streams. The idyllic landscape belies longstanding friction over public access to National Forest interspersed with private land.
The latest round centers on the removal of District Ranger Alex Sienkiewicz from field work in the Crazies to an office job pending an internal investigation. That action came in response to pressure from U.S. Sen. Steve Daines and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. The senator and secretary reacted to complaints about Sienkiewicz from ranchers and outfitters.
Montana hunters and public access advocates have stepped up to defend Sienkiewicz, saying he was following long-established Forest Service policy.
The simmering controversy heated up last fall when Bozeman hunter Rob Gregoire was cited by a Sweet Grass County deputy sheriff for trespassing on a trail that he and Sienkiewicz believe to be open to the public by “prescriptive easement,” because it has historically been used by the public to access otherwise inaccessible public land.
Landowners Lee and Barbara Langhus disagree and made the trespass complaint. There is no written easement allowing public access across their land, although the trail has long been marked on Forest Service maps and cited in the Gallatin Forest Travel Plan.
The Crazy Mountains contain more than 8,000 acres of National Forest that the public has no way of accessing. That forest land is surrounded by private holdings. The Crazies also contain a hunting district, much of which is inaccessible to the public, with 2,000 elk — twice the district’s maximum target as determined by Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks.
That’s the hunting district that Gregoire was trying to reach. The oversupply of elk feast on some neighbors’ hay supplies, while others profit from exclusive, limited hunts.
Land ownership in the Crazies is a checkerboard pattern of public and private sections that dates to the 1860s when the U.S. government gave Northern Pacific Railroad 17 million acres of the Montana Territory up to 80 miles from the rail line. More frequent confrontations are cropping up on land that has recently changed ownership with new owners who want their private property off-limits to the public. In other cases, long-time owners may have a beef with Forest Service personnel or bad experiences with the public.
Solutions won’t be easy, but resolution efforts need to start now. There’s only one remaining public access to the entire 35-mile-long eastern flank of the Crazies.
From facts reported previously in The Gazette, it appears that Sienkiewicz is being penalized for doing his job. Government employees deserve to know that their supervisors — even the secretary of the department — will stand up for them when they are serving the public.
However, the Forest Service and local landowners have some fence mending to do. Custer Gallatin Forest Supervisor Mary Erickson should have authority to devise better ways to build trust between local landowners and Forest Service personnel in the field. The local forest working group should actively engage citizens with differing perspectives.
In the long run, landowners, hunters, hikers and other public land users need clarification on access issues. Possible remedies include:
  • Montana legislative action to provide public access while protecting private property rights.
  • Litigation that would result in a Montana Supreme Court ruling.
  • Land swaps to consolidate key public and private holdings.
It’s not realistic to believe that everyone interested in the Crazies will just sit down and start getting along. But we urge the Forest Service to start a conversation with landowners and the general public.
Daines and Perdue must stop micromanaging staff in the Gallatin Forest. Daines should listen to all his constituents, relay their concerns and then let land management professionals do their jobs.
Perdue should see that decision making about forest land is led by department professionals in Montana — not from his Washington, D.C., office.


July 19, 2017

"We can and should have an abundance of trails for walking, cycling, and horseback riding... 
In the back country we need to copy the great Appalachian Trail in all parts of America, 
and to make full use of right-of-way and other public paths."
President Lyndon B. Johnson

Newsletter Social Media link

The Face of Things To Come... If We Don't Mobilize To Stop It

I woke up to poison ivy this morning. I have a great poison ivy soap that neutralizes the urishiol, so this will pass quickly. But how I got poison ivy is not so easily remedied. I got it yesterday, documenting one of our blocked FS Trails, #267 - the Porcupine Trail, in the NW Crazy Mountains.

This morning I not only woke up to short term poison ivy, I woke to another PERC article equating our historical roads and trails access to trespassing, and their privatizing perspective of those trails with Uber or Airbnb, that the public should pay landowners for access we already have to our public lands, like a toll road. On the 14th, there was a PERC article in Colorado on this issue. I'm starting to get a Billy Goat Gruff vs. the PERC Troll editorial cartoon in my head, which is quite appropos if you understand that the Crazy Mountains are home to one of the largest Mountain Goat populations in Montana.

So here we were, Brad and I, from the trailhead of the FS Porcupine Trail #267 to the locked gate circled in red.

Brad Wilson, who was born and raised in the area, was my guide. His grandfather was one of the original landowners around the Shields area. Brad worked for Park County Roads division for about 8 years, then was a Deputy Sheriff for another 8 years. He understands access issues intimately. Brad recently began the Friends of the Crazy Mountains group to address access issues on the west side of the Crazies. (If anyone wants to join or contribute to the immediate issue at hand, perhaps trail maintenance, contact Brad Wilson, P.O. Box 77, Wilsall, MT, 59086). I was given an honorary Friends of the Crazy Mountains camo hat. ;)

So Brad takes me on this trail where I am documenting with video, photos and gps for the big interactive Crazy Mountain map soon to go up. I documented blaze trees, which help to let the public know where the trail is, especially if you don't have gps. Then we get to the boundary line of a property owner, Zimmerman, who has a gate blocking this historic trail that goes through that property, connects to the main Porcupine Lowline Trail #195, which runs through mostly FS public land heading south. Zimmerman is one of the landowners which outfits and grazes, who signed the letters that resulted in the removal of Alex Sienkiewicz as the Yellowstone District Ranger, reaching out to Senator Daines up to newly sworn in Ag Sec. Sonny Perdue.

If you were not intimately familiar with this trail, you would probably be deterred by this lock and gate. 2 years ago Dale had seen a Private Property, No Forest Service Access, No Trespassing sign at that gate, which he told others about; it was not there now, but you could see the remnants of FS signs on the wooden posts. We were not deterred, we passed the gate, followed the trail on my highly accurate gps and I photographed the blaze trees along the way, until we got to the meadow clearing. We then returned to the FS public lands. 

On the way back down the trail, Dale spotted some white in the brush. Thinking it was a Forest Service sign that had been removed, he went down to get it. It tuned out to be the metal Private Property sign that used to be at the gate. 

Get a good hard look at these pictures. 

This could be you trying to access our Public Lands on our historic public access trails. This could be the face of all historic unperfected roads and trails on our public lands to come.

Please contact the officials involved, contact information below.

I am including information for submitting Letters To the Editor or if you are part of an organization, a hunting/angling or other recreation group, an Opinion Editorial to the newspapers. We need to get the word out, THIS IS NOT JUST ABOUT THE CRAZY MOUNTAINS OR ALEX SIENKIWICZ. This is about all our unperfected federal roads and trails and our federal employees that follow policy, do their job, that could be targeted by any landowner utilizing their political connections. 

To submit Letter To the Editor (LTE) or Opinion Editorial (Oped), most papers have the same policy: Letters have a word limit or fewer, and MUST include your real name, city of residence and daytime phone number (they call to confirm that you are who you are and you actually sent in the LTE. In the Subject Line begin with LTE or Oped, then your title. Some papers only publish letters from within their primary readership. Opinion Editorials (Oped) from groups/organizations, established writers, have higher word limits and may request a picture.

Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1400 Independence Ave., S.W., Washington, DC 20250 (202) 720-2791

Forest Service Chief, Thomas Tidwell,   (202) 205-8439

Region 1, Regional Forester Leann Marten,   (406) 329-3315

Custer Gallatin National Forest Supervisor Mary Erickson,  (406) 587-6949

Senator Steve Daines,   (202) 224-2651

Even though Sen. Tester was not evident in the letters, please contact him as well.
Sen. Jon Tester,   (202) 224-2644 
Representative Greg Gianforte, 1419 Longworth HOB, Washington, DC 20515 (202) 225-3211  (you can try this, this is the one his office gave me, but mine keep coming back unable to deliver. For a technology guy, you would think he would have a functioning email address)

Click to be a Contributor or Subscriber to 
Enhancing Montana's Wildlife & Habitat

Thank you,
Kathryn QannaYahu
Bozeman, MT

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Missoulian--Forest dis-Service in the Crazy Mountain case

Guest column

Forest dis-Service in the Crazy Mountain case

  • Updated

When Alex Sienkiewicz and his wife Holly arrived in Livingston in 2011, they felt enthusiastic about raising their children in a small Montana town. After years of higher education, Sienkiewicz also felt excited about assuming his duties as District Ranger in the Forest Service and getting out into the field where he’d always longed to be. Then on June 16, 2017, Regional Forest Service Supervisor Mary Erickson informed him that he was being reassigned, and that he faced an internal misconduct investigation. The reason? He’d been doing his job.
Conflicts over public access to Gallatin National Forest land in the Crazy Mountains had been simmering for years. The FS had built, maintained, and utilized trails there for decades, and documents dating back to 1930 and beyond established that they were public. Erickson herself expressed that position in a 2015 letter to Sen. Steve Daines: “The Forest Service maintains that it owns unperfected prescriptive rights on this trail system.” Alerted by complaints about blocked trails and no-trespassing signs from outdoor recreationists, Sienkiewicz began to take this policy seriously.
A handful of ranchers whose land some of these trails crossed objected, as they had been doing for years. With their ire focused on Sienkiewicz, they did what influential Americans have always done and took their complaints to Washington. Highly critical letters went out to Sen. Daines and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue just prior to Sienkiewicz’s reassignment. There was no question about the reason for that reassignment, about which Supervisor Erickson commented: “…it relates to on-going issues around access in the Crazy Mountains and allegations from landowners about how Alex has navigated some of these disputes.”
Alex Sienkiewicz understands the value of public lands to the people of Montana and the importance of access to those lands. Acting in accordance with established Forest Service policy, he defended those rights only to be blind-sided by Washington politicians, one of whom we Montanans elected ourselves. Even more disturbingly, he was undercut by the agency that is supposed to be safeguarding those rights, all because he was doing what agency policy said he was supposed to do.
Consider the implications of the message sent by Daines and Purdue: Federal employees who upset influential constituents are at risk even when operating within the parameters established by their own agencies. Montanans of all political affiliations should find this chilling.
It’s time to reinstate Alex Sienkiewicz to the position he came to Montana to perform, on behalf of all of us who depend on public lands as a source of recreation, opportunity, and renewal. And it’s time for the Forest Service to work for the American people, encourage public access to public land, and defend its own employees who are doing the same.
A longtime resident of central Montana, Don Thomas writes about the outdoors for numerous national publications.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Billings Gazette LTE

Daines hands public land to outfitters

Well, Sen. Steve Daines has shown his cards, once again, as a true champion of the welfare outfitters while sticking it to the average hunter. Daines jumped into the case of Livingston District Ranger Alex Sienkiewicz, a public servant doing his job for the public to increase access to the Crazy Mountains.
Sienkiewicz’ crime: actually suggesting that people could use a public trail. That didn’t sit well with the landowners/outfitters along the east face of the Crazies, who have locked up the access to the Crazies. Not only do they sell bull elk on their private lands but they block off access to the public lands as well. All this in an area that is way over objective numbers for elk. Some of these same folks come to FWP screaming about too many elk and FWP should do something about it. Talk about special interests screaming about the very problem they’ve helped create — Daines, included!
Daines’ spokesman Jason Thielmann said recently that “darn right” the senator would intervene in the case like this. Seems it’s OK for landowners to bully public officials, but when that public official pushes back on behalf of the public, he’s out of line to Daines.
Just remember that the next time Daines spews his bull about being for public access. A leopard doesn't change its spots!
Carl Brenden

Billings Gazette LTE

Daines sells out Montana hunters

It’s pretty clear which side of the public access debate Sen. Steve Daines is on, and it’s not Montana hunters that he cares about. Daines recently jumped into the case of landowners and the Montana Outfitters and Guides Association.
Daines recently butted into the case of the Livingston forest ranger who was trying to increase public access to the Crazy Mountains for Montana hunters. The good senator wrote all the way to the top, going to the chief of the Forest Service and even the secretary of Agriculture and the Department of Justice to get the ranger removed and prevent government employees from giving pertinent information. It seems when a U.S. senator talks, people listen, and the ranger was “reassigned” to another position to take the pressure off his effort to increase trail access.
The next time Daines talks about being an advocate for public access, call out his lies. It’s pretty obvious that he’s for big moneyed interests who want to own our public lands, wildlife and water.
Austin Turley