Skip to main content
You have permission to edit this article.
Who will ensure, as public landowners, that we have access to our own public lands?

Who will ensure, as public landowners, that we have access to our own public lands?

  • Updated
  • 3

When you throw a stone in the water, you can clearly see the ripple effect radiating out.

The removal of Alex Sienkiewicz as the Forest Service District Ranger, for following Forest Service policy in administrating our federally managed public lands for multiple users, is just such a stone. The ripple effects of this orchestrated removal, are the latest public land grab attempt, which could affect the entire United States federally managed public lands under this administration.

Under Enhancing Montana's Wildlife & Habitat, I have been researching the Crazy Mountain public access issues for years, eventually filing my first FOIA on the area early last fall. This proved providential considering the machinations that were already under way to increase privatization of the Crazy Mountains and other public lands.

Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) and Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX, Dallas) are spearheading an effort to gain greater control of our federally managed public lands by cutting off access. First, Daines took letters from certain Crazy Mountain landowners who outfit the area and are also ranking members of organizations, such as the Montana Outfitters & Guides Association, Montana Farm Bureau Federation and the Stockgrowers Association. Those letters, along with Daines own, were sent to the newly appointed Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Purdue, who just happened to be in Montana for an Ag Summit in May, where District Ranger Alex Sienkiewicz was addressed, in relation to the FS administration of the Crazy Mountains.

The letters provide a piece of “gotcha” evidence, or so they thought, against District Ranger Sienkiewicz. It was a screenshot of a Public Land/Water Access Association's Facebook post, which none of the accusers bothered to verify, before falsely ascribing it to Sienkiewicz. The truth is easily proven by the administrative screenshot (, showing a PLWA member took a copy of Sienkiewicz's yearly summer email reminder to FS employees and their seasonal help, instructing them when on FS roads and trails and entering FS administrated public lands, do not ask permission, nor sign in, per Forest Service policy and documents. This is a management action that many other FS employees, including previous District Rangers and Supervisors, prior to Sienkiewicz, have followed for decades. Ranger Sienkiewicz was simply doing his job.

Using this “gotcha” false allegation post, Sen. Daines, in his official capacity, without any due diligence towards the truth, forwarded the lie to the highest levels, the Ag Sec. Sonny Perdue, and Sienkiewicz, was removed from his position. This lie was picked up on by TX Rep. Pete Sessions, who not only forwarded it to Perdue, but included the Sec. of Interior Ryan Zinke, suggesting legislation against the historical prescriptive easements and Statements of Interest process, but also possible agency directives.

Another larger ripple, if such directives were adopted by these two Secretaries of our public lands and resources, not only would the public have historical access cut off across the country, but this would also hamstring our federal agencies from the same historical public access, to properly manage our public lands. In effect, increasing the privatization of our public lands.

Yet another ripple emanates from the targeting of Sienkiwicz. This removal effectively makes Sienkiewicz a poster child, sending the message - “Do your job, according to policy, and we will come after you too!” This will increase the culture of fear that is growing within our natural resource agency employees.

What will we be left with, as public landowners? Will the stewards stop stewarding or simply leave for safer employment? Then who will ensure, as public landowners, that we have access to our own public lands?

-- Kathryn QannaYahu, Bozeman, founder of Enhancing Montana's Wildlife & Habitat (


Catch the latest in Opinion

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

  • Updated

So now we have politicians and political appointees jumping into the Montana public access picture. This happened after Sen. Steve Daines and …

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.


News Alerts

Breaking News