As reported by this newspaper (Dec. 22), the recent report called "Losing Ground," which lists the Crazy Mountains as its “top concern and Montana’s most endangered public land access point,” is nothing new. This is an age-old problem highlighted in a 1972 report compiled by Gary Struve for the Sierra Club Wilderness Classification Study Committee.
As a founding member of Friends of the Crazy Mountains (“Friends”), my family were among the first settlers in the foothills of these mountains on the west side. In my capacity as a former Park County law enforcement officer and assistant road supervisor, I have firsthand knowledge of public land access conflicts to these historic roads and trails.
As a result, Friends was formed over a year ago to help preserve public access and to perform volunteer trail maintenance in the Crazies. Additionally, Public Land and Water Access (“PLWA”) and, specifically, Enhancing Montana’s Wildlife and Habit (“EMWH”) have brought the Crazy Mountain public land access issues to the forefront with years of extensive research and prescriptive easement overview. Friends, PLWA and EMWH went public with their support of Yellowstone District Ranger Alex Sienkiewicz when he was removed (and later reinstated) from this post for doing his job on multiple-use access issues in the Crazy Mountains.
Absent from the "Losing Ground" portfolio report is any mention of historic roads and trails in the Crazy Mountains, which is at the heart of these access conflicts. While the report notes that landowners and recreationists are looking for ways to improve access in the range, the first step to finding a solution is for the U.S. Forest Service to follow its direction and policy and take action necessary to protect these existing access rights to national Forest Service land.
In closing, Friends is glad to see conservation groups becoming aware of these longstanding access issues in the Crazies.