South Crazy Mountains Land Exchange

The South Crazy Mountains Land Exchange is a PRELIMINARY Environmental Assessment. The Gallatin National Forest has not provided the public with a NEPA EA (example of proper NEPA EA - CGNF Sixteen Mile provided to the public).

You can view the documents they have provided at the Custer Gallatin National Forest project page.

Land Exchange Map pdf

Comment Link (page has been having difficulty)

If you can't get thru the online portal, and since no other comment submission address was provided in the Preliminary EA Proposal, I would suggest emailing your comments to Dee Closson, Realty Specialist, dee.closson@usda.gov
CCing Supervisor Mary Erickson mcerickson@fs.fed.us
Project 56687 - South Crazy Mountains Land Exchange

Mail: Forest Supervisor Mary Erickson, P.O. Box 130, Bozeman, MT 59971;
Fax, (406) 587-6758;
or personally to 10 East Babcock Street, Bozeman, MT

Even if you have already commented, you can submit an amendment or changed public comment.

Link to my PDF Public Comment submitted 11-12-2019

 

The South Crazy Mountains Land Exchange has been ongoing for years. It involves 3 different ranches: Wild Eagle Ranch (red), Rock Creek Ranch (blue) and the Crazy Mountain Ranch (Pink). The public comment period ends November 18th, 2019. The Rock Creek Ranch and Wild Eagle Ranch portions of this exchange proposal do not appear to be problematic, rather help to consolidate FS land. The Crazy Mountain Ranch portion, however, has a number of issues. While doing research on the rest of the Crazy Mountains, I began, summer of 2018, researching the easements & Railroad Grant Deeds with easement in the public language on the southern end of the Crazy Mountains, in anticipation of this proposal.

$$$ MONEY TRAIL $$$
Before taking a look at some of the details of this proposal, I would like to show you a money trail - always follow the MONEY.

Altria Group is the parent company for Philip Morris USA (tobacco industry). Altria was the top non-individual donor to the Montana 2017 & 2018 races. They contributed 18 times, totalling $17,244, 662. Philip Morris USA Inc is the owner of the Crazy Mountain Ranch involved in this Crazy Mountains FS proposal.

Altria contributed to Steve Daines (2012-2014) $12,500.

Remember when Daines forwarded Crazy Mountains landowner complaints & false accusations about FS District Ranger Alex Sienkiewicz, to newly appointed confirmed USDA Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, to get Sienkiewicz removed from his position for doing his job in the Crazy Mountains?

According to Open Secrets, Altria has contributed in the 2020 cycle $7,800 to Daines.

Altria has also been involved with Ag Sec. Sonny Perdue. They not only contributed to Perdue when he was GA Governor, but they also "gifted" "flights paid for by Altria", which were part of the "self-dealing" ethics investigation.

So the USDA Ag. Secretary Sonny Perdue, who oversees the Forest Service, attended the Montana Ag Summit (June 2017, Great Falls) which was organized and sponsored by Sen. Steve Daines. Days later, District Ranger Alex Sienkiewicz is removed from his position for doing his job, including protecting FS public access in the Crazy Mountains. Then multiple landowner deals are pushed by the FS, which abandon and remove existing public access, benefiting the landowners, especially for their private outfitting.

Land Exchange Talking Points
This exchange is supposedly about opening up public access, but it is not as win/win as the Custer Gallatin National Forest is portraying it. Let's take a look at what we already have.

PUBLIC ACCESS
Sections 8 & 4 overlap FS Public Access - Here is a close up of the approx. 48 foot overlap. Click on map for large view. That overlap provides public access from FS section 8 to FS section 4. If we give away Sections 8 & 4, we lose beautiful wildife/elk habitat to private landowners,

Additonally, I have a copy of the 1986 Park County Attorney Nels Swandal Opinion PDF stating, it was permissible to travel across the corner of public to public land, making good faith effort to step across without trespassing - each case would depend on the facts of the case. I was given this Park County Opinion years ago, shared it with a recent Park County resident who had been accused of trespassing by corner crossing. The Opinion was used in the case and the trespassing charges were dismissed. Checking with the County Sheriff's office beforehand, this PDF Opinion could be utilized to cross from Section 4 into 34 & 32.

Why has the Custer Gallatin National Forest abandoned its policy of defending the FS trails that we have had since at least 1925 (oldest map I have)? The 1925 Absaroka National Forest Map shows Trail #272 (part of the Lowline Trail System), which went south from Ibex, down to the Rock Creek Ranger Station (Section 8), then continued east thru sections 9 & 10 onward. The Rock Creek Guard Station was documented in the book, Home on the Range, Montana's Eastside Ranger Stations by Vicky MacLean, retired Forest Service.

Public access to Section 8 is available on Rock Creek Road #199 from the trailhead in Section 15, north on #270 to Section 10, the FS does have easements for on Sections 9, 10. "The Forest Service has an easement (Kelly to USA, dated May 23, 1966) across the entire width of section 9 on the Rock Creek Road #199 to section 8...The public can stay on the Rock Creek Road to section 8."

Park County Right-of-Way Easement Section 9 PDF (thanks to Ian Wargo)

Park County Right-of-Way Easement Section 10 PDF

I also have Railroad Grant Deeds with "Easement in the Public" on sections 25 & 31 of 3N 11 E where Trail #272 begins. I had not finished my research to see all other RR easements in the rest of the area of concern.

 

OTHER POINTS

* No Alternatives were provided that would include an exchange with 1 or 2 landowners, rather than all 3 together, allowing for an exchange with Wild Eagle Ranch (red) & Rock Creek Ranch (blue), but excluding Crazy Mountain Ranch.

*The Forest Service has not provided an Environmental Assessment for the public to review of the potential hazardous substances, nor environmental impacts, as mentioned above, for us to make an informed public comment.

*We would be abandoning Trail #272, which goes back, at least, to the 1925 Forest Service Map

*CMR will permanently reserve rights to operate and maintain the Rock Lake dam and outlet tunnel in the deed through which CMR conveys Section 11 to the Forest Service. CMR would retain its water rights for the volume of water from full pool to the bottom of the outlet tunnel.

As water rights and in-stream flow issues grow with the Climate Crisis, this is no protection for the public or natural resources/fish, especially since CMR would maintain irrigation rights. Video below shows CMR Rock Lake water diversion system.

 

*Since the CMR currently operates the Ranch for tobacco promotionals and other guests, it is not likely they will exclude the new land out of their current operations. The Conservation Easement section of the proposal states traditional land uses including recreation, livestock grazing, and timber management, would continue, but does not limit them to those activities. CMR has an exception for "one new recreation cabin which may be built and maintained on the land protected by the CE". It does not state the size of the recreation cabin or preclude outfitting, hunting camps, which could be privatizing that elk herd which is currently available to the public. Listed activities at the CMR now include: snowmobiling, zip-lining, dog sledding, which could affect the wildlife habitat currently under FS.

*As pointed out Greg Sheeler and Ian Wargo (longtime hunters of this area that I met through my FOIA documents when they complained to DR Sienkiewicz about blocked access), "After a detailed review of the proposed EA, I found many statements misleading, false, or just omitted to make this land swap look like a win for public access when in fact this would be a terrible loss of habitat and access if approved...The proposed trail path would require 5.1 miles of hiking with 1200’ elevation loss and 2100’ of elevation gain just to get to the USFS boundary at S33, not an easy hike for most. That is 2.2 miles further across private lands, 1600’ of additional elevation gain, and 700’ of additional elevation loss to access our public lands!"

The only self-supporting fishery available to the public within the Rock Creek watershed is on Sec. 8 of USFS lands; fish species on Sec. 8 are Brook Trout (common) and native Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout (abundant).

According to FWP's Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout Conservation Strategy For The Shields River Watershed Above Chadbourne Diversion(2012), the Rock Creek YCT have 100% YCT genes – this needs to be protected with oversight by a public agency, not privatized and exploited. The report also points out, “FWP lists Rock Creek as periodically dewatered, which limits habitat availability in its lower reaches.” Again, this is another area that should have agency oversight, not privatization.

Enhancing Montana's Wildlife & Habitat

www.EMWH.org

Have you been in the Crazy Mountains?

If you have been in the Crazy Mountains...

  • perhaps you received a citation when you were on a FS Trail on their map;
  • perhaps you have been on one of these contested trail and you thankfully did not ask landowner permission or sign in and would like to add your account to the prescriptive easement history;
  • perhaps you would just like to share your story and/or some pictures of what these particular public lands and access mean to you?

If so, please contact Kathryn :

kathryn@emwh.org

406-579-7748

Crazy Mountains Public Access Page

Please contact the officials below

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

Forest Service Chief, Vicki Christiansen, vcchristiansen@fs.fed.us (202) 205-8439

Region 1, Regional Forester Leanne Marten, lmarten@fs.fed.us (406) 329-3315

Custer Gallatin National Forest Supervisor Mary Erickson, mcerickson@fs.fed.us (406) 587-6949

Senator Steve Daines, steve@daines.senate.gov (202) 224-2651

Even though Sen. Tester was not evident in the letters, please contact him as well.
Sen. Jon Tester, senator@tester.senate.gov (202) 224-2644

 


 

Comments Opposing Exchange
(even in part)

Friends of the Crazy Mountains

John Daggett (retired US Army Corp of Engineers - trails)

Phil Knight (used to work at CMR)

Greg Munther (retired FS District Ranger)

Backcountry Hunters & Anglers video

 

 

 

Greg Scheeler on Section 4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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