Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Notice of intent to sue - Crazy Mountains

"Our failure to sue to protect the public interest is a failure of leadership at all levels."
~ District Ranger Alex Sienkiewicz, Crazy Mountains, FOIA Documents



Those of you on this EMWH Newsletter know that I have been on the ground documenting, in the records offices, placing numerous FOIA requests for over 4 years working on the Crazy Mountains public access issues, so it is with great relief to finally report the following press release.



Notice of Intent to Sue - Crazy Mountains

Notice of Intent to Sue Letter PDF 

While it may have appeared quiet on the Crazy Mountains front, it has not been quiet behind the scenes.
A number of Crazy Mountains public access to our public lands advocates have been working with Attorney Matthew Bishop at the Western Environmental Law Center to pursue, if necessary, a civil action against the U.S. Forest Service’s decision for failing to protect and defend public access rights in the Crazy Mountains. This includes public trails on both the west and east side of the Crazy Mountains. The first step is this “Notice of intent to sue” letter. 
The coalition is made up of Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Friends of the Crazy Mountains, Enhancing Montana’s Wildlife and Habitat, the Skyline Sportsmen Association, John Daggett, Tony Schoonen, Harold Johns, Justin Mandic, and John Gibson; informed and engaged organizations and individuals, including many hunters and anglers, hikers, and recreationalists who value our public lands and the challenge, peace, and solitude that occurs with a backcountry experience. 
The Coalition is intimately familiar with the Crazy Mountains and has and continues to use the existing, public trails depicted on the Service’s maps, forest plan, and travel plan (and road access to such trails) for all forms of outdoor recreation, including hiking, fishing, and hunting. Yet, the Coalition and other members of the public have been and continue to be confronted with locked gates and “no forest service access” signs on well-known and historic public trails. They also routinely encounter “no trespassing” signs and “keep out” or “permission required” signs at public trailheads and along public trails in the Crazy Mountains. 
The Coalition is thus compelled to submit this notice letter to the U.S. Forest Service, USFS Region 1 and the Supervisor of the Custer Gallatin National Forest and, if necessary, pursue legal action. The Coalition is particularly concerned about the Service’s decision and/or related failure to protect and defend public access on five specific trails in the Crazy Mountains:
 
• Lowline Porcupine trail (No. 267);
• Elk Creek trail (No. 195);
• Sweetgrass trail (No. 122);
• East Trunk trail (No. 136, formerly No. 115); and
• Swamp Lake trail (No. 43).

The Coalition intends to challenge the Service’s decision to forgo new NEPA on the west-side for the proposed trail re-route (and related decision to relinquish the public's rights on those trails) and, in addition, intends to pursue additional claims on both the west-side and east-side for non-compliance with NFMA, NFMA’s implementing regulations, the forest plan, 2006 travel plan, and the Service’s own directives and policy, all of which imposes a duty on the Service to protect and defend public access to our public lands in the Crazy Mountains.

The next step is a possible meeting with the Forest Service.

Thank you for your continued support for public access to our public lands into the Crazy Mountains, now, and for future generations.


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Thank you,
Kathryn QannaYahu
406-579-7748
www.EMWH.org
Helena, MT