ENTERPRISE EDITORIAL: Sienkiewicz reassignment raises questions

The recent reassignment of Livingston District Ranger Alex Sienkiewicz of the United States Forest Service raises many questions.

The first and most obvious question is whether top-ranking Forest Service officials reassigned Sienkiewicz for working to improve access to public land.

Another question the federal agency must answer is whether this decision was politically motivated.

The reassignment comes during a time when our access to public lands is being threatened by special interest groups and others across the nation — groups that would rather sell off our public lands for their own private benefit.

Managing access to public lands in the Crazy Mountains northeast of Livingston has always been a sticking point, with a patchwork of public and private lands existing in the range.

If Sienkiewicz, a public employee working for a public agency was in fact reassigned for working to improve public access to public land, everyone who enjoys Montana’s public lands, should demand answers and a full review — not of Sienkiewicz, but of how and why the reassignment decision was made. In a Thursday guest column that appeared on this page, Dan Vermillion, a Livingston resident and the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission chairman, wrote that many area residents believe Sienkiewicz is “being investigated for doing his job.”

Sienkiewicz’s reassignment and subsequent internal investigation is related to “ongoing issues around access in the Crazy Mountains and allegations from landowners about how Alex has navigated some of those disputes,” Forest Supervisor Mary Erickson told Yellowstone Newspapers in June.

Erickson declined to offer additional details, calling the review an “internal matter” that’s not “a public process.”

She further stated in her interview with Yellowstone Newspapers that the review is “not a public process and the results of that are not a public document.”

We would strongly disagree with the forest supervisor.

Sienkiewicz is a public official and any such review should be open and available for public scrutiny, especially considering the widespread interest this matter has generated in recent weeks across Montana.

The Forest Service must be forthcoming about the decisions leading up to Sienkiewicz’s reassignment. Furthermore, it must be transparent about its ongoing review.

After all, Sienkiewicz occupies a position of public trust and his actions in that role impact all forest users.

Furthermore, the Forest Service should work to determine and clearly define public access in the Crazies and stand with employees who work to safegaurd our precious public access.

— Justin Post
Enterprise Managing Editor