by Rachel Leathe, Bozeman Daily Chronicle
A U.S. Forest Service district ranger who was removed from his job during an internal investigation will be reinstated later this month.
Forest Service spokeswoman Teri Seth said Thursday morning that Alex Sienkiewicz will return to his post as Yellowstone district ranger on Oct. 23, after a months-long internal investigation.
Sienkiewicz was pulled from the position in June and assigned to oversee a proposed mineral withdrawal in the mountains east of the Paradise Valley during an internal review of his work. The removal came after years of easement disputes between the Forest Service and landowners in the Crazy Mountains, a range that is part of the district Sienkiewicz oversaw…
Sienkiewicz has been the Yellowstone district ranger since 2011. The district includes forest land in both Park and Sweet Grass counties.
He was known for fighting battles over access to forest lands in the Crazies, an island mountain range with a complex mix of private and public ownership. Access advocates have raised concerns in the past that landowners are blocking traditional access points, while landowners have claimed they are trying to prevent people from trespassing on their land.
Documents posted online by Kathryn QannaYahu, who writes a newsletter called Enhancing Montana’s Wildlife and Habitat, showed Sienkiewicz arguing back and forth with a lawyer for one landowner in 2016 over the status of a trail that crosses the landowner’s property.
Landowners brought their concerns up directly to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue — who oversees the Forest Service — at an agriculture summit in Montana last May. The investigation into Sienkiewicz began the next month.
QannaYahu and other access advocates were outraged by Sienkiewicz’s reassignment, worrying that it might set a precedent of punishing public employees for fighting with influential landowners.
QannaYahu, who wrote about the news of Sienkiewicz’s reinstatement in her newsletter Wednesday night, said she is happy he is going back to his job but is still concerned.