By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
A New Mexico district court judge recently dismissed the United States government’s request to intervene in the ongoing case involving late author Forrest Fenn’s buried treasure, paving the way for a trial later this month.
In late April, the federal government filed a motion to intervene in the Fenn case in attempt to keep from revealing where Fenn’s treasure was buried, but was denied in early May. A bench trial in the case is set for June 13, according to New Mexico court records.
The order denying the motion to intervene was not immediately made available to Cowboy State Daily on Thursday.
Although the April court filings did not specifically name Yellowstone National Park as the location of the treasure, a document indicated the then-chief ranger for the park went to an undisclosed location described by both Fenn and the finder of his treasure as the spot where it was buried.
“The (U.S.) Department of Interior is concerned that if specific information regarding the location were divulged, it would result in a significant increase to this area by persons still looking for the treasure site or otherwise seeking to visit the site for other reasons related to the Fenn treasure,” according to the motion.
In 2010, Fenn filled a chest with gold, jewels and other valuables and buried it somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. A poem in Fenn’s 2010 book “The Thrill of the Chase: A Memoir” included nine clues on where to find the treasure. Thousands of treasure hunters took part in searches for the treasure and five died in the process.
A Michigan man, Jack Stuef, discovered the treasure in June 2020, but has never revealed its exact location. However, Fenn, before his death a few months later in 2020, confirmed the treasure was found in Wyoming.
One of the people who searched unsuccessfully for the treasure, Jamie McCracken, filed a claim against Fenn’s estate. McCracken is the person behind the current case.
The claim accused Fenn of moving the treasure on four separate occasions, each time as McCracken got closer and closer to finding it, according to the magazine “Outside.”
As part of the claim process, Stuef could be compelled in court to share the location of the chest.
The motion said Stuef and Fenn, in separate interviews, revealed the location of the treasure chest to “government officials.” After that, Yellowstone Chief Ranger Sarah Davis visited the described scene, according to the filing and an accompanying declaration from her.
Davis described the area as not having any trails or infrastructure that could support increased visitation to the area that could result from the identification of the site.
”Resource damage such as the creation of ‘social trails,’ littering and improper disposal of waste are a few of the expected consequences of increased visitation,” her declaration said.
Increased visitation could also threaten or damage bodies of water that are home to native fish species, Davis said.
Before his death, Fenn asserted he never disturbed the treasure after originally burying it and Stuef has reiterated that he found the treasure fairly by using clues provided by Fenn’s poem, despite McCracken’s claims to the contrary.
According to the National Park Service, any found property in a national park is supposed to be turned over to the park supervisor.