Back in 2016, I was called with some concerns
about an outfitter from the Swan, Patrick Tabor.
After some basic calls and queries, I submitted
public information requests with Montana FWP, DNRC, Board of Outfitters
and a Freedom of Information Act request with the USFS. The two
linked pdf's below contain the FWP citations and the FS complaints.
FWP Citations for Patrick Tabor pdf
FOIA Request pdf
- There were 5 FWP Game Warden citations against
Patrick Tabor, license number 11300, for violations of MCA 37-47-344,
37-47-201 and ARM 24.171.2301 (1b) involving subcontracting business,
utilizing State DNRC lands/waters without a commercial license
(4 different dates) and failure to keep true and accurate reports.
Lake County dismissed these citations without going to trial.
Per a conversation with Warden Bowen, there were more Tabor violations
than they issued citations for.
- Lake County Attorney, Molly Erin Owen (previously
Lynch), asked the judge for the dismissal without prejudice of
the Patrick M. Tabor citations, similar to the Lake County law
enforcement scandal that the Missoula Independent investigated
(Serve and Deflect article linked below). The judge approved the
request, Justice of the Peace Randall Owens, on July 11, 2016.
Tabor was due to have a jury trial on Dec. 15, 2016.
- Placing a FOIA for any complaints with the
US Forest Service, for Patrick Tabor and his Swan Mountain Outfitters,
I received complaints and documentation for the following: Allegedly,
for years, Mr. Tabor had been dumping manure from his corrals
onto FS land, which was not only producing many noxious weeds
(including Canada Thistle and St. Johnswort), but included a large
amount of baling twine, over 2 large garbage bags worth, near
a riparian area. Swan Mountain Outfitters reportedly had a large
cache stored in the wilderness up Lion Creek; access to the trail
is not user friendly to the public as it is almost exclusively
used by SMO guides and clients with a negative attitude to the
public; parking and stock containment minimal at best as students,
guides, clients and employees of SMO dominating utilization; horse
manure in the stream running into Pony Lake, the trail up to Lake
heavily used with SMO wranglers stating a crew, in association
with SMO "improved" the trail, widening it with stumps
and trees sawed out of the way, rocks pried from the tred and
narrow spots pulaskied back into the hill to make the tred wider
at a site designated as proposed wilderness.
I feel that the Tabor citations (additional
violations) and FS complaints show a pattern of viewing and utilizing
our public lands/resources as private, rather than respecting them
as public. Mr. Tabor's alledged failure to keep true and accurate
records is more disconcerting in view of MOGA's previous proposal
to amend ARM (Administrative Rules of Montana) to remove a variety
of reporting data, one of which was proposed by Tabor involving
operations plans and outfitter records.
Patrick M. Tabor is the owner and founder of
Swan Mountain Outfitters. He was previously President elect of Montana
Outfitters & Guides Association. Tabor was also, previously
a board member of the Montana Board of Outfitters for Big Game Outfitting.
Receiving a call to verify if there were actually
any rumored citations against Board of Outfitters & Montana
Outfitters & Guides president elect, Patrick Tabor, I found
more than the citations, I the continuing of the same concerns in
Lake County justice system, that were occurring several years ago
that caused a scandal.
Matthew Frank, an independent journalist, writing for the Missoula
Independent, at the time, wrote a large investigative article dealing
with Lake County, "a culture of corruption pervading law enforcement
agencies in Lake County"- To
Serve and Deflect: State Investigator describes resistence, alleges
tampering among Lake County law officials (pdf pages 16-19).
After the Missoula Independent was bought out by Lee Enterprises,
it was shut down and the archived articles were lost.
Another article, from the Flathead Beacon, on
the ongoing investigations - State
Investigator Describes Resistance, Alleges Tampering Among Lake
County Law Officials
There are a number of reasons for pursuing this,
most stem from our wardens and other LE being able to do
their job. Without access to these kinds of reports, it would seriously
hamstring them. Currently, Montana law requires them to submit client
logs. On March 1,2, 2016, the Board of Outfitters met in Helena,
Tabor is appointed to this board. MOGA reported on the meeting,
of which Tabor is President elect. At the bottom of the page, concerning
“Remove the requirement to submit client
logs – This will require statutory change. Outfitters will
to retain and provide logs if audited, you would just not have to
submit them to the Board. We see this as a very
significant cost savings as all the logs being submitted now must
be scanned and filed. The counter is that
these logs MAY help some outfitters faced with allocative decisions
on some waterways. That is not
likely simply because of the manner in which the data is collected
retained and the cost of mining that data to
verify past use. We are committed to getting this law amended.”
As a retired FWP game warden explained it, currently,
those records are public information, which they need to
investigate. They can gain access to public records without tipping
off who they are investigating, sometimes investigations take years.
But if outfitters are not required to submit records, the records
are private property; a warden or other LE would have to subpoena
them, which would give a heads up to the outfitter they were being
Additionally, with the pattern of certain county
attorneys dismissing cases, it makes outfitter laws pretty toothless.
I spoke with the DNRC office in that area, they said they
did not renew Tabors commercial use license because of the issues.
Tabors subcontractor did not have a commercial use license with
DNRC for each of the events. The cost for commercial licenses is
based on a set fee or 5% of gross earnings if larger, based on records,
but if they don't have to report, how are you going to know if the
money collected by DNRC for school trust, is even accurate?
I called FS District Rangers office in that area to see if they
had any violations by Tabor. I was told that there had been a number
of complaints against him. When I asked if they were from landowners,
other outfitters, the public or other agencies, I was told I would
have to put a FOIA in for that information, which I did.
I put a Public Information request in to FWP
for 6 years of statistics on how many citations have been issued,
how many dismissed, how many convicted, per year, per region to
see if there is a pattern in certain areas of dismissals. Lake County
was one of the larger dismissal counties. These are some of the
concerns I have with our sportsmen's dollars, FWP enforcement being
able to do their job properly, protecting the resource, and the