Does anybody really regulate outfitters on USFS lands?

Khunter

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A bit of a rant but, I believe, some useful insights for discussion…


So, I have a high alpine, remote, elk hunt that I was pondering a pack out by an outfitter for our elk (2 tags in camp) if we felt the need.

Simple minded as I am I thought to call the Forest Service and ask “Who are the permitted outfitters for these several drainages I plan to hunt as options A-C for the 3 weeks we have to bowhunt.”

The first gal I spoke to said there is no USFS list of permitted outfitters with this info and I should do like SHE DID and search the Colorado guide and outfitters association website for the unit and start calling to ask the regulated folks where the regulators gave them permits to operate. No doubt that line of BS works for the other 90% but I am easily a top 10 percenter in the realm of instead pivoting to “Naw, I’d prefer you do your job we pay you to do instead.” She did give me the names of the 3 on that list she downloaded for my unit (which is missing at least 2 outfitters I KNOW work in there) and she had no idea which specific drainages they are permitted for. She seemed to not understand that if an outfitter is not a member of the association, they ain’t on the trade association list and if they are a member and do not submit the data they too are not on that list. This my purpose in calling USFS who ‘regulates’ the permits… Sheesh, the USFS grants the permits with specific geographic, timing and activity constraints but cannot tell me a darn thing about said permits?

So I asked/suggested there must? be someone in the office responsible for managing the permits and could I talk to them to learn who is permitted in the drainages I am interested in? Why yes there is but he will tell you what I did…and she sent me to his voice. He actually called me back a few hours later.

Step2 ). I talk to the very nice gentleman at USFS in that office who MANAGES ALL THE PERMITS I AM ASKING about. We talk and he explains permittees have geographic areas or compartments mostly defined by drainage names so him telling me the compartment names probably won’t mean much to me. I tell him I know the name and location of the significant drainages so try me. Groan from him and he starts rattling off 6 compartment names, all of which are super obvious and well known drainages. Perfect, I write them down and then prepare for receiving the very short list, or single names of outfitters permitted for my 3 drainages/compartments of interest.

So I say “Awesome, I knew this data had to exist so now all I need are the outfitters permitted for my desired day use pack out or possible drop-camp-pack-in-pack-out activity for drainages A,B, and C. I do not need the others so no need to go to the trouble for those since you said you have to dig through paper files to get it.

He says, with a lot of rustling paper sounds. “Oh man, everything is in paper files and I have over 80 permits to manage and I have only been in this job for a year, I never dig up permits to review the particulars unless there is a reported issue with a given outfitter. This is gonna take time to go through this huge paper file…I really need to organize this.” He keeps rusting and double talking and finally says this will take some time, “how about I get back to you when I pull the permitted outfitter names for the areas together”

I say sure and maybe the effort will prove useful for future requests and how about you email me if that makes it easier. He says he is doubtful the effort will be useful to his needs and I am the first person to ask who outfits where…(mind you this is a pretty high preference point area). The next day/today I get the following response to my question which remains “Which outfitters are permitted for pack in/pack out or drop camp activity in the three compartment/drainages A, B and C.

Morning,

I was going to compile lists and information of what you requested, but currently I do not have time to get it done. Unfortunately I have priorities/permits/campgrounds that outweigh additional projects at this time.

I can give you the website that will allow you to search units, guides, hunt types and they will give you contact information for the outfitter. Please call the outfitter that meets the requirements and request information for their hunts. They know the area and terrain and can easily answer questions that will take hours for me to look up.


http://www.coloradooutfitters.org/find-your-outfitter.php

Thanks,”

Holy crap!! Asking who the permitted outfitters are in 3 drainages is considered ‘a new project?”…. leading to my thread title question’”. Who regulates outfitter permits on public land?!

Answer is Freaking NOBODY. If an outfitter is not accused of high crimes nobody at the USFS can tell you if they are even permitted to work an area, what area that is, nor which of many categories of use they are permitted for. We are told to ask the outfitter trade association and the outfitters…

Anybody see a problem with the regulators having a ‘system’, if you can call it that, where they have basically no ready access to the info about who they gave permits to and for what activity and where?

More than frustration, I think I am kinda mad this is how our publics lands are ‘managed’.

Did he not just say with a straight face. “
My excuse is I am crappy at my job and so I cannot help you because being crappy at my job prevents me from providing 3-5 outfitter names so I hope you understand and sympathize that it is not my fault I am crappy at my job?”. Kinda sounds like it when I think it though from start to finish...

Thoughts? Am I being too hard on the fat fed employees here?
 
Last edited:

wllm1313

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Manetheren
Yeah that ranger district is a mess, I did the same thing last year in that area. Just went back through my emails, it took them 4 weeks to provide me the names of the 3 outfitters assigned to the compartments in the area I was hunting. I sent them an email with the map of the compartments and the list of the compartments I was interested in, seems insane they couldn't have provided me that info over the phone the first time I asked.

Other districts are way more organized, for instance the West Elks has a map they regularly update and post.
 
Last edited:

Oak

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They probably self-regulate. If outfitter A is operating in outfitter B's area, outfitter B is going to let someone know.
 

Carnage2011

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Whitehall, MT
Noise added to protect the innocent. Red is closed to domestic sheep grazing to protect bighorn sheep. The black circle is the area the band of domestics was grazing, 1.3 miles from the nearest active allotment. Two out of three years now....

View attachment 189095
At that point are we allowed to shoot them to protect bighorns? I mean, they’d probably shoot the bighorns if they got in with the domestics so it seems fair. 🤷🏻‍♂️
 

Dsnow9

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Noise added to protect the innocent. Red is closed to domestic sheep grazing to protect bighorn sheep. The black circle is the area the band of domestics was grazing, 1.3 miles from the nearest active allotment. Two out of three years now....

View attachment 189095
Kinda like how the same area is grazed year after year by the same sheep and gets moonscaped.
 

Khunter

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western Colorado
I have a call in to the forest supervisor to complain that what I asked for in no way meshes with the response given…

For Oak, the domestic sheep we saw on the way to, a few miles away, where 20+ wild sheep were located…. had to be 500 domestics, i presume in a valid allotment, but still. And then the herds of cattle well above treeline competing with the elk and DD059BC7-C660-4C8B-88AB-FAA63CAD17B7.jpeg deer for forage. Out of control.
 

Oak

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Yes, your sheep are on an active allotment. I know where that's at.

Thanks for letting me hijack your post....
 

theat

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Aug 28, 2010
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744
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NW Montana
At least it sounds like the outfitters in your area each have a designated "consignment" area. In the district where I live there are 10 different outfitters that can all hunt on any USFS lands within the district. There are only a handful of areas that have decent elk concentrations in the fall, and of course most of the outfitters send their guides and hunters to these areas. I have arrived at a gated road in the past and encountered up to 14 guides from multiple outfits all hunting the same spot and also doing their best to chase off any locals or other DIY guys from those areas.

I spent a bit of time this spring speaking with our new District Ranger about the issues I have had in the past with some of the most aggressive outfitters. He seems like he might be willing to tackle some of the issues as he also mentioned that in the few months he had been here, he had received other similar complaints. The main issue we discussed is the blatant abuse of user days. Some of the outfits here run more clients through in a season than they have user days. I know in the past they have claimed that most of their clients hunt private leased ground, but almost all of the private land here is valley bottom land, and I have yet to see a picture on their websites of a successful hunter taken on private land. A couple of the outfitter here have FS permits in both Montana and Idaho. It was a well known rumor that they take clients to hunt in both states claiming that they have an agreement with each states fish and game departments that an elk or deer tag from either state is transferable to the other. Of course this is BS and after many complaints FWP finally did a sting operation with an undercover warden a handful of years ago. He had a Montana tag and the guide took him after elk in Idaho. When all was said and done, the guide received a fine and a two year suspension from guiding. The outfitter received no punishment and that same guide is back working for him.

It seems to me that it wouldn't be all that difficult for the Forest Service to get a list of hunters post season from an outfitter. These hunters could then be contacted and asked about the general area they hunted and how many days they hunted. After a quick comparison to the outfitters allotted forest user days, it should be easy to tell if they is a major discrepancy in what the outfitters report compared to what the hunters report. If their is, maybe further investigation could result in fines or suspension/loss of their permit.

There are a couple of good outfitters here, but I could write a novel about all the illegal and otherwise unethical crap that many of the others pull around here.
 

wllm1313

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For a modest investment in GIS and this problem wouldn’t just be solved, it would be readily available and easy to view by all
Really modest, an intern could manage the entire state with one Basic license, upfront would probably take some time but maintaining it would be simple.

Some districts do it already but it's super ad hoc.

1626977656390.png 1626977864055.png
 

squirrel

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Dec 29, 2013
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543
USFS and BLM wake up every day and just make it up as they go along...

USFS "we need you to pack our trail crew and equipment into the backcountry 8 miles on xyz dates"
Me " I cannot go with you as I'm not an outfitter and you are asking me to commit a felony"
USFS "its OK we'll just call you a sub-contractor, will you do it now?"
BLM "if you drive across our land (to deliver llamas) you are a felon. You must have a permit to drive on a BLM or USFS road.

Me "Ok can I get that permit?"
USFS " we have that permit but we are not going to let you have it unless you offer to grade and drain existing roads at your expense after which we will be more inclined to view your application with more favourability. (They wanted a bribe up front)

And of course the county BLM, and USFS all claim the exact same mile of road as "theirs". Ive been told that this is because they get budget money per mile of roads they "own". Of course the county actually grades/plows the roads, 5 ft past where they turn around it will jar your molars out of your jaw from there to the TH.
 

Pondera

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Feb 3, 2017
Messages
154
Location
North Central Montana
I run into these sort of situations in every facet of my life about every three months. Not public land related but health insurance companies and medical billing folks can sure give you the incompetent run around. Also had a frustrating couple of weeks getting a lien released on a vehicle I traded in. The loan had been satisfied years prior and the bank no longer existed. Finally got my State's banking regulator to get ahold of the attorney's office that was handling the bank's affairs...was a very odd situation all around.
 

Nostromo

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Jan 4, 2020
Messages
50
Location
Michigan
A bit of a rant but, I believe, some useful insights for discussion…


So, I have a high alpine, remote, elk hunt that I was pondering a pack out by an outfitter for our elk (2 tags in camp) if we felt the need.

Simple minded as I am I thought to call the Forest Service and ask “Who are the permitted outfitters for these several drainages I plan to hunt as options A-C for the 3 weeks we have to bowhunt.”

The first gal I spoke to said there is no USFS list of permitted outfitters with this info and I should do like SHE DID and search the Colorado guide and outfitters association website for the unit and start calling to ask the regulated folks where the regulators gave them permits to operate. No doubt that line of BS works ofr the other 90% but I am easily a top 10 percenter in the realm of instead pivi=oting to “Naw, I’d prefer you do your job we pay you to do instead.” She did give me the names of the 3 on that list she downloaded for my unit (which is missing at least 2 outfitters I KNOW work in there) and she had no idea which specific drainages they are permitted for. She seemed to not understand that if an outfitter is not a member of the association, they ain’t on the trade association list and if they are a member and do not submit the data they too are not on that list. This my purpose in calling USFS who ‘regulates’ the permits… Sheesh, the USFS grants the permits with specific geographic, timing and activity constraints but cannot tell me a darn thing about said permits?

So I asked/suggested there must? be someone in the office responsible for managing the permits and could I talk to them to learn who is permitted in the drainages I am interested in? Why yes there is but he will tell you what I did…and she sent me to his voice. He actually called me back a few hours later.

Step2 ). I talk to the very nice gentleman at USFS in that office who MANAGES ALL THE PERMITS I AM ASKING about. We talk and he explains permittees have geographic areas or consignments mostly defined by drainage names so him telling me the consignments names probably won’t mean much to me. I tell him I know the name and location of the significant drainages so try me. Groan from him and he starts rattlling off 6 consignment names, all of which are supert obvious and well known drainages. Perfect, I write them down and then prepare for receiving the very short list, or single names of outfitters permitted for my 3 drainages/consignments of interest.

So I say “Awesome, I knew this data had to exist so now all I need are the outfitters permitted for my desired day use packout or possible drop-camp-pack-in-pack-out activity for drainages A,B, and C. I do not need the others so no need to go to the trouble for those since you said you have to dig through paper files to get it.

He says, with a lot of rustling paper sounds. “Oh man, everything is in paper files and I have over 80 permits to manage and I have only been in this job for a year, I never dig up permits to review the particulars unless there is a reported issue with a given outfitter. This is gonna take time to go through thsi huge paper file…I really need to organize this.” He keeps rusting and double talking and finally says this will take some time, “how about I get back to you whn I pull the permitted outfitter names for the areas together”

I say sure and maybe the effort will prove useful for future requests and how about you email me if that makes it easier. He says he is doubtful the effort will be useful to his needs and I am the first person to ask who outfits where…(mind you this is a pretty high preference point area). The next day/today I get the following response to my question which remains “Which outiftters are permitted for pack in/pack out or drop camp activity in the three consignment/drainages A, B and C.

Morning,

I was going to compile lists and information of what you requested, but currently I do not have time to get it done. Unfortunately I have priorities/permits/campgrounds that outweigh additional projects at this time.

I can give you the website that will allow you to search units, guides, hunt types and they will give you contact information for the outfitter. Please call the outfitter that meets the requirements and request information for their hunts. They know the area and terrain and can easily answer questions that will take hours for me to look up.


http://www.coloradooutfitters.org/find-your-outfitter.php

Thanks,”

Holy crap!! Asking who the permitted outfitters are in 3 drainages is considered ‘a new project?”…. leading to my thread title question’”. Who regulates outfitter permits on public land?!

Answer Freaking NOBODY. If an outfitter is not accused of high crimes nobody at the USFS can tell you if they are even permitted to work an area, what area that is, nor which of many categories of use they are permitted for. We are told to ask the outfitter trade association and the outfitters…

Anybody see a problem with the regulators having a ‘system’, if you can call it that, where they have basically no ready access to the info about who they gave permits to and for what activity and where?

More than frustration, I think I am kinda mad this is how our publics lands are ‘managed’.

Did he not just say with a straight face. “
My excuse is I am crappy at my job and so I cannot help you because being crappy at my job prevents me from providing 3-5 outfitter names or so I hope you understand and sympathize that it is not my fault I am crappy at my job?”. Kinda sounds like it when i think it though from start to finish...

Thoughts? Am I being too hard on the fat fed employees here?
I think they were pretty clear. Do your own research...
 

ccc23454

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Joined
Sep 22, 2010
Messages
1,776
Location
Wyoming
One district in Idaho refuses to open gated roads annually as signs/maps require. Every spring our bait sets: week early call the NF office and verify the biologist (yes the biologist is responsible for gates) tells us should be open as scheduale every year there not, usually 1 full week late. Now they have a excuse in covid and their offices are still not open and will not miss a oppurtunity to act like a government employee. Funniest thing was recepitionist told us just drive around gates, thats not a option in some locations. Every spring i grow a unusual amount of frustration with our forest service!
 

BuzzH

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Joined
Jan 9, 2001
Messages
13,186
Location
Laramie, WY
This type of thing varies from District to District...some are very organized, some sort of organized, and some in total disarray.

I called to get all the information on outfitter camp locations and dates when the outfitters would be using each camp. They had that information right on the spot, took literally 5 minutes to get it.

The District I have my office in also has a whiteboard type deal with all the outfitters operating on the District, both permanent and day use guys.

What bothers me is the very clear use day violations that take place...all the time. One prevalent sheep guide takes a lot of hunters and I know how many use days he has. The use days and number of clients for all species just doesn't add up. Lots of "free" days that are not being reimbursed for use...sucks and I wish they'd crack down on it.
 

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