Gov. Greg Gianforte has announced three nominees to one of Montana’s most closely watched public bodies, the Fish and Wildlife Commission.
The nominees and the regions they represent are: Patrick Tabor, Whitefish, owner and founder of Swan Mountain Outfitters; K.C. Walsh, Martinsdale, executive chairman of Simms Fishing Products in the Gallatin Valley; and Brian Cebull, Billings, owner and president of Nance Resources, Inc., a private oil and gas exploration and production company.
The three nominees must be confirmed by the Senate Fish and Game Committee. No hearing date has been set. The committee will also consider the nomination of Andrew McKean, of Glasgow, who was appointed by then-Gov. Steve Bullock this fall to fill out the term of Logan Brower, who stepped down after moving.
It’s unclear whether Gianforte supports McKean or not, because the governor did not nominate anyone to replace him. McKean worked six years for FWP as the information and education manager in Glasgow. He is now the hunting editor for Outdoor Life magazine, an organization where he was previously the editor-in-chief.
Cebull, who owns the 20,000 acre Grove Creek Ranch, is the nominee chosen to fill the slot as the commissioner with experience in breeding and managing domestic livestock.
Much of the work done by the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks is funneled through the five-member commission for approval, including such controversial items as hunting seasons, conservation easements and fishing regulations.
“To do it right, it’s a full-time job,” said Ron Aasheim, a former FWP communications director who worked at the agency for 42 years. “And you take a lot of phone calls.”
Tabor’s business group includes guest ranching, snowmobiling and consulting. His company’s website touts him as a “new generation outfitter” who brings “ingenuity and business savvy to the outdoor recreation and trail ride industry."
Walsh bought Simms Fishing Products, based at Four Corners west of Bozeman, in 1992. The company has actively promoted conservation. Walsh editorialized against permitting a new copper mine on the headwaters of the Smith River. He is also the vice-chair of the board of directors for the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, the nation’s largest private conservation grant-maker.
Walsh was also appointed by Gianforte to serve on the search committee for a new Fish, Wildlife & Parks director. The governor has not yet announced a replacement for Martha Williams. In the interim Dustin Temple, FWP’s chief of Administration and Technology, has been serving as acting director.
In addition to his work in oil and gas exploration, Cebull was one of three founders of GTUIT, which manufactures gas capturing equipment for well sites. An avid hunter and Montana native, Cebull is on the board of directors for the Montana Chapter of Safari Club International.
Commission members serve staggered four-year terms. In two years Gianforte will nominate candidates to fill the positions of current commissioners Pat Byorth, of Bozeman, and McKean, if he is approved by the Senate committee.