Posts Tagged ‘Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’

Dec29

Besmirching the Wolf and Roosevelt’s Ghost

wolf-110006By Bob Ferris 
 
“We’re continuing to see an alarming trend in Western wildlife management. I am calling it the “Predator Death Spiral.” The underlying cause of this phenomina [sic] is when a wildlife agency attempts to hide or “pad” their big game population estimates when over predation begins to take hold. This in turn creates a downward spiral that cannot easily be avoided, and is often not even noticed until the state hits both a financial and PR rock bottom.” Guy Eastman, The Predator Death Spiral 
 
When I was in graduate school in the mid-1980s I sat on a panel that was put together by the faculty of the School of Engineering because of a recognized deficit in the engineering curriculum: ecological literacy.  Our panel was asked what might be reasonable classes for engineering students to take to gain them sufficient grounding in ecology to lead them towards designs and approaches that work with nature rather than against it.  
 
The thinking being that by creating engineers who were aware of and sensitive to ecological considerations that we might have dams that do not exterminate fish, underpasses that facilitate migrations and sewage plants that provide tertiary treatment while at the same time creating needed habitat for fish and waterfowl. These were exciting discussions because we could see some ideas first introduced by folks like Buckminster Fuller and Howard Odum in 1960s finally getting some traction. It was for some, the rolling out of ecological engineering and industrial ecology after the requisite two decades incubation from idea to adoption.   It was for others an uninteresting sideshow to be ignored.  
 
You have a degree in Engineering; have you ever worked in the engineering field?
Yes, I did engineering work for three years when I got out of school from 1997 until 2000. I guess I got sick of punching a calculator and decided that going back into the family business would be a better fit for me.
 
I think about these times, this revolution in design and the wide array of opportunities offered, because of an ill-reasoned, poorly presented anti-wolf blog post from 2011 that was recently resurrected on the I-Fish site.  The blog was written by a person who trained as an engineer a decade after the revolution started and left because he saw engineering as simply pushing too many calculator buttons.  He exited after a three-year “career.”  The person in question is Guy Eastman of the Eastman Outdoors conglomerate.  
 
You are a huge advocate for the hunting of wolves. If you were in charge of managing them, how would you do it?
I am pretty anti-wolf. I think wolves do have a place in an eco-system but not this one. The eco-systems in the lower 48 are much too small for super predators like wolves. We are now finding this out the hard way. I would eradicate almost all of the wolves outside Yellowstone National Park and keep the numbers down to a minimum inside the park if it were up to me. I have lived through the second largest big game animal decline in modern history. The only wildlife crisis larger than this one was the market killings of the 1900s that took out all of our buffalo herds and most of our other wildlife populations. Our ancestors have worked extremely hard to bring these populations back from the brink only to be thanked by a bunch of self righteous want to be book worms that call themselves biologists. They are using "super predators" to destroy our wildlife resource right in front of our eyes. They have in essence created massive tracts of biological waste lands throughout Idaho, Wyoming and Montana with their Frankenstein wolf project. Teddy Roosevelt is rolling over in his grave. As with some much that our government does, the very legislation (the Endangered Species Act) that was built to protect our wild life is being used as the very vehicle to destroy it. I hope I wasn't too clear on this one.
 
gordon eastmanThe above interview and the blog post in question are hard for me to reconcile with the Eastman legend on so many levels.  The first mental speed bump for me is that Guy is the grandson of Gordon Eastman who made a little movie called The Savage Wild in 1970 about his experience raising a set of wolf pups in the Yukon for eventual release.  The film is interesting in that the senior Eastman has a sort of implied epiphany in that he acknowledges that he once shot wolves for bounty and memorializes his walking towards the light by portraying trappers intent on killing his pups as villains and eventually killing them off in the story line.  Gordon also did work for Disney on their set of nature films that likely served as cinematic gateway drugs to a generation of field biologists coming of age as environmental awareness blossomed during the 1960s and 1970s.
 
Gordon’s work was pretty progressive given the times.  I made a trip in the mid-1960s in that direction visiting Wells, British Columbia among other places.  Wells at that point was pretty much a frontier town with all wooden sidewalks and I remember walking down Main Street past rack after rack of black bear and wolf skins that could be had for $20 or so.  Supporting trappers of predators was the norm in the area at that time.
 
Given the above, Guy’s attitudes and his anti-wolf as well as his anti-Endangered Species Act (ESA) screeds seem to simultaneously exhibit a lack of perspective and a shortage of self-awareness.  Born shortly after the passing of the ESA, he probably lacks an understanding that the ESA is not only about the species recovery successes since enactment, but it is also about where we could have been had we not taken action.  To fully appreciate the true value of this Act as well as the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act one had to experience or take time to investigate the species and environmental trajectories observed during the latter part of the 1960s.  His statements clearly reflect a lack of this perspective.
 
In addition, in his interview and blog post he authoritatively talks about ecological principles as if he has knowledge or experience in these areas.  Unfortunately—for the reasons cited in the opening of this post—he comes off sounding a lot like the youngsters in the popular AT&T commercials explaining to the deadpanned adult why faster is better.  His answers while entertaining are wrong and he is so confident in the sanctity of his bully pulpit that he feels absolutely no obligation to provide supporting evidence for his comments.  
 
Take, for instance, his statement about the size of ecosystem in the lower 48 states.  Experience and nearly 70 years of biological speculation and modelling disagree with his characterization.  Perhaps if he had taken some time and done some research then he would see that there are dozens of habitat and population viability analyses done by PhD biologists and ecologists that indicate that there is an abundance of room for wolves in the lower 48 states (1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10).  Moreover, his claim that he has lived through the second largest big game decline in modern history is just plain silly when you compare it to overall elk population numbers and trends which are a mixture of good and bad news but overall much larger than a generation ago (1,2,3,4,5).  
 

His comment about “biological wastelands” is painfully ironic and is similar to the "raisins to grapes" argument in the above video.  Had Mr. Eastman taken a few courses in basic ecology at Purdue he would understand that the classic examples of wastelands—i.e., many Western rangelands, sea urchin barrens, deer on the Kaibab Plateau, and rabbit-chewed landscapes in Australia—are all examples of herbivores destroying ecosystems in the absence of predators.  Evidently the top element of the trophic pyramid in Guy’s world floats above other levels buoyed by some form of ecological anti-gravity rather than supporting levels of increasingly broad consumer groups.  
 
The comment regarding Teddy Roosevelt spinning in his grave is an interesting one.  My sense is that Guy mistakenly sees an roosevelt readingally in Roosevelt when it comes to hating wolves.  Certainly Roosevelt had no love for wolves, but then who did in the late 1800s when he wrote about them? But Roosevelt was also a Harvard-educated progressive and a first adopter of scientific ideas who was a bookworm (see picture of him speed-reading Dickens at right) and frequently carried a worn copy of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species in his saddle bags when he rode off on hunts.  He was an amateur scientist who spent time with scientists and was treated as a peer.  He would therefore likely bridle at Guy’s caustic dismissal of voracious readers and biologists.
 
"I put Cooper higher than you do," Roosevelt would write to the novelist Josephine Dodge Daskam when he was vice president of the United States. (Page 40)
 
"Cooper's alter ego, Natty Bumppo, firmly believed that the unecessary slaughter of wildlife was a crime against God." (Page 41) 
 
 
Teddy and his good friend and Audubon Society creator George Bird Grinnell founded the Boone and Crockett Club that was one of the first organizations to forward concepts like “fair chase” principles.  My sense is that both Roosevelt and Grinnell picked Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett as exemplars because they had some nostalgic connection to these flintlock and percussion era, iron-sight hunters who struck out into the wildest of wildernesses with a cherished firearm, skinning knife, tomahawk, possibles sack and not much more.  Roosevelt was also a fan of James Fennimore Cooper and read the Leatherstocking Series from start to finish.  Roosevelt’s fair chase ideals were probably influenced by this quintessential American writer who loved woodscraft artfully employed, felt forests were jewels and who abhorred wasteful killing without purpose. 
 
It is hard to imagine what this monumental man and former President—who loved science, championed land preservation, advocated for game laws and embraced Cooper—would think about virtually eliminating a species like the wolf from the lower 48 states in today’s context.  Particularly considering that his current library would now include works by Aldo Leopold, Olaus Murie and Harvard professor E.O. Wilson as well as articles indicating that elk were so abundant in some areas that they were displacing his beloved birds–particularly in areas where cattle were grazed or climate change impacts were present or simulated (1,2,3,4) .
 
Likewise, I doubt that this man who championed fair chase (i.e., in a manner that does not give the hunter an improper advantage over such animals) would support the gadget-rich, engine-dependent and scope-driven type of trophy hunting advocated by the editorial staff at Eastman’s publications or their myriad advertisers.  (And to those who might defensively say that their guided and catered trophy hunts on private ranches are just like those that Teddy experienced, I would suggest that they read Candice Mallard’s excellent book The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey and think again.)
 
I have gone on too long when my main points were simply that Guy Eastman’s blog post and his interview are intellectually and factually challenged.  My advice to Guy would be to take some time to read about Roosevelt before claiming ownership of his allegiance and also dig into some tomes by or about Leopold (1,2,3), Murie (1), Wilson (1) and Cooper (1,2) before rambling on about super predators, ecosystems or the underlying philosophies of our precious avocation.   He might just be surprised by what he finds and the exercise would certainly improve his writing in terms of tone, content and maturity.  It would likely also help with the some members of the hunting public’s impression of Guy and his publications.  
 
I will close by saying that the paranoid part of me reacts when I read illogical and uninformed drivel like what Guy is shoveling or what we read coming out of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and others who are dependent on ranching, timber and energy interests for access to hunting lands, moneyed clientele for trophy hunts or cold-cash for donations.  My sense is that these associations come with significant blinders that prevent entities from seeing or speaking out about the wildlife impacts of these commercial activities.  I suspect too that the associations generate a certain amount of obligate empathy that calls for endorsement of actions such as predator control, timber harvests in excess of ecological need and road building.  Maybe this was why Teddy was really spinning?

 

Dec01

Oh Deer: Reading between the O&C Lines

By Bob FerrisBob and Deer
 
Before I even thought about wolf and bear advocacy, I worked on deer (at right).  In those pre-wolf times I fully immersed myself in all things Wallmo, was the first through the gate of Clover traps and pioneered some tranquilizer dart capture techniques for black tailed deer. Some of this is rusty now after nearly 30 years but it is coming back quickly as I sort my way once again through the complicated minefield of deer biology from the informative and authoritative to the twisted and spun.  All of us need to do this as we consider the O&C packages and what the timber industry wants you to believe about deer in relationship to clearcuts, herbicide use, replanting regimes and the value and function of old growth.  
 
To sort this out for myself I looked at three primary documents and then spent a lot of time on Google Scholar.  The core documents were: 1) Habitat Guidelines for Black-Tailed Deer: Coastal Rainforest Ecoregion (2008) written by the Mule Deer Working Group (MDWG) and sponsored by the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies; 2) Oregon Black-Tailed Deer Management Plan (2008) written by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) staff with heavy input from a myriad of stakeholders including hunting, agricultural and timber interests; and 3) Wildlife in Managed Forests: Deer & Elk written for the Oregon Forest Resources Institute (OFRI) by a two-person consulting firm in Hillsborough, Oregon with strong connections to the forest industry whose founder recently wrote that "deer and elk are controversial" (see page 13).
 

I have thought a lot of how best to characterize these three documents so that folks will understand their significance and their fundamental, but sometimes subtle differences.  The best I could come up with—and I understand that it borders on hyperbole—is to think of the above clip from the movie Jaws.  When you watch this piece think of Richard Dreyfuss as the MDWG trying to put forth science and commonsense.  Then think of Roy Schneider’s character as the ODFW trying to hold onto the concepts of science and commonsense while negotiating the desires of stakeholders who might not fully understand either.  And then there is Vaughn played by Murray Hamilton—think of OFRI as Vaughn: the entity that represents the financial interests involved and will not tolerate the public disclosure of any information that might be detrimental to economic activity regardless of the impacts.  
 
This impression of a scientific and commonsense spectrum—from rigorous to weak—is only reinforced when one goes to the literature cited sections of the three documents.  For instance, the MDWG work written by deer scientists—mainly with graduate degrees—cited more than 120 different papers and studies in its 47-page document (2.63/page).  This is followed by the ODFW work that justified their declarative statements with 80 separate works in their 53-page opus (1.51/page).  Then there is the OFRI work that employs a scant 15 cites in its 27-page document for a density of about one cite per every two written pages (0.55/page).
 
And while the literature density issue is telling in the OFRI document, there are several other measures to look at that are illustrative of the relative quality of the scholarship employed.  For example, fully one third of the documents cited have the same lead author indicating a narrowness of investigation and less than a third are from peer-reviewed scientific journals with the rest being from what is generally called “gray literature” including a popular website.  Certainly there will be those who see these criticisms as picky, but when dealing with complicated and contentious issues pickiness, depth of scholarship, and the credentials and biases of the authors are important.  
 
"Forestlands used primarily for the production of wood fiber have many characteristics that more closely resemble agricultural lands with intensively managed, even-aged, monocultures and understory plant species that are controlled with herbicides, rather than unaltered forest habitats. Collectively, these characteristics come at the detriment of black-tailed deer in the Coastal Rainforest Ecoregion." (MDWG report page 15)
 
"The results suggest that current commercial forestry practices are compatible with the maintenance of ungulate forage species."  (OFRI report page 12)
 
The above two quotes demonstrate the fundamental disconnect between the MDWG and OFRI worlds.  This is really not surprising when you consider that the former values deer populations and considers them ecological assets while the latter vacillates between viewing them as economically damaging pests and tolerated players (i.e., controversial).  There is no true mystery as to why each party embraces their interpretation of the dynamics but this is really not a case of equally valued “he said-she said” positions because one is broadly employing a methodology to find answers while the other is using a narrower and less complete approach to justify their desired actions (i.e., clearcuts, herbicide use, dense replanting regimes and short rotations).  
 
I fully acknowledge that this is complicated stuff and most of that complication comes from the multi-dimensional nature of black-tailed deer habitat and life-cycle needs as well as their adaptability.  If you are looking for something that can be distilled down into a simple x and y axis then black-tailed deer ecology should probably not be your field of endeavor.  
 
If you are still game, let’s start with some suppositions about their optimal habitat.  If polled, most deer biologists would probably agree that black-tailed deer do best in a diverse matrix of old-growth forest punctuated by small openings created by fire or blow downs with the former providing cover, security and protein-rich winter food and the latter abundant food for the rest of the year.  Certainly the ones involved with the MDWG subscribe to this or something very similar.  
 
"Thus, disturbances such as logging, fire, and windthrow can stimulate forage production. In the absence of management, succession towards closed canopy forest leads to decreases in overall understory biomass, until gap-phase dynamics associated with old growth stands yields patchy increases in understory production within the canopy gaps. Heavy restocking of stands, as is typical of commercial timberlands, can drastically reduce the period of post-disturbance understory proliferation. Modeling of stand dynamics and forest succession at a landscape scale in western Washington suggested that ungulate forage production peaked in the 1960s and declined thereafter through the recent past (Jenkins and Starkey 1996)." (MDWG report page 14)
 
Forestry proponents would smile at my description of what black-tailed deer need and claim that this is wonderful as their modern management provides clearcuts next to maturing forests.  Perfect, right? Well that would be partially true except that the deer take a hit when the clearcuts are large (>50 acres), planted with 400-450 Douglas fir per acre, and sprayed with herbicides.  Moreover, maturing forests if they are less than 200 years old and have a fairly closed canopy may provide some cover but do not have the robust understories that provide the needed high-protein browse necessary for winter survival.  
 
"Instead of eating large quantities of low quality forage like grass, deer must select the most nutritious plants and parts of plants. Because of this, deer have more specific forage requirements than larger ruminants." (MDWG report page 3)
 
For deer, food quality is equally as important as quantity.  Deer like other ruminants have multi-chambered digestive systems that are marvels of evolution, but the systems have their processing limits and if the food quality is low in terms of nutritional factors like protein then deer will have full stomachs but they essentially starve.
 
Herbicide Impact on Black-Tailed Deer Food
“Nonetheless, some impact of herbicides is intuitive when various types of commonly used herbicides, their target species, and intended effects are compared to a partial list of plants comprising the diet of black-tailed deer (Table 1 [see above], Brown 1961, Crouch 1981a, U.S. Forest Service 1987, Rue 1997).” (In MDWG report page 16)
 
“Black-tailed deer roam forested areas of western Washington and Oregon, but some say their numbers are declining. Scientists suspect that’s because these deer are having trouble finding food to eat.” Managing Black-Tailed Deer Through Their Diets by Courtney Flatt in Northwest Public Radio, June 1, 2012
 
 “Now, after logging, herbicides are used to kill the competing vegetation and the forest plantations are re-seeded heavily.
 
“The broadleaf shrubs, trees and forbs eliminated by these efforts [herbicide use] are the very plants that comprise the blacktail deer diet,’’ Holman said.” Blacktail Deer Populations Hanging On, But There's Reason for Concern by Allen Thomas in The Columbian, October 9, 2009
  
“Basically, Westside deer do well in varied habitats that aren’t sprayed with herbicides…” More On Western Washington Blacktail Study by Andy Walgamott in Northwest Sportsman November 19, 2012 
 
When herbicides—which are not prohibited in the O&C bill approved in the House—are used the timber folks will argue: 1) that deer do not avoid vegetation sprayed with herbicides; 2) that deer will absorb the chemicals, but that does not matter to the deer or us; and 3) that the biomass of palatable vegetation stays the same in the switch from leafy and woody vegetation to grasses and forbs (weeds). But food quality is not addressed in any of this.  
 
Fortunately multiple studies are underway in western Washington to look specifically at herbicide use and its impact on black-tailed deer. While we await the findings of these studies, there is ample evidence of risk and impacts that prudence would demand that no acceptable O&C bill should allow for herbicide use.  
 
 "Similarly,because public sentiment generally perpetuates the view that any timber harvest is good for deer, management objectives or regulations that would benefit deer habitat are largely absent from forest management. An emphasis on deer habitat conservation and improvement should be incorporated into all forms of land use planning activities." (MDWG report page 39
 
So what is the take home message here?  I think the core message—if you are concerned about black-tailed deer (and elk too)—is to be very, very wary of any legislative proposals that turn large portions of the O&C lands over to anything approaching commercial-style management without express consideration and mitigation of the impacts of large clearcuts, herbicide use, and restocking densities. Moreover, if these schemes do not include well-defined mechanisms to increase understory production and dedicate significant stands within these logging areas to longer rotations through a system of distributed stands with old-growth characteristics then, from a black-tailed deer perspective, they should be questioned or opposed.  
 
In all of this I would also urge folks to be cautious of sportsmen’s groups arguing that black-tail deer declines are the result of the spotted owl or the resultant Northwest Forest Plan–they clearly have not looked at the issue long term.  Similarly, groups like the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation that seem to walk in locked step with the timber industry or claim that the problem is a lack of clearcutting need to spend a little time in the literature.  For just as hunting is not always conservation, in spite of claims to the contrary, timber management is not usually done for the benefit of wildlife–quite the opposite is true.  
 

Nov16

RMEF: Mutiny and the False Flag

By Bob Ferris
 
I often read historic fiction about the time when big sailing ships ruled the seas.  One frequent theme of these novels is mutiny.  The more I think about the situation at the Rocky Mountian Elk Foundation, the more it reminds me of a ship where a mutiny has taken place.  But instead of those below decks rebelling and placing the officers in the brig, we have the marketing department locking up and gagging the scientists.  And these mutinous ships often flew false flags to fool the casual observer, but under close examination with spyglasses those on the quarterdeck were seen for what they truly were–pirates in the making.  
 
wolf recovery graph_final       
Northern-Yellowstone-Elk-Herd-Trends
RMEF's False Flag   The Flag the Rest of US Use 
 
I think of this analogy because I stumbled on to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation's revamped “Get the Facts” page this weekend.  (I wasn’t looking for trouble, I was actually looking for…facts.)  The page is interesting for several reasons not the least of which is that the comments from their own community are largely not positive.  Though I do commend them for allowing criticism to stay on their page, my hope is that they will experience more constructive criticism and perhaps even do something about it.  
 
RMEF Comments from LIfe MemberThis page is purely orchestrated spin.  It is at its core “cherry-picked” and misleading just as the first commenter pointed out (please see RMEF graph at the top left of this piece and compare it to the longer term trends in the second graph to the right).  We see this same strategy used by climate deniers who grab a section of a graph that proves their point while ignoring the larger picture which does not. While we understand that deniers are intellectual outliers and often the minions of economic interests, we expect better from organizations like the RMEF who claim to embrace science.  
 
The intellectual slight-of-hand regarding elk numbers is fairly heavy handed and transparent in spite of RMEF's investment in graphics. It is a well painted false flag and the addition of the wolf population trends implying causation when independent research funded by RMEF does not draw this conclusion is a nice touch, but it is still what it is: False and meant to deceive.  
 
“In spite of years of litigation on wolf management, the population numbers identified by this team of highly qualified scientists has never been disputed or changed by the courts.”  RMEF “Get the Facts”.  
 
The graph ploy is clumsy but some of the other arguments they put out are crafty and nuanced such as their arguments regarding population goals (see above). This is designed to make the reader believe that the courts have reviewed the science and found it sound. The only problem is that courts are not scientific bodies and do not review or make decisions on the strengths or weaknesses of science.  In fact under the iconic Chevron Decision the courts grant nearly automatic deference to the government in terms of science. RMEF either has not followed the heated debate about these population numbers in the scientific community, does not understand the legal system or is purposely trying to mislead.  My sense is that it could be all three.
 
As we approach the final extended comment period for the USFWS gray wolf delisting proposal on December 17th it is important for all of us to stand up and take out our spyglasses so we can identify the false flags and mutinous ships that we may see before us.  We need for the USFWS to follow the course of sound science and not let these modern day pirates lead them astray or give them cover should the political faction within the USFWS elect to imprison their scientists and promulgate a similar mutiny themselves.  
 

Oct21

USFWS’s Wolf Delisting Fiasco (Last Chance for Comments)

By Bob FerrisPhoto by Scott Flaherty

Last June when the US Fish and Wildlife Service submitted a proposal to essentially delist gray wolves in the Western States they compromised the credibility of the Agency, ignored the public will and opened themselves to what has become global criticism from the scientific community.  This latter shortcoming was epitomized by the recent letter in the international publication Nature called Grey wolves left out in the cold: US plan to remove federal protection elicits howls of protest.  

“I apologize for telling you that you were on the project and then having to give you this news. I understand how frustrating it must be, but we have to go with what the service wants.” Line from letter to one of the expelled peer-review scientists from AMEC, the USFWS contractor for the peer-review.  

Now all of this reflects on the content of the proposal and whether it passes the giggle test which is does not.  In addition, there are also numerous process issues.  First and foremost is the Agency’s selection of a foreign consulting firm with ties to the energy and development communities as a contractor to deal with scientific peer review and enabling them to purge dissenting scientists.  This issue of Agency bias and them forcefully walking this proposal to a predetermined outcome was further exacerbated by the Agency’s over-reliance on agriculture and trophy hunter-dominated fish and wildlife agencies and legislators in the West as surrogates for the public they serve and as a back-up choir to their premature delisting proposal.   This is particularly problematic when we have graphic and gruesome examples of the actions of the three Northern Rockies states post-delisting.  

While we are rolling out shortcomings of the US FWS proposal we also urge the Agency to take a hard look at criteria five listed in section 4(a)(1) of the Endangered Species Act which goes like this: There are other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued existence.  The agency should realize that wolf bigotry in many instances is manmade and that it is and remains a factor that affects the wolves’ continued existence in places where they are and is a barrier to their continued recovery.  While the Service is aware of this significant factor they have done really very little to address it and have left this task up to conservation groups and other to counter the myth promulgated by organizations like the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, and a variety of other "wedge" groups.

While the US Fish and Wildlife Service is demonstrating their anxiousness to step away from gray wolf recovery in the West, they have materially failed to provide a scientifically defensible proposal, polluted the process with bias, and neglected to address one of the core reasons for the imperilment of this important ecological actor.  And this situation is only made worse by the woefully inadequate number and scope of public hearings and the government shut down.  The Service needs to go back to drawing board and come back when they have made legitimate attempts to set and meet defensible recovery goals in the rest of the Pacific Northwest and the Southern Rockies, dealt realistically with these manmade factors, and broadly engaged the scientific community and addressed their issues. 

If you are upset by this proposal and want to do something for wolves, please sign our petition, submit your own comments by October 28, 2013 (see Do the Wolf Waltz for details) and support our work to protect this important species and the habitats that wildlife need to survive and thrive.  

 

Sep20

Jerod Broadfoot of the Oregon Outdoor Council and His Wife Under Investigation for Wildlife Violations

Jerod Broadfoot of the Oregon Outdoor Council and His Wife Under Investigation for Wildlife Violations
For Immediate Release David Allen and Jerod Broadfoot
September 20, 2013
 
Contacts: 
Bob Ferris 
bob@cascwild.org
541-434-1463
 
949-887-0793
 
Correction: An earlier version of this press release indicated that Mr. Broadfoot and his wife were charged by the Umatilla District Attorney's Office.  This conclusion was erroneous and based upon our receipt of internal case numbers from the District Attorney's office indicating an on-going action with potential charges.  We apologize for any confusion this might have caused.  
 
Pendleton, OR—The Umatilla District Attorney’s Office has issued case numbers (13-272 and 13-223) and assigned an attorney to consider prosecution Jerod Broadfoot and his wife Jennifer Ross Broadfoot on misdemeanor charges stemming from the illegal taking of deer in Umatilla County.  The charges were the result of an investigation launched by the Oregon State Police-Fish Wildlife (OSP) after they received a video of Mr. Broadfoot from a former business partner allegedly killing three deer in a 24-period in the fall of 2010 as well as from evidence collected during a July visit to the couple’s home in Pendleton.
 
Mr. Broadfoot (pictured above with Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s David Allen) has been a prominent voice in the hunting community for a decade representing groups such as the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and Safari Club International on campaigns often arguing for the control of predators such as wolves and cougars.  Mr. Broadfoot has been known for making strong statements in regards to predators, poaching and what we characterized as the anti-hunting movement.
 
Mr. Broadfoot and the Oregon Outdoor Council became a more visible earlier this year when ethical and legal questions were raised about the operations of both the Oregon Outdoor Council and Oregon Outdoor Council Foundation.  The Oregon Department of Justice is investigating these allegations which include personal use of non-profit funds.
 
“I raised many questions about Mr. Broadfoot’s actions as an officer at OOC—including his lobbying legislators to pressure OSP to drop a bear poaching investigation against his father-in-law—during  my tenure on OOC’s board “ said Steven Chapman former OOC treasurer and co-founder. “I was asked to leave the board for objecting to these ethical and legal lapses.  These charges and investigations as well as those to come in the future give absolute credence to my concerns and serve as a vindication.”
 
Mr. Broadfoot is a state employee working in the Building Codes Division as the Eastern Regional Coordinator as well as the owner of Broadfoot Media and an AdvoCare distributor.  State employees are held to higher legal standards than other citizens.  
 
“If anything good comes out of this whole messy episode I think that it will be that a very divisive and disruptive voice will be removed from the natural resource debates,” said Bob Ferris Executive Director of Cascadia Wildlands.” Hopefully freed from the name calling and vitriol launched by this group, members of the broader conservation community which includes hunters and anglers but also environmental interests can work together once again to tackle those issues that materially impact the natural resources we all love and enjoy.”
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Background Attachments: 
 
 
 
 

Sep20

Statement of Steven K. Chapman and Bob Ferris Regarding the Investigation Of Jerod Broadfoot and the Future of the Oregon Outdoor Council and Oregon Outdoor Council Foundation

Correction: An earlier version of this statement indicated that Mr. Broadfoot and his wife were charged by the Umatilla District Attorney's Office.  This conclusion was erroneous and based upon our receipt of internal case numbers from the District Attorney's office indicating an on-going action with potential charges.  We apologize for any confusion this might have caused.  
 
September 20, 2013David Allen and Jerod Broadfoot
 
Over the past several months we have made numerous public statements and comments regarding ethical and legal issues relating to Mr. Broadfoot (pictured at right with David Allen CEO of Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation), the Oregon Outdoor Council (OOC) and the Oregon Outdoor Council Foundation’s (OOCF) programmatic and administrative actions.  As a result we have received volumes of feedback—both positive and negative.  We appreciate the former and are willing to accept the latter because we hold that our actions are wholly justified and necessary.  In fact, our allegations and evidence have prompted an on-going Oregon Department of Justice investigation.  
 
Our commentary has also acted as a catalyst for other individuals who have stepped forward and offered additional information supporting our claims.  The most significant offering was made recently when a former business partner stepped forward with evidence indicating that OOC Executive Director Jerod Broadfoot poached at least two trophy deer in the fall of 2010—allegedly shooting a total of three deer in a 24-hour period.  
 
We strongly feel that poaching needs to be curtailed and we caused this evidence to be submitted to the Oregon State Police (OSP).  In early July 2013 OSP officers visited Mr. Broadfoot’s home and collected further evidence.  The result of all these activities is that the District Attorney of Umatilla County is considering charging Mr. Broadfoot with wildlife violations.  His wife Jennifer Ross Broadfoot is also under investigation on related issues.  
 
Poaching is epidemic and needs to be curtailed, but this entire situation is troublesome for two additional reasons.  The first is that Mr. Broadfoot in addition to being the driver behind OOC’s programmatic and administrative actions is also a State of Oregon employee and as such should be held to a higher standard of behavior.  It is unclear at this point exactly how much of Mr. Broadfoot’s non-state activities were conducted during times when he was being paid as a state employee but these actions during normal business hours are substantial and need to be examined.
 
The other troubling aspect is the apparent vulnerability of our legislative system to individuals like Mr. Broadfoot who make compelling arguments that are unsupported by facts or science.  Moreover, there should be some concern that once facts began to emerge about ethical and legal lapses at OOC (see Predatory Non-Profit) that no efficient mechanism seemed to exist to communicate those developments to legislators so they could make take those factors into account.  
 
Political pressure unethically and inappropriately applied is particularly troubling to us. Both of us, for instance, have heard that senior members of the Oregon Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus were lobbied by Mr. Broadfoot to intervene in an active Oregon State Police poaching investigation involving Mr. Broadfoot’s father-in-law.  This request is problematic on a number of different levels but the fact that these legislators reportedly acted on the requests should also be examined and addressed.  We cannot envision a scenario where legislators enabling poaching at the behest of a poacher could be in the best interest of hunters, anglers or our precious natural resources.
 
We undertook all of these actions because we share five principles regarding non-profits; hunting and angling; and wildlife law enforcement: 1) Non-profits should be run ethically and legally; 2) Wildlife managers need to focus on the most pressing problems as directed by facts and science not by myths and fear; 3) Productive dialogues within the conservation community and our allies need to be courteous and not dominated by divisiveness and name calling; 4) Angling and hunting are sports and for them to remain vibrant and publicly acceptable participants—particularly leaders—need to obey and enforce the ethics and laws of our pursuits; and 5) The Oregon State Fish and Wildlife Police needs to be allowed to do their job—especially as it applies to poaching—free from political interference.  Our actions were a result of Mr. Broadfoot and elements of OOC’s current leadership materially violating all of these important tenets.
 
 
Stan Steele – President
Retired OSP Fish and Wildlife Officer
Mike Vallery – Board Member
Safari Club International 
Dominic Aiello – Vice President
Self-employed
Wendell Locke – Board Member
Oregon Hunter’s Association
Wayne Endicott – Secretary Treasurer
Owner—The Bow Rack Springfield, OR
Bryan Richardson – Board Member
Duane Bernard – Board Member
Oregon Hunter’s Association
Ross Day – Legal Counsel
Day Law Group, P.C.
 
To be crystal-clear on our motivations and long term goals: We only want what is best for the hunting and angling community.  Therefore, we see no reason for OOC to dissolve or disappear, but OOC cannot continue or move forward with their current leadership—many of whom enabled some of these behaviors and turned a blind eye to others (see board list above).  If OOC is to continue they should take a long moment to absorb the gravity of these happenstances and then take appropriate steps to make sure this never happens again.  We would also suggest that the organization take time to examine all the false rhetoric and divisiveness embedded in its programs and messaging in order to begin the process of building or rebuilding the relationships with natural and necessary allies that have been grievously alienated through the first two years of operation.  We wish the future leadership luck in this process.  
 
Steven K. Chapman 
Founding Board Member OOC
Former Treasurer OOC
Bob Ferris
Executive Director 
Cascadia Wildlands

 

Background Information and Related Links:

Predatory Non Profit?

Cougar Crisis?

An Unnatural State of Fear: Oregon Outdoor Council versus Lions, Tigers (Wolves) and Bears

The Wedge Group Recipe

 

May16

An Un-Natural State of Fear: Oregon Outdoor Council versus Lions, Tigers (Wolves) and Bears

By Bob Ferris

The Onion has some brilliant satire and some that bites a little too deep.  One that is just right was a recent one they did about wolves and the millions of people killed each year by this rapacious predator that stalks people at copiers and coffee bars and rips their throats out in a heartbeat (see: Study: Wolf Attacks Still Leading Cause Of Death In U.S.).   Yes, I read it in the Onion so it must be true.
 
This is on my mind at this point because I recently spent too much time on the phone with Jerod Broadfoot executive director of the Oregon Outdoor Council (OOC) after talking to a peeved former insider at OOC who gave me an earful on Jerod and the shady goings-on at his operation.
 

The Onion piece echoed in my brain because Jerod peddles fear.  Fear of mountain lions, bears, coyotes and wolves.  Whether he actually believes the Onion-esque tales he tells the public or not he has lobbied for bear baiting, cougar hunting with dogs, and pushed to allow bow hunters to carry pistols or rifles because the risk of cougar attacks is so high. The risk for cougar attacks in Oregon is so high…How high?.. Well it could happen, but has not.

But just to show that Mr. Broadfoot works all sides of the street, he also lobbied to get the criminal penalties for cock fighting lowered from a felony to a misdemeanor.  Now more fighting cocks will have the opportunity to fight and profit from their efforts.  And he also lobbied—it appeared—to allow minors to handle explosives because there seems to be a shortage of children playing with matches and high explosives. (Sorry, once the Onion gets into your head.)
 
For Broadfoot Camouflage is a Fabric of Deception
 

It should be remembered that Mr. Broadfoot (shown with RMEF CEO David Allen above) cut his lobbying teeth at PacWest Communications.  PacWest is somewhat notorious in lobbying circles for their ends-always-justify-the-means and take-no-prisoners approaches.  Over the years PacWest has formed fake “astro-turf” groups, reached deeply and often into their bag of dirty tricks, and stands firmly with the giants of misinformation such as The Heritage Foundation and the Competitive Enterprise Institute who have brought us illustrious campaigns on second hand smoke and climate change.

Mr. Broadfoot’s own personal forte is the miss-direct.  He has employed it ably with the OOC by serving up an All-American 2nd Amendment hot dog wrapped in a bun of predator hatred.  He hopes that this will camouflage what is probably his real intention which is a wider opening of the door to logging, mining, ranching and energy interests.  When confronted with this he claims it is not true but he is a little like the child who raided the cake and with chocolate glazed cheeks claims innocence.  His actions and past speak much louder than his protestations.  
 
Headed to Vegas
I will be presenting to the SCI-Foundations Conservation Committee on a project I am doing for them about wildlife conservation and energy production being able to coexist to benefit wildlife and our domestic energy needs. Broadfoot Media Site
 
So what chocolate does he have on his face? Jerod comes from a timber family and he lives in a ranching community.  He has lobbied on behalf of the oil and timber industries for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and on the Healthy Forest Initiative.  Both were priorities set by the Bush Administration that Mr. Broadfoot as chair of the Oregon Sportsmen for Bush worked so hard to get into office.  
 
Although one could argue what’s past is past, with Jerod that is not the case. His current rhetoric and that of his colleagues and friends is decidedly pro-industry.  He regularly advocates for more timber harvests to “enhance” wildlife habitat and condemns those who might think about rules and regulations to stem habitat loss and degradation.  The attacks on Sally Jewell’s record are perfect examples.  Certainly these commentaries are salted with phrases like “anti-hunting” but given the material thrust of the actions–regarding logging, mining and energy–this is really no more than camouflage.  
 
“Another priority for the OOC is to ensure state management of wolf populations including allowing ranchers to protect their families and livestock without bureaucratic red tape and lawsuits from anti-hunting organizations.” OOC Press release posted on i-Fish
 
Mr. Broadfoot has denied links to ranching, but then he also seems convinced that folks are more interested in what he says rather than his actions.  His advocacy for control of wolves and increased logging could be construed as being pro-hunting if he also acknowledged that those de-forested areas should be cattle-free, but he does not.  OOC’s facebook page in fact questions the impact of grazing on wildlife.  What? [1,2,3]
 
Science, Science Everywhere…? 
 
"Wolves have wiped out elk and deer herds in Idaho and have a current population growth of 24%." Oregon Outdoor Council website
 
My conversation with Jerod was at times surreal.  When I challenged him on his misstatements about predators (see above) he claimed that all statements were reviewed by their science team.  So then I asked: Who is on your science team?  His response was telling, the only name he remembered was Larry Irwin, but he urged me to look at his website.  (By the way, I would think that any leader of an organization that was actually driven by science would know who was on his science advisory team.)
 
So what did I find?  OOC’s scientific team consists of three people. One is indeed Larry Irwin PhD with the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement, Inc. that bills the organization as an independent, non-profit research institute focusing on environmental topics of interest to the forest products industry.  The Council’s roughly $14 million budget comes mainly from timber company dues.  This hardly lends credence to the Mr. Broadfoot’s argument of distance from the timber industry.
 
The other scientific experts are Richard K. Stroud DVM, MS and James O. Pex MS D-ABC.  The former is a retired forensic veterinarian for the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the latter is a forensic expert on blood spattering often called in on criminal trials. Neither of them are wildlife biologists, ecologists or experts on conservation or predators.
 
And just as Batman has Robin
 
Just as Batman has Robin, as a dedicated compatriot, Mr. Broadfoot has Dominic Aiello as his side kick.  Mr. Aiello is the new vice president of OOC’s board–replacing Jerod–and appears to spend a great deal of his time looking to do electronic battle with the anti-hunting evil doers of the world.  His fervor has gotten him expelled from a few facebook pages including ours, but his rhetoric and dedication—even with the help of Mr. Broadfoot and his media machine—was unable to garner him the vice president slot at the Oregon Hunter’s Association.  (Reports from insiders say that the vote was not even remotely close.)
 
Mr. Aiello also spends a lot of time on the I-Fish network and while his comments are amusing they are also illustrative of the inherent operational and philosophical conflicts at OOC.  His political philosophies, lack of knowledge, and inexperience keep him and his organization in a constant state of defense bordering on embarrassment.  
 
How so?  Two examples are his recent celebration of a timber industry victory on the regulation of roads and his defense of suction dredging as a legitimate use on Oregon Rivers.  When the more informed posters pointed out that elk needed road-less areas and that this was not a victory for elk or hunters he just kept right on going without self-editting.  
 
Likewise, his defense of the right of suction dredgers to tear up river bottoms on a post calling people to a hearing on a moratorium raised hackles (sorry) and drew comments.  His response was to attack the motivation of a respected fishing guide—the fishermen were not amused.  His comments are troubling both for the supreme confidence he has in his own opinions and the lack of any real basis or grounding backing up his assertions.  While I am sure that his A.A. degree in Business Administration from Henry Ford Community College affords him some expertise applicable to selling Aflac insurance and some of his other enterprises, it seems scant preparation to serve on the board of any state-wide organization or hold authoritative debates on complex ecological relationships.
 
Of Bibles and Bandoliers 
 
“Our featured speaker is Dominic Aiello, who is Vice President of Oregon Outdoor Council, whose mission is "To promote and protect outdoor pursuits in Oregon including hunting, fishing, trapping, wildlife management, habitat and species management, public access, outdoor recreation and gun ownership." As you can see, Dominic's responsibilities cover nearly every aspect of our outdoor experience. CrossTrackers website under April Events
 
So who all is drinking this proffered Kool Aid?  One group who was pleased to have Mr. Aiello as a guest speaker and he seemed pleased to be there is the Cross Trackers.  This group “exists to glorify God by walking beside men while enjoying His creation through hunting and fishing.”  
 
 
Now my parents took me to church when I was a child but I must have slept through the part about concealed weapons being part of the religious dogma, particularly on a Sunday.  It might just be me, but praying for your quick-draw shoulder holster to not malfunction seems fairly inconsistent with the turn- the-other-cheek lessons I seem to remember.  
 
 
And while Mr. Aiello’s jubilation following the Cross Tracker’s event at meeting Todd Hoffman of Gold Rush certainly cements his membership in the 18-49 year old male demographic and the “we like machinery and tearing things up” club, it hardly speaks to his environmental and conservation street cred as the water quality and fisheries impacts of gold mining are well known and notorious.  This also demonstrates a monumental insensitivity to his potential colleagues in Oregon and also Alaska who are embroiled in fights against suction dredge mining in Oregon and the Bristol Bay mine in Alaska.
 
Poor Attention to Accounting and Legal Issues Means Poor Performance in a Non-Profit
 
 
Financially, OOC and OOCF are not significant enterprises.  A little money here and a little money there with most of their funding coming from a single check from Oregon Hunters Association.  What is significant is how they spent the money and failed to heed the legal and accounting advice of their professionals.  I have seen the ledger sheets so I could go into chapter and verse about how Jerod Broadfoot submitted questionable and poorly documented expenses as well as blew through IRS limits for lobbying expenses without blinking.  He also traveled with his wife (on OOC's dime) to places like Las Vegas and stayed in a luxury boutique hotel room like the one pictured above during a DC trip, but it is easier to just let their former secretary/treasurer Steve Chapman tell the tale.  
 
 
Now I may not always agree with Mr. Chapman on predator-prey ecology or some esoterica associated with hunting and fair chase, but both of us agree that 1) non-profit monies need to be used for non-profit purposes; 2) the rationale for any non-profit expenditures needs to be well documented; 3) board members have explicit fiduciary responsibilities which include avoiding the appearance of conflict of interest; and 4) the fundamental imperatives of acting responsibility, telling the truth, and obeying the law are paramount.   These principles do not appear to be embraced by the current leadership at OOC and OOCF and that is likely to cause them legal and political problems in the near future.
 

May16

Predatory Nonprofit?

 

Fight over cougars and finances

By Camilla Mortensen
May 16, 2013 
 
It all seemed so easy to businessman Steven Chapman — an avid hunter, he wanted to influence the Oregon Legislature on its hunting bills. The deer and elk herds in Oregon are too small, Chapman said, and wanted to do something about it. It takes millions of dollars in California to influence legislation, according to Chapman, but only thousands in Oregon. 
 
In only a few years, the lobbying group he helped form, Oregon Outdoor Council (OOC), shot from obscurity to a legislative force, but now Chapman finds himself pitted against fellow hunters as he alleges misspent money and ethical wrongdoings by the lobbying-oriented OOC and its non-lobbying partner, the Oregon Outdoor Council Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Chapman says he wants to expose OOC and OOCF because he feels that he created a “haphazard” group that isn’t targeting the real source of problems for the animals he hunts.
 
Together with Pendleton-based media-group owner Jerod Broadfoot, Wayne Endicott of Springfield’s Bow Rack and others, Chapman formed OOC with goals that included repealing Oregon’s Measure 18, which keeps hunters from chasing cougars with dogs. OOC was also behind a push on Oregon House Bill 3437, which required that gubernatorial nominees to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Commission have held some form of fishing or hunting licenses for 10 consecutive years. This would leave nonhunters out of wildlife decisions. 
 
Chapman, OOC and the long-established Oregon Hunters Association (OHA) all share similar goals — to improve the herds for hunters in Oregon — but Chapman says he is no longer 100 percent certain that targeting predators and pushing bills allowing hound hunting or bear baiting are the answer. The problem lies with lands lost to grazing and roads built for logging, he says, not cougars and wolves. That’s not a popular stance to take among conservative hunting organizations that have long blamed and targeted predators.
 
But Chapman’s stance on what could be reducing deer and elk herds isn’t what has him at odds with the nonprofits that he was once part of. Chapman alleges that the OOC and the OOCF unethically misspent funds, misrepresented information and are not acting “in the best interests of hunting, angling or wildlife,” and he lays out a litany of problems. 
 
Chapman says that OOC got $25,000 from the Oregon Hunters Association to conduct a poll in support of legislative initiatives and a potential constitutional amendment, and that part of the reason OOC got the money was because Broadfoot told the group and the OHA that $500,000 in donations would be coming in from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and Safari Club International. That money never materialized. Chapman further alleges that Broadfoot misrepresented the results of the poll. Chapman says this damages OOC’s credibility.
 
Chapman, who was the OOC’s secretary-treasurer, also worries that the foundation, OOCF, jeopardized its nonprofit status when out of its $33,000 budget in 2012, it spent $16,000 on a poll relating to a prospective ballot initiative and legislative actions. The IRS limits small nonprofits to spending less than 20 percent of their budget on lobbying. 
 
Chapman also alleges that Broadfoot diverted nonprofit funds for personal use for himself and his wife on a trip to Las Vegas where they stayed in a luxury hotel, pointing to posts on the Broadfoot Media Group website. He had an accountant review the books, and the CPA wrote that “it appears that proper expense authorization and follow up procedures are not being followed carefully, if at all” and called some of the expenditures “highly questionable.”
 
When asked for comment, Broadfoot referred EW to OOC’s attorney Ross Day. Day is also Chapman’s personal attorney, and when asked if that was a problem due to a conflict of interest, Day said,  “Not that I’m aware of.” 
 
Chapman has contacted the Department of Justice over the money issue and says that in turn, OOC board members have sent a state police officer to Chapman’s doorstep.
 
Day says the OOC board has concluded that Chapman’s allegations are unfounded and that “We have a disagreement here, whether or not money was spent, I don’t want to say wisely, but as efficiently as possible. It doesn’t mean anything untoward has occurred.”
 
But in a July 2012 email to the OOC board, Day wrote “when OOC pays for a trip to attend a conference, speaking engagement, whatever, the person can only be there on OOC business, not promoting any other organization/business/cause or otherwise. When money from a c(4) is spent, it can only be spent on purposes related to the c(4). If someone goes to a conference, for instance, on OOC’s dime, and then promotes another organization (say, Oregonians In Action), there could be problems down the road with the IRS (which I, as OOC’s lawyer, am responsible for avoiding).” 
 
Later in August, Day wrote, “It is my job to advise OOC on how to avoid enforcement actions by agencies like the IRS and the Oregon DOJ. The easiest and surest way to avoid enforcement actions is by making sure your books are clean to begin with; that way you do not have to agree to ‘follow the law’ if and when the government comes knocking at your door.”
 
The July email from Day also detailed a report from former Republican state senator-turned NRA lobbyist Roger Beyer, who had been asked to join the OOC board but declined. Beyer discussed a “breakdown” in the relationship between OOC and OHA, citing among other things the claims of funding that didn’t materialize and that the OHA was given only abstract data from the poll and not the actual poll results. Broadfoot had sent an email to the OOC board saying, “Do not share. We need to discuss this tonight. Numbers are not good overall but it does provide us with good information to move forward with.”
 
Day says, “Taken out of context I know what that email looks like,” but says OOC was under no obligation to release the results of the poll. Duane Dungannon of the OHA says that there were “differences of opinions about the results that were obtained” but that OHA thought it made sense that the poll results would be held close and not sent out to wind up in the hands of opponents or on websites.
 
But in the end, whether OOC survives and whether it works with OHA on future hunting legislation or not, Chapman says he feels culpable for having created an organization that by targeting predators and not the true culprits — grazing and road building — is doing a disservice to the hunting community. 
 

Mar07

Don Peay: the Man Who Would Be King… Baron

by Bob Ferris
 
Rudyard Kipling wrote a tale once about two pals in the British army serving in India who figured they could travel north to Kafiristan in present-day Afghanistan and essentially create their own mini-kingdom.  The tale was fanciful and was eventually turned into a popular 1975 movie starring Sean Connery and Michael Caine called “The Man who would be King” named after Kipling’s novella.
 
But the absurd nature of this fictional exercise of kingdom creation has not stopped Don Peay, founder of Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, Sportsmen for Habitat, Utah Chapter of the Foundation for North American Wild Sheep, and Full Curl Society as well as co-founder of Big Game Forever LLC from seeing this as a model for taking the first steps towards bringing that oh-so-modern concept of feudalism to the United States.  And—wait for it—having the taxpayers make significant contributions to the diminishment of their rights and privileges.  Want details?
 
Let’s start with the fact that Mr. Peay believes that our current constitutional construct established under the 10th Amendment where the individual states have control and ownership of wildlife and hold it in the Public Trust is Socialism.  Ouch—strong words for a system that was established so that everyone, not just royalty and gentlepersons, could enjoy this public resource without being branded, beaten or hung for simply hunting, trapping or fishing.  (Mr. Peay should understand that both the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution are the functional equivalents of emancipation documents expressly written in response to past abuses and to protect us from future peril.)
 
"One state at a time, Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife is dismantling the very idea of a public wildlife resource, and replacing it with special privileges for the privileged." Ben Long in High Country News
 
There are some nuances and spins to what Mr. Peay and his colleagues like Corey Rossi—past head of Alaska’s wildlife agency—recently ousted for a dozen wildlife violations—are trying to do, but the “nose under the tent” on their grand scheme is creating programs that privatize wildlife and grant “special” people “special” rights to wildlife owned by all of us.  Those special rights would include hunting outside of hunting seasons, creating areas free of predators, and providing economic incentives for creating super-productive areas on private lands that could include food plots and supplemental feeding (read large-scale baiting) which would likely act to draw game off surrounding public lands.  
 
The introduction of the Canadian Grey Wolf into Northern Rocky Mountains was a wildlife management expirement (sic) which has gone horribly wrong. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation calls it "one of the worst wildlife management disasters since the destruction of bison herds".  Quote from David Allen former NASCAR executive on Montana Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife website
 
The ecological, economic and social pitfalls of this approach are myriad.  We—with the exception of trophy hunting groups like the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation—have seen the folly of creating feeding grounds for species such as elk and deer.  This scheme taken to its conclusion creates large, fenceless game farms with greatly reduced biodiversity.  It also creates a dynamic to spread more wildlife diseases faster.  If you want chronic wasting disease and Brucellosis hot spots—please sign on the dotted line.
 
The economics are dicey, too.  Right now many people derive income from hunting and fishing from guides and hotel owners to gas stations and restaurants.  Game species are spread rather than concentrated and hunting licenses and access are managed in a manner that optimizes participation and spreads income across a broad base.  What happens to this dynamic when portions of the harvestable game base are drawn away from their current distribution pattern into large, private refugia that can easily accommodate and would welcome their own, on-site facilities including private air strips?   To understand this potential impact think about what Wal-Marts on the outskirts of towns have done to Main Street, America.  
 
Socially this is a case where quality experiences become more and more reserved for people of quality.  In Mr. Peay’s world the biggest and best would be reserved for the “knights” of industry in the land of corporate jets and the rest of us would simply have to suffer along with the leavings and obey rules.  
 
This would also further enhance what are now huge ranches almost exclusively in the West.  Given that these private ranchlands were made possible in large part because of past federal largess like the Homestead Act, made practical through past federal actions displacing their former native and human inhabitants, and made richer by current federal benefits such as farm subsidies and nominal federal grazing fees, you would think that these ranchers, Peay and their allies would first drop a little of their anti-federal rhetoric.  Their near schizophrenic irony of uber-patriotic ranchers hating and badmouthing of the very hand that made their lives possible has always struck me as strange.  
 
And you would also think that they would not be so quick about asking state legislatures and game agencies for privileges and monies that would further their campaigns to create what would essentially be modern-day Baronies—subsidized by the generosity of the “King” and enjoying a rarified legal setting.  Mr. Peay’s recent request from the state of Utah for $300,000 so he could lobby the federal government on wolves is a perfect example of this entitled attitude and has drawn considerable ire from a number of quarters (see 1, 2, 3, 4).
 
“The delisting of the wolf is critical for the recovery and safeguarding of our precious big game assets in America." —Ted Nugent on Big Game Forever LLC website
 
Also Baron Von Peay should also understand—as many of us do—that the most vocal and visible opponents of Socialism are typically Fascists.  But Mr. Peay’s dealings are a little bit more complex than first meets the eye and it is a mistake to simply characterize him as a politically motivated hater of wolves and serial founder of conservation organizations.  In addition to his “conservation” actions, he has manufactured an intricate spiders’ web of non-profits and for-profits that has put hundreds of thousands of dollars into his own coffers (see page 7 and page 8 for examples).  
 
“We have been in the business of selling big game hunting packages to high end clients who sought to hunt with the top tier big game outfitters.” World Trophy Outfitters profile
 
Spider’s web may even be an understatement.  One rapidly gets tired and fuzzy when looking at the mélange of entities set up by this ambitious chemical engineer and petroleum industry consultant turned wildlife entrepreneur.  From his first attempts as a hunting impresario with World Trophy Outfitters, Inc. to his current, more successful efforts to do essentially the same thing in his non-profit empire, this has been a story of building a well-connected—yet cryptic—universe.   
 
Some of these relationships are easy to sort out and some are more complicated.  Take for instance the relationship with Chris Carling and Brand X Communications in Salt Lake City.  Brand X does the web work for several of Peay’s non-profit ventures and Mr. Carling is also the public relations contact for Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife.  Brand X is apparently connected with the domain Donpeay.com in some manner as well as the website for the proposed Jordan Cove LNG export facility near Coos Bay which will be facilitated by fracking in the very states where Peay’s groups are most powerful.  The business suite where Brand X is located is also the business address listed for Big Game Forever LLC and the former address of record for Sportsmen for Romney.  
 
“As of March 31, 2007, we had acquired fourteen Dall Sheep hunts for the 2007 and 2008 seasons with Kelly Hougen of Arctic Red River Outfitters, ten of which have been resold. The relationship between Arctic Red River Outfitters and WTO is that of a purchaser and seller of services and these organizations are not affiliated.”  World Trophy Outfitters Inc. Securities and Exchange Commission filing Form 10-KSB for Fiscal year 2007 page 4  
 
And then there is the whole issue with Arctic Red River Outfitters which appears to be owned in part by Peay but also partially owned by Sportsmen for Habitat with officers in common.  And yet on their IRS 990 forms SFH claims no business relations with current or former board members.  What? It is all very interesting but I will leave this to some ambitious investigative reporter who has the time and energy to sort out this can-o-worms or a similarly motivated IRS or SEC agent who ought to be asking some questions.  
 
“As a conservationist, it outrages me that animal rights extremists are using wolves as biological weapons to destroy 100 years of conservation in the western United States.” Jeff Foxworthy—Comedian on Big Game Forever LLC website
 
Peay’s business model is unfortunately a simple one that we have seen before: pedal wolf hatred to those most vulnerable to the messaging and then take millions of dollars’ worth of public resources (in the form of game permits) and sell them to the rich, privileged and influential.  His one variation from this is when he and his entourage sell chances for a coveted permit—letting hundreds act as a virtual “person of privilege”—keeping the myth of equality alive.
 
"My MacMillan River Adventure partner Keith Mark and I are extremely proud of our relationship with Big Game Forever because they are the one organization that recognized the damage that was occurring and the potential total devastation that would occur to our precious wildlife if the wolf issue was not addressed.”  Shawn Michaels WWE Hall of Fame on Big Game Forever website
 
He has been quite effective using the Four Horsemen of American Ignorance (i.e., NASCAR, Wrestling, Redneck Humor, and Ted Nugent) in recruiting an army of willing wolf killers.  The Montana Chapter of the Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, for instance, gives away free memberships to individuals who furnish pictures of themselves with dead wolves.  SFW-MT is careful, however, to point out that they do not want pictures of wolves in traps.  Apparently, they understand that there are limits.  
 

There are a lot of chicken and egg issues with Peay and his operations.  Is he trying to forward big game recovery or trying to maximize his connections and curry favor with rich donors to forward his political fundraising?  Why is the Western Hunting and Conservation Expo run by Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife and Mule Deer Foundation a non-profit event rather than a for-profit enterprise because it looks like there is a whole lot more commerce taking place than conservation?  And where is the non-profit argument of public good and benefit in creating better hunting opportunities for folks with an extra $20,000 or $100,000 rolling around in their jeans and in making sure outfitters are fully booked and taxidermists busy?  The charitable purposes of these entities simply seem swamped by the commercial and the political undertones.  And this impression is only magnified by the public financial reporting which lacks a certain openness in detail.  
Like Kipling’s Daniel Dravot and Peachy Carnehan, Peay is of humble beginnings.  When you read his self-narrative you almost feel sorry for the boy whose family lacked the $35 to let him play football, but when he compensates for that missing “sport” in his life by taking 500-yard shots at rare animals the sympathy factor melts away quickly.  He is all about trophies whether it is being photographed next to whatever carcass he has recently created or standing near Dick Cheney, George W. Bush or Orin Hatch.
 
Peay should realize in all of this that the Kipling tale is also a cautionary one.  It describes the ultimate consequences to one who climbs too high and then falls when the myths he has created and promoted are shown to be without merit.   What will happen in all of this when the enabling state wildlife agencies realize that they would probably get more value and benefit if they sold these game permits themselves instead of allowing them to be used to build this convoluted financial empire and thinly disguised political machine?  And when will the everyday hunters out there understand that they are complicit in enriching these groups who are aggressively creating a system designed expressly to grant their precious rights to the privileged few while they are left with the leavings?   
 
So what needs to happen?  Folks need to tell their wildlife agencies in western states that they do not want their precious wildlife in the form of hunting tags and permits given to Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, Sportsmen for Habitat, Big Game Forever, or the Full Curl Society to be used in their campaigns to enrich themselves and privatize wildlife.  We also need to remind these agencies of their Public Trust responsibilities to manage wildlife for the public and not just for wealthy trophy hunters and ranchers.  And we need also to remind these wildlife agencies and their governing boards that wildlife should be managed based on the best available science.  In other words, let wildlife agency employees use the degrees that they worked so long and hard to earn.  Here are the electonic links (e-mails and forms) as well as the snail mail and phone for Wyoming.  Please let them know how you feel and pass this blog post around so that others do the same.  Thank you!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Wyoming:
 
Wyoming Game & Fish Department Headquarters
5400 Bishop Blvd. Cheyenne, WY 82006
ph: (307) 777-4600
 

 

 

News and Editorial Coverage:

 

 

Salt Lake Tribune Editorial: Just cry wolf

 

Jan10

More Dishonesty from the Elk Dudes

By Bob Ferris
 
On facebook these days many folks post multi-paneled cartoons or photomontages that contain phrases such as “what my parents think I do” or “what my friends think that I do.”  The point of these devices is to show that how people perceive you vary between audiences and also reality.  These are important distinctions to make and part of self-awareness, but they are also the realm of advertisers creating public images for entities and frequently broadening the gap between branding and veracity.
 
The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation recently released a marketing video that won awards at a wildlife film festival in Missoula.  The short piece is visually pleasing with wonderful wildlife footage and a sound track by Kenny G. (not to my taste but knock yourself out).  As nice as the piece is, it is really much more about how the RMEF wants folks to see them than the reality of this organization in their present state. 
 
“The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation doesn’t say wipe out all the predators,” Allen said. “But we’ve got to be more aggressive in managing them. We want to see substantially fewer than what we have now.” Quote by RMEF CEO David Allen in Missoulian
 
Watching the video (click here), one would get the impression that RMEF is a conservation group that loves and respects all wildlife—including grizzlies, black bears and cougars—and works on national parks and refuge issues.  Certainly native ungulates such as elk, deer, moose and sheep are featured but this video tells a story of wildlife appreciation: A donation to RMEF will help game animals, but also beavers, loons, and trumpeter swans as well as predators.  The video is painfully misleading as I think you lose the ethical right to include a wildlife species in a promotional video, if you are taking actions or postions that are actaully harmful to it.  
 
“We hope to have grizzly bears as a huntable species in the next several years,” he says. “That would be great, because hunters have paid for a lot of the restoration that’s brought bears back to the levels they’re at now. If we can get to the point where we can hunt bears—and we’re very close—we will have succeeded in recovering the grizzly bear in the Yellowstone population. That will be the ultimate measure of success.”  RMEF Bugle
 
This video begs the question: Did the videographer and producer actually visit the RMEF website or know anything about the present state of this organization? A quarter of RMEF new mission statement is about hunting and hunting heritage but where is that in this video?  They have hammered home this Hunting is Conservation and there is not a single person, rifle or gut pile in this video.  There is literally nothing in this video that references hunting.
 
 

 

 

 
“Having a passionate and effective base of lion hunters is key. In areas with well-managed populations, elk, deer and lions can all thrive. In Wyoming in 1995, hunters killed 105 cougars and 17,695 elk. In 2000, lion harvest rose to 186. It jumped to 286 in 2010. Meanwhile, Wyoming’s hunters killed 25,672 elk that year.” RMEF Bugle
 
One would also gather from this video that biodiversity protection is part and parcel of their agenda.  This too is problematic as their efforts have been focused on maximizing elk populations.  I say maximizing rather than optimizing purposely because their policies such as predator control and winter supplemental feeding actually are detrimental to bird species, beaver and others that are displaced when elk populations expand beyond historic levels.
 
The one honest part of the video was that they did not include wolves—not a single shot (no pun intended…okay maybe there was).  How it is possible to create an impression of the important critters in the Rocky Mountains and "unconsciously" miss the wolf?  This is absolutely consistent with their constant attitude about wolves not being wildlife and their desire for a wolf-free future.  I feel emboldened by this film, perhaps tomorrow I will have one made about me as a 25-year old with a full head of hair.  Yes, that's the ticket.

 

 

 

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