The Wedge Group Recipe

By Bob Ferris
 
"The trophy-hunter is the caveman reborn.  Trophy-hunting is the prerogative of youth, racial or individual, and nothing to apologize for.
The disquieting thing in the modern picture is the trophy-hunter who never grows up, in whom the capacity for isolation, perception, and husbandry is undeveloped, or perhaps lost.  He is the motorized ant who swarms the continents before learning to see his own back yard, who consumes, but never creates outdoor satisfactions."  Aldo Leopold in Conservation Esthetic (1938) 
 
There is a huge shell game going on right now and hunters should be incensed.  Groups are forming, mutating, or being reformulated that carry the hunting banner proudly and prominently , but frequently act in ways that compromise the quality, accessibility and availability of hunting and other outdoor experiences to the average hunter, angler or wilderness enthusiast.  What’s more they purposely and materially drive a wedge between natural allies—traditional hunting and angling groups and conservation, environment and biodiversity groups—that need to and should work together. 
 
“After all, members of Ducks Unlimited like to see ducks as much as members of the Audubon Society. Instead of squabbling over whether people should be allowed to hunt ducks, Audubon members should work on DU projects to restore wetlands and DU members should work with Auduboners to stop development of sensitive habitats. The result would be plenty of ducks for everyone.” Steve Waters in the Sun Sentinel 1996
 
It should be remembered in all of this that Teddy Roosevelt frequently praised the Audubon Society and saw them as partners in conservation.  And both The Wilderness Society and the National Wildlife Federation share as their catalyst bow-hunter and father of wildlife management Aldo Leopold.  It should also be remembered—as I am sure it is by these Wedgers—that collectively we are a powerful force to be dealt with as evidenced by the last time we all came together at the Natural Resource Summit of America.  I had a chair at the effort in 1996 and frequently sat with representatives from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and Safari Club International.  
 
The Wedge Group Recipe
 
1) Take one politically motivated leader—must be trophy hunter—with no grounding in ecological or biological science who will make outrageous statements regardless of validity or accuracy.
 
2)  Add one or two simplistic “red meat” issues that act as both camouflage to your real purpose and attractants for hunters who do not dig too deeply into issues (e.g. wolves and 2nd Amendment) and label everyone else as “anti-hunter” and un-American as often as you can.
 
3)  Form alliances with other similar groups and industries so you look larger than you actually are.
 
4)  Pour in a lot of money.
 
5)  And stir the pot vigorously.  
 
We have seen this model so many times but not all wedge groups take the same pathway.  We have seen three approaches of late.  The first is the one followed by Don Peay and his cronies in the Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife conglomerate.  They simply formed a group with conservation messaging and alternative intent.  That has brought them some short term success but folks are starting to wake up and realize that this coffee smells of politics, oil, influence and the privatization of wildlife.
 
The second approach is what we have observed at the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.  I can only characterize this as a leveraged takeover.   When marketer and former NASCAR executive David Allen took over this once credible organization they were deep in debt and made a deal with the Devil to save their once respected brand.  Here again lots of money injected into the system and you have a group that seems to be acting for elk and wildlife but their actions whistle a different tune.
 
"I voted and turned in my ballot today.  I voted for ******** and *********.  My sincere hope is that under their leadership out [sic] country can get back on track and they will take an active role in furthering wildlife conservation & local oil and gas development .  They go hand in hand." Jerod Broadfoot Facebook post (2012)
 
The third approach is a variation of the first and goes like this: When you have been exposed and carry too much baggage to be effective in an area, form a new group driven by the same mission and a subset of the same actors.  This is the model recently enacted by the Oregon Outdoor Council and former Safari Club lobbyist and political activist Jerod Broadfoot.  This is a different name but same pattern and same old players.
 
"I've worked with Jerod Broadfoot on a host of sportsmen's issues for nearly a decade.  He is one of the most strategic professionals I know.  Through his efforts, we have taken on some of the most powerful and influential wildlife and animal rights groups in the nation–and we have won!  His recently produced videos helped us score a major victory in predator management in the United States Congress."  Tim Wigley, President, Western Energy Alliance (from Broadfoot Media website)
 
What to Look for When Spotting a Wedge Group:
Look first at their executive director, president or founder.  Do they have ties to conservation or do they have ties to the industries that harm habitat and need a friendly voice in the conservation field?
Player
Affiliation
Oregon Outdoor Council
Education
Chemical Engineering
Marketing
Political Science
Experience
Petroleum Consulting
Marketing
Lobbying and Political Consulting
Links to:
Petroleum Industry
NASCAR
 
 
Professional Bull Riders Assoc.
 
 
Wrangler Jeans
 
Then look at their messaging and actions:
 
1-Do they tend to make positive statements about or have strong ties to the timber, oil or livestock industries?
 
2-Do they talk a lot about “science” in their statements but are organizations that are not run by ecologists or biologist and you rarely hear statements from professional scientists associated with the groups?  Do they also universally demonize predators in the absence of scientific evidence?
 
3-Do they tend to alienate through name calling (e.g., anti-hunters, greenies, tree-huggers, etc.) in lieu of professional discourse and do not associate with or have productive partnerships with their natural allies such as champions for wilderness areas, those who foment carbon dioxide reduction strategies, or groups critical of public lands grazing or who promote reducing public lands stocking rates for the benefit of fish and wildlife?  
 
4-Are private property rights often a big theme which are more important to degraders of habitat such as ranchers, miners and timber interests that to those who understand that healthy populations of wildlife need habitats that are fully functioning and free from un-natural disturbance?  
 
5-Do they tend to push legislation that will ensure continued and even increased control of state fish and wildlife agencies by trophy oriented hunting groups and livestock interests?  
 
"The sportsman of the future must get his satisfaction by enlarging himself rather than enlarging his bag.  The homebound sportsman unable to to name the ducks slung over his shoulder is an anachronism, a relic of that I-got-my-limit-era which nearly ruined the continent and its resources.  Few sportsmen have ever tried the sport of learning something about the game they pursue, the wildlife they see, or the plants they tramp over.  Why is this species here?  Whence does it come, where go? What limits its abundance? What was its role in history? What are the prospects of its survival? What peculiarities of habit and habitat comprise its "standard of living"? To always seek and never quite achieve a "bag limit" of answers to such questions is the sport of the future."   Aldo Leopold in Introduction to The Ducks, Geese, and Swans of North America (1943)
 
Want examples of any of the above with these groups?  Let’s start with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.  Certainly their misstep on the road-less bill is a good example of this as well as their mind-boggling position on supplemental feeding of elk in Wyoming and their associated tepid response on Brucellosis and planned elk control—the former could have written by the oil industry and latter two favor the livestock industry more than elk.  Don Peay’s whole thesis that the North American Model of Wildlife Management because of its cornerstone principal of public ownership of wildlife is Socialism pushes hard on this broader group’s idea that wildlife is somehow owned more by people with means.  
 
This latter philosophy of a disdain for constitutionally guaranteed, public trust ownership of wildlife by this Wedge Group sector is only re-enforced by the Oregon Outdoor Council’s push on Oregon House Bill 3437 which requires that gubernatorial nominees to the wildlife commission—the governing body for Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife—have held some form of fishing or hunting licenses for 10 consecutive years.  This requirement flies in the face of public ownership of wildlife because it vests managerial control of a collectively held resource in the hands of a subset of a minority.  
 
"As a first year waterfowler…coots are good practice birds IMO (not saying I do not follow the law in regards to retrieval etc.) After all most people don't have a problem killing mice, moles, raccoons, ect. ect.  Aren’t coots like the vermin of the 
waterfowl? I have shot a few and not eaten them (retrieved not just personally eaten) just like I don’t eat coyotes I shoot .
I agree, I have enjoyed watching a few coots swim through decoys doing that call they make." Vice president Oregon Outdoor Council (2013)
 
When we buy hunting or fishing licenses, we are contributing funds to offset the cost of our recreational or commercial activity and supporting enhancement of those resources—only.  We are not buying disproportionate ownership or control of that resource.   And please show me the evidence that people who buy hunting or fishing licenses for ten consecutive years are more informed about wildlife issues, more responsible in their decisions, or in any way better suited to hold these posts.  We have, on the other hand, ample evidence that individuals with vested financial interests in resources (i.e., foxes guarding hen houses) tend to over-exploit the resources under their care.  
 
The 10-year rule is also telling on other ways—mostly unintended, but maybe not.  First the requirement is sexist as it would tend to exclude women who are more likely to have had breaks in this consecutive sequence due to pregnancies.  It also excludes active duty servicemen and some veterans who likely have breaks in that decade due to assignments out of state or in foreign countries—like in Iraq and Afghanistan, for example.  It also excludes anyone under the age of 26 which is about 40% of the population.     So at the end of the day this restriction favors older men of means or men who make their living off natural resources like commercial fishermen or hunting guides.  This is not surprising given the desires of the Wedge Group pushing this but hardly a subset that is representative of the owners of this resource in the state of Oregon.  We need to do better.
 
To my hunter and angler friends I would urge them to look at what is going on here and to also think about the second Leopold quote.  To my friends who do not hunt or fish by circumstance or choice I would urge them to understand that we need to return to that former state of cooperation and dialog.  And to the trophy hunters and their partners in the extractive and livestock industries who read this, I would urge them to read the first Leopold quote closely and see what they can do to grow up.  Given the complexity of the landscape, we all need to be surgical and clear in our comments and not let the rotten apple elements drive these wedges that ultimately hurt all of us and the resources we jointly enjoy and cherish.
 

2 Responses to The Wedge Group Recipe

  1. Kristi Lloyd says:

    Speechless, Bob….absolutely spot on, perfect, very well laid out.  Bravo!!!

  2. Judy Hoy says:

    Good article, but unless all organizations promote finding the cause of the real reason (it is not predators) for the decline in wild ungulates, rodents and game birds, they will keep declining and eventually all be gone. The real reason for the declines in populations is disruption of the fetal thyroid hormones during development, resulting in high mortality in the developing young. I hope that this is soon addressed before it is too late.

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