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.