David Allen vs. David Allen
CEO of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation poses challenge to conservationists...and himself?
Prior to becoming the CEO of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, David Allen had stints with NASCAR, Wrangler Jeans and the Pro-Rodeo Cowboy's Association
Earlier this summer, we expressed concern when we discovered the state agency charged with enforcing wildlife conservation laws (ODFW) was sending two of its highest paid staff to an anti-wolf event. At taxpayer expense, the agency leaders shared a stage with promoters of wolf poaching and other anti-wolf activists. Amongst the speakers at the event was David Allen.
David Allen is a former NASCAR executive who is now the CEO of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. Since taking the helm Allen has steered the once proud conservation organization into a radically new direction and made more headlines for his anti-wolf crusade than for anything resembling conservation.
A few months ago Allen raised eyebrows in Oregon when he took his rhetoric to a new level. In an interview with the Bend Bulletin, Allen called for the gassing of wolves in their dens.
The article drew a public response from conservation leaders in Oregon including Oregon Wild. But rather than back down, Allen doubled down on his anti-predator rhetoric when he called for the killing of endangered grizzly bears in the Northern Rockies because it’s been difficult for elk hunters to fill their tags in some places.
Though our measured response in the Bulletin seems to have only fueled Allen’s anti-predator vendetta, our press release on the anti-wolf event may have touched a nerve. Attendees of the event reported that Allen “offered to buy Rob Klavins a trophy bull hunt if [Klavins] could proved that he [Allen] actually told the Bend Bulletin he wanted the government to start gassing wolf cubs and shooting grizzlies”
It’s time for Allen to pay up…
First let’s go to the evidence. In a subscription-only article (only available online as a repost) on January 7th, 2012, titled “Predator, protector – As costs mount, some researchers point out benefits”, reporter Dylan Darling wrote:
“To keep wolf populations controlled (Allen) said, states will have to hold hunts, shoot wolves from the air and gas their dens.”
Wolves only den with pups, so unless there’s a new selective toxic gas I don’t know about, it seems pretty clear the cuteness of a wolf pup does little to get past the hardened heart of Mr. Allen.
In an article in the Missoulian titled “Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation offers to finance more aggressive wolf killing” Allen offers over $50,000 to fund wolf killing and added this:
“Allen said his groups wants to see reductions in black bears, mountain lions and coyotes as well as wolves to help the state’s struggling ungulate populations…’the next step is the grizzly bear…We can’t have all these predators with little aggressive management and expect to have ample game herds and sell hunting tags.”
If Allen didn’t say these things, one would think he’d have quickly called the editors, complained, and demanded a retraction. Perhaps now he will. We’ll look forward to seeing it. Otherwise, Mr. Allen, if you’re reading this, it’s time to pay up.
But I’d much prefer a different payment.
While I would happily entertain the idea of joining Oregon Wild’s Tim Lillebo on an elk hunt, the idea of spending a couple days hunting for a trophy with Mr. Allen isn’t exactly my cup of tea (chances are spending a couple days with a conservationist who values wolves and wolverines as much as elk and deer isn’t his either).
I imagine trophy elk hunts with the CEO of the Elk Foundation don’t come cheap. So, in lieu of an excursion together, we’d suggest he make a donation in that amount to either The Wildlife Society or the Conservation Biology Institute. That is unless he wants to make a donation to Oregon Wild – which we’d happily accept.
Once upon a time, The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation shared the values of the conservation community who value all native wildlife. We’d welcome a return to that ethic from an organization that was once best known for purchasing, restoring, and protecting habitat, reintroducing native species, and funding legitimate scientific research.
Those are all things we can get behind.
We believe that the restoration and protection of healthy populations of all native species is vital. That includes the species Mr. Allen likes to put up on his wall as well as those that are less convenient, charismatic, or common. That’s a major reason why we’ve worked to protect habitat across the state for the past 38 years.
One of the biggest benefactors of our decade long-fight to protect nearly two million acres of Oregon’s roadless wildlands are elk – and by extension elk hunters.
A study by ODFW indicated elk are bigger, healthier, and more numerous in roadless areas than elsewhere in the state. If an elk hunter wants a trophy bull or a freezer full of meat, there’s nowhere better to go than a roadless area. That’s why it was so shocking when – under Allen’s leadership – the Elk Foundation endorsed legislation that would have opened up over 30 million acres of roadless wildlands across America to development.
Thankfully Allen’s action received enough attention that he reversed course. A few months later the Roadless Area Conservation Rule again became the law of the land.
In such cynical and divided times more than a few groups have profited from playing to their lesser angels. It’s clear that David Allen has seen dollar signs from his anti-wolf rhetoric and misinformation. He recently told an Oregon reporter that “natural balance is a Walt Disney movie. It isn’t real”.
With a budget of over $40 million, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is a powerful force. Its turn away from conservation is a blow to all who value wildlife and a healthy nation. In tough economic times, there’s much more good that could be done with $50,000 than funding the killing of native wildlife to assuage the bloodlust of a greedy minority.
Unlike the RMEF, we don’t have tens of thousands of dollars to throw around. Most of our scarce resources are spent on education and advocacy. However, we’ve recently spent money on restoration of wetlands in the Klamath Basin, funding non-lethal measures to reduce conflict between wolves and livestock, wildlife monitoring, and promotion of sustainable tourism that benefits native wildlife and rural communities.
Our friends at Cascadia Wildlands recently commented that the Elk Foundation could use “less 10 gallon hats and more 10 pound brains”.
Well said. I’d only add that they could use a little bit of heart as well. Americans value native wildlife and most of us are long past the days of wanting to sanitize the landscape of animals with pointy teeth. As Molly Beattie once said, “What a country chooses to save is what a country chooses to say about itself.”
Mr. Allen’s leadership isn’t saying good things about the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. And with the vast majority of American conservationists having switched out their rifles for Canons (cameras), his actions and rhetoric aren’t doing any favors to the hunting community.
So here’s to hoping the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation will begin listening to their better angels like the namesake of its top award - Olaus Murie – who studied and valued the role of wolves and big wild places.
If he really didn’t say all the horrible things he’s quoted as saying in newspapers across the country, Allen could start by correcting the record. If he said them, he could pay up on his wager. But most American’s would probably prefer Allen honor the generations of real conservationists who came before him by simply knocking it off.