By James A. Swan, Ph.D., Nat. Geo. Channel
The Association for Conservation Information does a great job getting programs out to help more people participate in outdoor recreation of all kinds. Some of these programs even make it to network TV, which increases their potential.
Some TV programs have the potential to change attitudes about conservation. My son and I created the “Wild Justice” program on the National Geographic Channel (video.nationalgeographic.com/video/wild-justice) after California game wardens asked us to create a documentary about them (jamesswan.com/snowgoose/wardendoc.html). An agent in Hollywood saw it and set up the show. One result of “Wild Justice” is that the number of California game wardens almost doubled in three years. Another is a jump in in the number of other game warden TV shows to eight.
Today there are many TV shows about hunting and fishing, but most are on special networks, not as mainstream films and TV. Getting mainstream media programs made these days is a challenge. So much of it is negative. Those few shows on regular TV that feature hunting and fishing in a positive light are rare, one exception being “Meateater” (themeateater.com/). We need more programming for mainstream audiences that helps people understand why people hunt and fish, and what conservation efforts are going on to help people get outdoors and hunt and fish, including those in R3.
Getting such shows on mainstream TV or in theaters isn’t easy. Film festivals that focus on wildlife and conservation, such as the Wildlife Conservation Film Festival (www.wcff.org/) and Jackson Wild (jacksonwild.org/), can help. We need more like that.
We also need more mainstream films and TV shows that show hunters, anglers and conservationists as good guys, and this means storytelling. One conservationist who deserves more attention is Aldo Leopold, one of the most important conservation pioneers of the 20th century. He was the first professor of Wildlife Management, and his books like Sand County Almanac, which came out in l949, have sold millions of copies worldwide. It is printed in at least 14 different countries.
TV and feature films aren’t cheap. In 1970, when the first Earth Day took place, PBS programs cost about $1,000 a minute. Today, a half-hour PBS show with national audience potential can begin at $400,000, and feature films can begin at several million to produce, but they can earn millions, too.
The Aldo Leopold Foundation in Baraboo, Wisc. is working with some people from mainstream media to develop and produce a feature film about the life of Aldo Leopold. One way to help is to send a donation to the Aldo Leopold Foundation. Your donation would be tax-deductible. If you send $100, you will get a copy of Aldo’s book; $200 for a copy of the film “Green Fire.” If you’re interested in investing to support the film, contact Buddy Huffaker, Aldo Leopold Foundation, President aldoleopold.org/.
(James Swan, Ph.D.is co-Executive Producer of “Wild Justice,” airing on the National Geographic Channel, and CEO of Snow Goose Productions (jamesswan.com/snowgoose/. He has frequently served as a judge in the ACI Awards Contest.)