Friday, August 30, 2013

Assessing The DNR's Choices

A recent DNR publication shows a smiling DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp in a color photograph on page three cuddling a very cute little bear cub.

Stepp is Gov. Scott Walker's selection to lead the agency.

The photo does not reproduce, though here it is with a quote from Stepp that holding the cub was one of the top five experiences of her life.

That the agency promoted that image on the eve of the Wisconsin hunting season - - a state-managed affair that includes selling cheap permits (as little as $5) to bait, spook with dogs, and shoot bears in one of the largest kills in the country (details here) - - indicates something of a public relations disconnect.

At a minimum, call the Stepp photo evidence of an empathy or consistency deficit of some kind.

The same conflicted message is on the DNR's bear hunt information webpage:

The black bear is viewed as both a symbol of Wisconsin's wildness and as choice prey. Seeing a black bear in the wild is an exciting experience for many and an equal thrill for those who prize the black bear as a big game species. 
Choice prey or exciting visual experience? What's the DNR pushing?

Since there's big licensing money and well-connected lobbying involved, I think it's pretty clear that the DNR is pumping up the hunting option, though only a small fraction of the state population participates in bear hunting.

I noticed the same dynamic when the DNR sent around a picture of a smiling Stepp with her first deer kill.

Again, this deer kill image wasn't produced by animal rights' activists or anti-Walker administration paparazzi.

This is official staff work creating an agency image, and persona for Stepp, of her choosing.
Wisconsin DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp proudly shows off her first deer, taken opening weekend last year. In the upcoming TV Special "Deer Hunt Wisconsin 2012, Stepp urges male hunters to take more girls and women hunting. "The secret's out," she says. "Hunting is a lot of fun, so don't keep it to yourselves."  photo courtesy of Wisconsin DNR
Why would the agency want to show Stepp in the presence of another small animal - - a bear cub in line this fall or next to be killed?

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