So, I wrote a letter to Jeep

So, I wrote a letter to Jeep. They ran an ad in the Super Bowl called The Road, that showed a Jeep running up the center of what looked like a stream. My eight year old son turned to me after it ran, and said “Dad, isn’t that really bad for the stream?”  

A few days after sending the letter, I had a very constructive call with the head of communications for Fiat-Chrysler. He explained that the “creek” was actually a flooded county road, and said that Jeep would make that clear on the internet where the ad now lives. He understood my concerns and said he would try to arrange a meeting for me with Jeep, a brand that promotes getting people into the outdoors—something we at Trout Unlimited support, too. 

Then the Associate Press picked up the story. I expected that TU members and supporters would back me up, and they did. What I did not expect was the backlash from some in the off-road vehicle community. I was accused of perpetuating the “over sensitivity that is ruining America today”; told that I am “part of what’s wrong with this world;” and cursed at. 

I received a few calls, too. One retired veteran called around 9pm frustrated by my letter. He said he longed for a previous era where people weren’t so sensitive, and that he didn’t defend the country for 20 years for a bunch of snowflakes. By the end of the call, he wanted to help out with TU’s Veterans Service Partnership

One heavy equipment contractor in California wrote me an unhappy note, and I called him the next day. He described how people who lived in the Sierra’s resented people from places such as San Francisco telling them how to use the lands they lived and loved. He is an off-roader, and a stream restoration specialist. I paid particular attention to what he said. 

Many people in America today, feel that they are losing control of their traditions, pasttimes, and passions to “urban elites” or “wealthy people from elsewhere.” The backlash against my letter to Jeep echoed and then magnified that sense of losing control. As anglers, we know this, too. How many places that we used to fish or hunt are now posted? The lack of access for fishing (and hunting) is the primary concern of sportsmen and women all around the country. In fact, TU has a group focused on gaining public access by working with land trusts and has invested countless hours fighting for access in state legislatures.

Then I spoke to Pam Harrington, who works for TU in Nevada and Idaho, and the light turned on. So much of our dialogue today is driven by the politics of division. The internet fuels the flames. Conversation and working together are out the window, and replaced by keyboard warriors.

But in the real world, people do work together. Pam sent me a video an off-roader driving up the center of Sinker Creek in Idaho. TU had worked for years with a variety of partners to restore the stream for Owyhee Redband trout, a rare trout species.

What happened next? Not one, but seven different local off-road vehicle clubs worked with Pam and others in Trout Unlimited to repair the damage and improve Sinker Creek. That is what America, and Trout Unlimited, are all about. Not angry rhetoric and flaming emails; we are defined by people coming together to protect and restore the places we live and love. 

I look forward to meeting with the people at Jeep. 

— Chris Wood

Comments

 
said on Sunday, February 18th, 2018

This is so very well stated, Chris. You make me proud to be a part of Trout Unlimited.

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said on Monday, February 19th, 2018

Thanks Linda!

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said on Sunday, February 18th, 2018

Chris:  Thanks for your stance on this.  I saw the Superbowl ad and thought the same thing.  I was not so concerned with old grizzled 4-wheelers like myself who have been stuck in a mud hole more times than I can count.  Most of us know you don't drive down a stream to be macho and just because you can.  What concerns me is the people just getting started with the 4-WD experience.  Having that kind of go-power at your disposal is a pretty heady experience; that's why it must be tempered with common sense about where you should and shouldn't go.  Again, thanks for being a great steward.

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said on Monday, February 19th, 2018

Thanks for your note, and for supporting TU!

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said on Wednesday, February 21st, 2018

I'm sorry Chris, but I disagree with your letter on two points:

First, Jeep is not showing that commercial as an endorsement of irresponsible behaviour; it does not take a lot of researching to find Jeep's longtime involvement with Thread Lightly.  I would have expected you to know this before you sat down to write your complaint to Jeep.

Second, Trout Unlimited is devoted to the conservation of fisheries (presumably so we can continue to exploit them for sport).  Since now-a-days Trout fishing is a hobby for the majority of folks (subsistance fishing has not been a thing in the U.S. for a long time), would it be out of place for some outraged group to write your organization an equally concerned letter about the wanton predation of wildlife for the sake of sport?

We live in a time when there is always someone waiting to see something he/she can be offended about; your letter to Jeep came accross as one written by that very type of folk. 

There are plenty of large corporations currently doing real harm to our streams and rivers RIGHT NOW, going after a Jeep commercial instead is simply petty and loses credibility that will be surely needed when you choose to out a Fracking or Strip mining company on your next public statement.

Maybe, choose your battles wisely?

Regards,

Juan H.

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said on Friday, February 23rd, 2018

Juan, 

You are right, Jeep did not show the commerical as an endorsement of irresponible behavior. It unintentionally did so.

The fact that Jeep is involved with Tread Lightly is irrelevent. It showed a commerical (unintentionally) promoting irresponsible off-roading behavior (during the Super Bowl) and a concerned individual who has been given an amplified voice as the director of a large conservation organziation reached out and politely let them know. There is nothing wrong with that, and I'm sure Chris Wood isn't devoting weeks of work pursuing some sort of overblown prosecution of Jeep.

Would it be out of place for some outraged group to write TU a letter about the wanton predation of wildlife for the sake of sport? I don't know, I don't have the details of this group's concerns to go over them and tell you whether their prespective is thought through or nonsense. But any group is free to do so and I bet TU would is open to addressing all reasonable concerns of any reasonable group. 

We defintely live in a time where many people are looking for reasons to be upset. Unnecessarily so. I totally agree. We also live in a time where there are basically are no truly wild places anymore. There are virtually no places on the planet free from the influence of people. We are stomping out biodiversity, we are killing species everyday that took millions of years to evolve, we are destroying ecosystems. On the Western Slope of Colorado where I live, irresponsible off road recreation is a big problem. People influenced by unthoughtful Super Bowl commericals flock here every summer from all over the US to do their thing and it doesn't appear that "tread lightly" is a phrase they've contemplated very hard. Using (or not using) their own legs and how that's impacting their own health is not something they've comtemplated very hard either. Everything is relative. One person's way of treading lightly in their Jeep Wrangler is another person's ecological nightmare. Usually the "more sensitive" of the two has put in a little more thought or better understands the finite, overly domesticated, and all too crowded world we live in. 

Thank you to Chris Wood for fighting the good fight. Or should I say, politely initiating the much needed conversation with Jeep. This is not a waste of his time. Jeep has direct influence on many people directly impacting our remaining (relatively) wild places and should fully understand the responsibility that comes with their position.

Sincerely,

Ben S.

Gunnison, CO

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said on Saturday, February 24th, 2018

Juan,

First, if Jeep really supports Tread Lightly, they would not have shot, muchless run the commercial.

Second, I do not personally know any TU members who "exploit" our natural resources.  They are a large part of why we have cleaner streams to fish in, walk beside, enjoy...

Lastly, I am glad that Chris Wood is, as you put it, "...that very type of folk."  

Division will continue to get us nowhere.

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said on Friday, February 23rd, 2018

Chris, as an owner of an IHC Scout since 1975, a member of a 4WD Club many of those years, and a TU member since 1981, I fully support your original letter and your follow up message. What is right is protection of our water, land, and air from irresponsible use. Both the 4wd club and TU in my experience have supported that goal. It is ashamed you have received some of the letters and calls. You are doing a great job in my opinion. Mutual cooperation is a positive atribute. Keep up the good fight!

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said on Friday, February 23rd, 2018

Well put!...  Having differences of opinion is just life.  I think that as a society we've become WAY to hyper sensitive. Seems it's more important these days to focus on our differences, than our common ground.  I appreciate that a dialoge with those on the "other side"  of the issue, was welcomed by you. 

I'm proud to be part of an organization that stands strong for what it believes in, yet also strives to build bridges, rather than fences...

Keep up the good work!

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said on Friday, February 23rd, 2018

I wrote to the Chysler CEO and asked for a donation.  I'm a Jeep owner and was offended first by the ad then by the comment "it was actually a flooded country road". 

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said on Friday, February 23rd, 2018

Chris,

Thank you for your letter to Jeep and the follow-up.  Here in Idaho, I am reminded daily by the motorized recreation community that they are a growing user-group that has a lot of support and followership. There is so much truth behind your statements about collaborating face-to-face with off-roaders, and it's exemplified in the work Pam's been doing for years.  As a trout angler that can't always see what's so great about the bone-jarring and deafness-inducing pass-time of zooming motorized vehicles around the natural landscape, I CAN appreciate that there are endless opportunites to engage my off-roading neighbors about the ways (and places) in which our respective values can co-exist without harm.  Thanks for your commitment to our great Nation's cold-water fisheries!

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said on Friday, February 23rd, 2018

Chris, welcome to this fight.

I am the owner-operator of a vehicle-supported wildland-travel service and author of dirt-road travel guidebooks (and the guy in Idaho who neither fishes nor hunts, yet believes in TU's work).

I have worked long and hard to modify behaviors and perceptions in the off-highway genre among users, manufacturers and those who often oppose mechanized wildland recreation.

It has been a decadeslong struggle to get SUV, ATV and motorcycle manufacturers to stop depicting -- and thereby promoting -- irresponsible behavior. Stream fords -- and responsibly crossing surface waters, where necessary -- is an important issue. Unfortunately, the least-impactful ways to do it do not make good visuals, or good marketing.

Jeep knows that. So any plea by Jeep that they just made a mistake is disingenuous. They know what they are doing, and their marketers are highly paid to do it. It was calculated messaging.

It is unfortunate that the terms "off-road" and "off-road community" even persist (Please don't use it, Chris). The better and more accurate terms are "off-pavement" and "off-highway."

Yet decades after so many embraced that semantic change, "off-road" persists. Unfortunately, many still take "off-road" literally, and will indeed travel off-road. That realization compelled me decades ago to change the title of my first guidebook from "Idaho Off-road" to "Idaho Byways."

It is even more unfortunate that the substantial progress that Jeep enthusiasts have made in promoting responsible wildland behavior is undermined by such advertising. Jeep clubs and most Jeep owners are today models of appropriate motorized behavior. I work with them, and would not do so if they were not.

A reality is that users of motorized, off-road-capable vehicles too often will emulate the behavior they see in advertising, and on Instagram, Facebook and etc. Jeep, Toyota, Polaris, KTM ... each of them wields influence over how their customers use their machines. Yet too often they disclaim responsbility. So, Chris, your response and outreach to Jeep is important. We should all be grateful for it. At the least, Jeep is reminded once again that we are watching ...

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said on Friday, February 23rd, 2018

Byways, 

Just FYI, Jeep currently embraces the term "off-road" all over their website. If the off pavement community is upset by this and wants the use of this phrase to stop, they should let Jeep know. 

Best,

Ben

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said on Saturday, February 24th, 2018

It's nice to see that you, on the other side of the coin, have concerns about the health of our environment.  We are not as different in our ethics as I once thougth we were.  Thank you for all that you do for the conservation of what both sides of the coin love.  Maybe the "coin" has no "sides?"  

Unity, not division, is what you, and Chris Wood represent.

Thank you.

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said on Friday, February 23rd, 2018

Chris, thanks for your letter. When I first read it a few weeks ago I had said the same thing when I saw this ad watching the Super Bowl. Not like this is the first time or the only company that does this. I mentioned to friends watching with me that it really ticks me off when I see companies "promoting" tearing up the countryside with their vehicle ads. I don't care if it was staged or not (I doubt it), it PROMOTES IRRESPONSIBLE USE, which is not what we as sportsmen aspouse to. Thanks and I even posted the news article about your letter on my Twit acct.

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said on Friday, February 23rd, 2018

Excellent work, Chris! Keeping a positive dialogue during these divisive times is essential so that the places that support trout don't get caught in the crossfire. 

Thanks again!

--Matt H. 

New England

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said on Friday, February 23rd, 2018

Spot on, Chris, and super diplomatic! The phrase of our time is "... we need to have a conversation on...", all to often followed by emotional shouting, denigrating slurs and little logic, shutting down the conversation. Trying to hang on to our vanishing wilderness and streams is a noble effort, especially when approached the way you did. 

Thanks!

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said on Friday, February 23rd, 2018

Chris, 

Thank you for your activism, and keeping the conversation moving forward.  Your vignettes helped strengthen my belief in the larger community, in particular the off-highway groups that helped repair damage done by one of their less responsible members.
Please keep up the good work! 

Paul  

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said on Friday, February 23rd, 2018

Snowflake,  tell your son it's just a commercial and no one really does this. 

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said on Friday, February 23rd, 2018

Snowflake,  tell your son it's just a commercial and no one really does this. 

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said on Friday, February 23rd, 2018

Snowflake,  tell your son it's just a commercial and no one really does this. 

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said on Friday, February 23rd, 2018

Chris, I thank you.  Great representation of the base.

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said on Friday, February 23rd, 2018

Yeah, you guys say you want to work with the OHV community... Remember when you kicked and stomped your feet, threatened to sue, and got Tellico OHV area shut down? Costing the local economy over 4 million a year, and forcing local tourism businesses out, because of one stream? I do. #neverforgivenforclosingtellico

Most of the closures you “activists” have forced, you’re just closing the forest for your own selfish desires. You talk about “maybe you should try using your legs”.. your insensitivity shocks me. What about disabled people? Disabled veterans? Because they can’t hike, we should have no access to the forest? My knee was crushed in a car accident, so I see the forest through the windshield of a Jeep- at least for now. At the rate you’re closing things, nobody will be able to enjoy the forest. Get off of your high horses. Share the land. 

 

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said on Friday, February 23rd, 2018

Chris;

I'm a veteran and a patriot and I concur with all that you said. It is hard to hear a voice with all of the noise being generated. Common sense doesn't seem to be that common anymore. Just as you noticed, it is hard to say anything without someone deriding what was said, most often without considering the whole of the statement. My prayer is that civility and generosity might return and your letter went a long ways toward being generous. There is more than enough to share if we quit clenching our fists at each other and demanding what we feel entitled to. Thank you

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said on Friday, February 23rd, 2018

Thank you for your service.  

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said on Friday, February 23rd, 2018

Thanks, Chris. This is why I joined and stay a member of TU.

Yesterday was my 60th birthday. I took the day off and today and had planned to go ice fishing. I wanted to spend the day doing something I loved, and something that brought me back to the old days. The warm weather and rain changed that, so I went bunny hunting instead.

I'm neither an "urban elite" nor a "wealthy people from elsewhere." Today I went to an 11,000 acre state game area a half hour so from home. I'm not a landowner, so I rely on public lands. I hadn't been to this particular area in a long time. 

It was pretty disappointing. About every hundred yards or so I crossed an ATV trail.  Totally unnecessary. I guess the days are passing (passed?) when you can walk through unspoiled state and national land.

Oversensitve?? What does that mean, anyway? Does that mean if you care, you're a snowflake? Does that mean it's better to be insensensitive? To NOT care? To ignore something that's wrong and just walk away? To just do whatever I want regardless of any consequences of my behavior or the effect it may have on others or the environment or the future? 

Sorry, I wasn't raised that way. Keep it up Chris.

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said on Saturday, February 24th, 2018

You're on the right track Chris. You restarted or continued a dialogue. I wouldn't want to ruin an outdoor experience for anyone, including people who off road. I'm not oversensitive, but I don't understand how potentially trashing a stream or river makes any sense. It basically comes down to RESPECT! Which by the way much of this country lacks in so many areas. Its what society has grown into. A "ME" society instaed of a "WE" society.

Everyone just needs to use common sense which is less used today than ever before.

You're doing a great job. Keep it up! 

 

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said on Saturday, February 24th, 2018

Chris,

Thank you for taking action.  When my family saw the Jeep commercial during the Super Bowl, we were concerned as well. Your actions after your letter are the type that will start to unite us, as there is just too much division... 

Thank you for all that you do at TU.

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said on Saturday, February 24th, 2018

Chris,

Thank you for your thoughtfulness, your openness and your dedication.  At the end of the day, people across the social / political spectrum have a larger set of overlapping values then they realize. When conflict arises we need raise objections respectfully and find out what we have in common to see if we can come to a constructive path forward before we begin name calling and stereotyping.  Americans have largely forgotten how to do this.  Your example gives me hope that all is not yet lost.

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said on Saturday, February 24th, 2018

To Chris: Bravo! 

To those who criticized Chris for not going hardcore. Stop and think how ineffective and inflamatory your approach is. You know... stop... think!

To those who yell “Snowflake”, remember that a whole bunch of snowflakes form an iceberg when frozen together. Icebergs sink really large ships.

To All: Make your points constructively, not just because you want to add up points.  No one wants to listen to trolls.

There are good solutions, lets find them. Thanks for listening!

 

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said on Sunday, February 25th, 2018

A soft. but firm, answer turned away wrath, and acquired a new member.

Well done, Chris

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said on Sunday, February 25th, 2018

When I saw the ad, I immediately felt the same way.  Your position is well stated and does an excellent job of bridging the divide as opposed to widening the division.  As a new member, I'm proud to be part of this organization.  Maybe TU can educate the "other side" so that they better understand the damage that is done by the action in this ad. 

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said on Monday, February 26th, 2018

THANK YOU for the letter!  I didn't see the Super Bowl commercial, but there was a Jeep "Presidents Day" commercial shown repeatedly during the Olympics that featured driving through creeks.  As the conservation chair of a local nature organization, an Operation Clean Stream team leader AND a Jeep Wrangler owner, I was disgusted.  I am so grateful to TU for that letter.  It DOES matter.  Here in our state there have been terrible problems with people joy-riding ATVs through creeks and rivers.  If a continuing campaign is needed, please consider teaming up with some of the other national nature orgs.  I'm sure they'd be interested in helping protect the health of our nation's waterways.  I know I am.  Again......THANK YOU!  

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said on Sunday, March 4th, 2018

Chris keep doing what you are doing. I for one am PROUD to call you my leader and the leader of Trout Unlimited. If you or Trout Unlimited doesn't speak out in instances as this, what the heck is our purpose? THANK YOU!

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said on Wednesday, March 7th, 2018

Good job on this. Regardless of the "facts" presented from other sides, the perception is certainly not good. We owe it to resppnsbile organizations to let them know when they have mis-stepped. They can't correct what they don't know. 

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