“Bird hunting to me is a glue that binds the generations together,” a man in a plaid shirt and orange game vest says as he pets his German shorthaired pointer. The man continues, talking about hunting with his grandfather and that he now uses his grandfather’s Browning A5 shotgun in his upland pursuits.
The story is emotional – at one point the unnamed man chokes up – and one that a lot of sportsmen and women can relate to. It’s also a story the man hopes his grandchildren can share 40 years from now about hunting with him.
This is how one of Joe Biden’s newest campaign ads begins, aiming to appeal to a group of people who are largely Republicans. Already, there have been multiple members of the GOP endorse Biden, many coming in the last few days leading up to Election Day on Tuesday. Some of the biggest names that are supporting Biden are former Governors John Kasich (Ohio), Bill Weld (Mass.) and Rick Snyder (Mich.), former Secretary of State Colin Powell, former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Cindy and Meghan McCain. Others include former members of the Trump Administration – White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci, Assistant Director of Homeland Security Elizabeth Neumann and Vice President Mike Pence aide Olivia Troye – and many former GOP lawmakers, such as Jeff Flake, Bob Inglis, Jim Leach, Charlie Dent and Joe Walsh.
Cut to black. The sweet soundscape is interjected with a sharp punch of a piano and the scape takes on an ominous feeling.
“The grouse populations in Pennsylvania are down, roughly speaking, by about 50%,” the man says as video of a drumming grouse plays. “The decline of the ruffed grouse tells us that there are other species that are declining as well. The best estimate of their population’s range is that they’ll disappear from the lower-48 states in the next 50 to 60 years.”
Then music takes another, darker turn, and a familiar voice interjects.
“The Monongahela Forest is truly a working forest as most of our forests and the lands across the country have always been,” Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va) says in a clip pulled from a previous Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing. “The nation needs them. When managed for sustainable use they can support local economies, provide a stable domestic timber supply and conserve special areas for future generations to enjoy.”
The hunter comes back, citing West Nile Virus’ impact on ruffed grouse and states that the effects have been “accelerated” by climate change, but that also climate change is indirectly affecting the habitat. He’s likely referring to mosquito infiltration at higher elevations where grouse populations have hit a threshold – something noted by West Virginia biologists. As the climate warms and we have more rain in the spring, mosquitoes’ breeding cycles start earlier. Further, Pennsylvania biologist Lisa Williams used to think when warm, wet springs are followed by hot, dry summers the WNV-carrying mosquito flourished because of more stagnant water. She found out in 2018 that wasn’t always the case, as the summer was incredibly wet and in turn produced a record-level disease outbreak in grouse.
Creating early successional habitat is critical in helping grouse survive many stressors including WNV. It also boosts other species’ health like whitetail deer and black bear. Yet, without proper funding, all the work needed doesn’t get completed. This is where the ad goes after President Donald Trump.
The ad states that during his term, Trump has proposed to cut $278 million for forest management in national forests, citing the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service budget justification for fiscal years 2018-21. Although pulled from a government source, these numbers are backed up by a separate source, the Ecological Society of America’s federal budget tracker which breaks down USDA budgets by each department. All of the proposed and enacted changes to the USFS’ budget can be found here: https://www.esa.org/esablog/federal-budget-tracker/#usfs
The ad then cuts to a clip of Trump during his September wildfire briefing in California where he said the climate will “get cooler,” and once challenged on his statement that science doesn’t point to that happening said, “I don’t think science knows.”
But the increase in larger, more deadly wildfires is due in part to a changing climate. There are other factors, too, like shifts in vegetation – such as the invasion of annual grasses in the Great Basin region – and a lack of forest management that also play critical roles. Despite this, the Trump Administration has attempted to slash funding for wildfire management. In May 2019, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) pushed Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen on the department’s plans for wildfires after the Trump Administration’s proposed $948 million cut for fiscal year 2020.
The ad continues to point to proposed budget cuts from the same USDA budget justification – $326 million for state and private forest management – and goes after the president for ignoring science. As the ad begins to wind down, the hunter endorses Biden on the premise that he recognizes science’s central role in the decision-making process, and that he wants to be able to pass down the “legacy of hunting” to his children.
“As a hunter and a father, I’m voting for Joe Biden,” he said.
The full-length ad can be found below.