‘Sportsmen’ beware

Why is the oil and gas industry manipulating certain voters?

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tell Chris Castilian about having recently gone elk hunting in the mountains of Northern Colorado, saying that although I hunted hard and walked many miles, I didn’t get an elk. The snows didn’t come this year to push the elk down into the area where my family traditionally hunts. Castilian replies that although he isn’t a hunter, he plans to go through a program soon, “and hopefully become one of you — a sportsman — at some point.” Normally, his choice of the word “sportsman,” instead of hunter, would have struck me as odd, but considering his background and connections to the oil and gas industry, I understand exactly what he means.

In the world of oil and gas in Colorado, there is no single group of citizens more important to the industry’s ability to continue its fracking and energy extraction on public lands or in close proximity to homes, schools and neighborhoods than the people the industry refers to simply as “sportsmen.” And there is a good reason these folks who enjoy the great outdoors garner such attention.

In 2017, Colorado College conducted its Conservation in the West poll, which found over one third (38 percent) of Coloradans — as well as an overall total of 41 percent of Western voters from Arizona, Colorado, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming — identify as a hunter or angler (sportsmen in oil industry vernacular). And of this group, 75 percent of hunters and 78 percent of anglers consider themselves to be conservationists having strong feelings about public lands; strong feelings such as they don’t want to see public lands, fish and wildlife destroyed by anything, including oil and gas extraction.

According to the research, over half of all “sportsmen” oppose allowing energy extraction on public lands. A full 56 percent oppose oil and gas extraction while 53 percent are averse to allowing coal to be mined on public lands. The poll also found sportsmen oppose giving states control over federal public lands and support keeping national monuments in place. All bad news for an oil and gas industry that needs the ability to exploit public lands in order to propagate its massive shale plays.

More importantly, sportsmen tend to vote. And that’s why they pose such a threat to the oil and gas industry and why they have become the principle target for the industry’s sophisticated political manipulation techniques.

So it was no surprise when Castilian — one of the progenitors of Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development (CRED) while working at Anadarko Petroleum — used the somewhat awkward term “sportsmen” when referring to hunting.

CRED is a nonprofit legally organized solely for educational purposes. Its idea of education is to inform the public about the “benefits of responsible energy development and fracking.” While the name is intended to infer an organization born of and backed by citizens of Colorado, in reality, CRED was created and bankrolled by multinational corporations Anadarko Petroleum and Noble Energy, which launched it in response to the proliferation of anti-fracking groups that successfully pushed fracking bans and moratoriums in Colorado in 2012 and 2013.

Despite its claimed education-only mandate, CRED often appears to be a bit more politically motivated than that. It disseminates geographically and psychographically targeted pro-fracking propaganda via digital advertisements, TV commercials, mailed flyers and even verbal delivery via 1,500 trained oil industry employees using a special mobile application and customer service software program.  All this effort is to reach specific voters with targeted pro-oil-and-gas messaging, particularly sportsmen and veterans, whose political clout may well represent the swing votes that ultimately decide who wins or loses any future election concerning the regulation of oil and gas drilling in Colorado. Think setback initiatives or community control measures on the ballot.

Also raising red flags regarding CRED’s “education only” claim is its admittedly close working relationships with other groups whose stated purposes and motivations seem entirely political. A good example is the oil and gas industry front group Protecting Colorado’s Environment, Economy, and Energy Independence (Protect Colorado), which was formed specifically to fight against any citizen initiative that could hinder oil and gas industry profits. Among its activities are pushing industry-spawned initiatives that make it harder for citizens to get measures on the ballot along with other political activity like directing campaign contributions to pro-oil candidates, even at the city council level.

The digital ad above was targeted specifically at “sportsmen” by Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development (CRED). Not everyone agrees that its claims are accurate.

CRED’s own director of operations and coalitions, Mark Truax, has referred to Protect Colorado as, “kinda the political arm we work with.” And it’s a very short arm. Castilian was overseeing the combined $70 million-plus budgets of both CRED and Protect Colorado as part of his employment with Anadarko.

If Protect Colorado is “kinda the political arm,” then another industry front group, Vital for Colorado (Vital), must be CRED’s other political arm, making it possible to put the squeeze on critics of oil and gas in a litany of ways.

Once again, by its own admission, CRED staff has been recorded admitting it uses Vital for political purposes, something akin to a political rapid response team for the purpose of directly manipulating local election outcomes in the industry’s favor. Truax told an industry gathering in 2015 that Vital has been responsible for turning the election tide in the industry’s favor during key votes in several Front Range communities. He also told his audience that Vital had been “put together” by CRED.

“Put together?” Considering such self-admitted political cross contamination, it is surprising that CRED’s status as an “education only” nonprofit has yet to be challenged by its critics.

As seen in the imagery and words on everything from its logo to its Facebook ads to its website, CRED’s “educational” purpose from its inception appears to have been to persuade and manipulate sportsmen and veterans into believing that drilling for oil and gas on public lands and near homes and schools is a matter of vital national security as well as a good way to fund and protect the public lands and wildlife critical to preserving Colorado’s hunting and fishing legacy for future generations. These would be noble causes indeed, if only they were true.

In reality, the oil and gas industry is busy exporting both oil and gas even as the imports continue to flow in. And as for oil and gas extraction on public lands somehow enhancing the legacy of hunting and fishing on those lands, the research is clear that nothing could be further from the truth. From declining deer populations to the rapid spiral toward extinction of the sage grouse, loss of habitat to oil and gas operations along with spills and other contamination is having a devastating impact on fisheries and wildlife.

This conflict between reality and the message the oil industry needs to convey to accomplish its political goals helps explain why CRED’s sportsmen-/veteran-targeted advertisements alternate between scenes of unspoiled wilderness and patriotic enthusiasm for oil extraction. To many observers, it’s a rather transparent attempt to engineer consent from sportsmen and veterans, consent that will enable the industry to continue its cumulative and massive negative impacts on public lands and wildlife while also justifying its continued operations dangerously close to occupied structures.

The messaging is designed to neutralize these two groups of important voters whose long-standing political opposition to such activity is a tremendous threat to the industry, particularly when it comes to voting on citizen initiatives designed to protect Coloradans against the harms of oil and gas extraction.

It seems a stretch to consider CRED’s psychographically targeted advertising to be some strange form of education, but whatever it is, it seems squarely aimed at altering the results at the ballot box.

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As illustrated by this screenshot of CRED’s home page, veterans and sportsmen seem to be the two groups most important to the oil and gas industry’s pro-fracking messaging.

The best way to understand the oil and gas industry’s attempts to manipulate certain voters and control election outcomes in Colorado is to explore the crowded intersection where the oil and gas industry, sportsmen, CRED and Castilian, along with PacWest Communications, one of the industry’s most effective PR firms.

A window into the industry’s evolving game plan

Following the career of Chris Castilian is like tracking big game through a forest. The signs are all there to tell you where the oil and gas industry is going, provided you know how to read them.

Castilian has been at the center of Colorado’s oil and gas industry for more than two decades, particularly as it relates to land use, public lands, sportsmen and the dissemination of industry propaganda.

Here’s a quick trip down memory lane compliments of Castilian’s resumé:

Rocky Mountain Oil and Gas Association – Denver, Colorado

Associate Director, Colorado Division – 1995-97

Colorado Counties, Inc. – Denver, Colorado

Director of Legislative Affairs – October 1998 – November 2001

Lobbied state and federal government on issues including land use, public lands, agricultural and natural resources.

Colorado State Board of Land Commissioners – Denver, Colorado

Director — November ’ 01 – September ’03

Managed three million acres of surface and four million acres of minerals through commercial, agricultural and mineral leases.

Governor Bill Owens – Denver, Colorado

Deputy Chief of Staff – September’ 03 – January ’06

Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck – Denver, Colorado

Of Counsel – January ’06 – August ’07

Practice areas included government relations and public policy; advised clients on natural resources, land use. Clients included Shell Oil; EnCana Oil & Gas USA; Freeport-McMoran; Cabela’s; and others.

Anadarko Petroleum Corporation (APC) – Denver, Colorado

Rockies Government Relations Manager – August ’07 – January ’15

Director, Strategy & Engagement – January ’15 – October ’16

Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO)

Executive Director – March 2017 to present

Oversees investments of a portion of Colorado Lottery proceeds to help preserve and enhance the state’s parks, trails, wildlife, rivers and open spaces, independently, and on behalf of CPW.

Among other things during his years at Anadarko, Castilian was in charge of the company’s “Advocate/Ambassador” program, which trained and deployed some 1,500 Anadarko employees to spread positive information about fracking. Of this, Castilian says it is, “one of the things he’s most proud of.” He also served as President and Chairman of the Management Committee for CRED with a $50 million-plus budget and served as Chairman of the Management Committee for Protect Colorado with a $20 million-plus budget for the purpose of “defeat[ing] any anti-oil and gas ballot measures.” He was in charge of Anadarko’s legislative strategy in Colorado, Wyoming and Utah, which included “pass[ing] legislation such as Clean Air Clean Jobs Act;” engaging with trade associations and other stakeholders to pass/amend/defeat numerous bills each year; managing political budgets including PAC, corporate, campaigns, etc.; and lastly, he managed Anadarko’s engagement with regulatory agencies including “COGCC, CDPHE, WOGCC, BLM, UDOGM, etc.”

He helped orchestrate the 2014 fiasco known as the great compromise wherein Congressman Jared Polis inexplicably pulled back the signatures of more than a quarter million Coloradans, preventing the citizens from being able to vote on increased setbacks and community control over oil and gas extraction in their neighborhoods. 

Simultaneous to his employment at Anadarko, Castilian was also appointed to the Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation (DPOR) board of directors in May 2011. In June 2011, DPOR merged with the Division of Wildlife to become Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Castilian remained on the CPW commission, until resigning to work for GOCO in March 2017.

In 2007, Castilian lobbied on behalf of oil and gas companies, including Encana Oil and Gas, which at the time had significant holdings in the Piceance Basin, regarding regulations meant to protect wildlife, including mule deer and sage grouse, from the cumulative impacts of oil and gas extraction.

It is also of note that while at CRED, Castilian laid some of the “groundwork policy” for Colorado Amendment 71, which passed in 2016, making it far more difficult for citizens to amend the Colorado Constitution via the initiative process. The bill was viewed as a way to halt setback measures and other restrictions on fracking and oil and gas extraction near homes, schools, hospitals, water supplies, etc. Amendment 71 was largely driven by the oil and gas industry, but was also supported by the health care industry, which is trying to protect its profits from any additional citizen-initiated attempts to put a single payer system on the ballot in Colorado. Since its passage, key components of Amendment 71 have been struck down due to its conflict with the state’s constitution.

It seems more than coincidence that the arc of Castilian’s career from the mid ’90s to today has consistently found him in a position to be one of the most influential people in the state when it comes to the oil and gas industry’s relationship to public lands, its response to citizen ballot initiatives, and the unprecedented effort to change the way sportsmen think of oil and gas extraction.

Considering his apparent calling, it was only a matter of time before Castilian would find himself working alongside PacWest Communications.

Psychographically targeted ads, such as this one, helped Cambridge Analytica drive voters to Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential election.

Enter PacWest

You could say that PacWest Communications is the brains behind CRED’s sportsmen/veteran persuasion efforts. If not the brains they are at least the entity in charge of amassing the data, creating the messaging and delivering it to the targeted demographics. The company describes itself as a communications company that “develops comprehensive solutions to the political and public relations challenges our clients face.”

When it comes to the oil and gas industry in Colorado, sportsmen are indeed the political and public relations challenge.

PacWest has collected data on millions of Colorado residents for the purpose of psychograpically targeting them with specific pro-fracking messages. In 2015, Truax told an audience of industry insiders that PacWest/CRED has “scored 3.9 million Colorado voters in our databases, on their opinion of fracking. Everything we do then gets fed back in to this database so that we can use it at a later time.” What isn’t clear is exactly where all this data came from.

As previously reported in BW, the oil and gas industry largely funded the Republican-affiliated organizations who paid controversial data company Cambridge Analytica (CA) to use the data it has been accused of illegally gleaning from Facebook users to help several Republican candidates win their races in the Colorado State Senate during the 2014-15 election cycle. Within months of CA’s intrusion into Colorado politics, PacWest, on behalf of the same oil and gas companies whose money found its way to CA, was suddenly using its own massive statewide database. This is not to say that PacWest did anything questionable in acquiring its data or that it derived any of its data from CA. It could simply have purchased its data from Facebook or collected it in myriad other ways. But the timing seems worth noting as the same oil and gas clients were helping to fund the data use of both CA and PacWest in Colorado.

PacWest has worked for years nationally at the same intersection of fossil-fuel extraction on public lands and sportsmen that Castilian occupies in Colorado.

According to a 2014 report by the Center for American Progress, as part of a major effort since 2008 to bolster its lobbying and political power, the oil and gas industry has steadily expanded its contributions and influence over several conservative sportsmen organizations, including Safari Club International, the National Rifle Association and the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation.

“The oil and gas industry’s investments in sportsmen groups such as SCI, the NRA and CSF are, by all appearances, reaping significant benefits for industry at the expense of wildlife and our public lands,” according to the report, which focuses specifically on PacWest.

While working for PacWest, Melissa Simpson — who now works in the Trump administration — did work for the Independent Petroleum Association of the Mountain States (IPAMS), now known as the Western Energy Alliance. Her work for IPAMS included countering protests sportsmen’s groups filed on proposed oil and gas extraction that could damage wildlife habitat on public lands. And according to an IPAMS document, her work “serve[d] as a tool to address wildlife protests from the Teddy Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, and other sportsmen’s groups.”

This work dictated Simpson lobby on behalf of the oil and gas industry at Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies meetings, as well as create “opportunities for partnerships” that would lead to opportunities for the oil and gas industry as well as wildlife habitat for sportsmen.

Simpson later worked for Safari Club International as its director of government affairs and “science-based conservation” before joining the Trump campaign in Colorado and later, the Trump Administration.

Simpson’s path illustrates that PacWest’s approach to the oil and gas industry and its efforts to influence sportsmen and the agencies that serve them was in place even before CRED was created to accomplish nearly identical goals in Colorado. That’s to say, neutralize any opposition to oil and gas extraction on public lands. And since 2013, PacWest has worked on behalf of CRED, and appears to have brought its previous game plan to the state.

Just a month after CRED was launched on Sept. 5, 2013, it posted one of its first Facebook ads. The ad featured a fly fisherman with a fish on the line in a pristine alpine lake. “We’re Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development,” the ad proclaimed. Sportsmen were clearly the target right out of the gate.

More such ads followed. The themes were always the same. One showed an upland bird hunter. The accompanying text read, “Colorado sportsmen support fracking.” The ad further claimed that in 2014, oil and gas severance taxes went to “wildlife and environmental conservation.” Another ad featured Olympic target shooter Cory Cogdell-Unrein, who is currently sponsored by Cabela’s, for which Castilian once lobbied. The Cogdell-Unrein ad again highlighted oil and gas contributions to Colorado’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) via severance taxes in 2014.

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The myth of energy independence is being exploited by the industry in an attempt to use patriotism to persuade sportsmen and veterans to vote against their own interests out of a misguided sense of duty. The U.S. is actually exporting oil and gas even as it imports oil.

The CRED/PacWest attempt to manipulate sportsmen had begun in earnest. What was missing from all of the ads was the fact that the vast majority of all severance taxes going into the DNR were actually used to support the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), the governmental entity charged with both promoting oil and gas development and regulating the industry. The amount of money actually supporting wildlife and public lands was relatively minuscule. In recent years, court rulings allowing infrastructure write-offs for the industry have nearly wiped out all the severance taxes the industry has to pay the state leaving the DNR robbing the state’s general fund just to cover the cost of regulating the industry. Last year it actually cost taxpayers $6 million for the privilege of allowing the oil and gas industry to damage our lands, water and air in Colorado. 

Examining the messages

On April 15, 2015, Castilian gave a presentation at the Energy and Environment Symposium in Rifle, Colorado, a city on the Western Slope in the middle of one of the nation’s largest natural gas shale plays and largest mule deer herds. Castilian told his audience the industry felt like it needed to create CRED to protect their “asset” in Colorado, “but we’re trying to talk to voters,” he said. Castilian also noted that CRED is the oil and gas industry’s effort to deal with political threats, saying, “We felt like if we didn’t have this conversation and change the way they thought about this, then we’re going to see these things (ballot initiatives) every two years.”

Castilian also told the audience that CRED polling had revealed that oil and gas industry employees were found to be the best messengers to deliver CRED’s pro-fracking message. This explains why Anadarko created a training program and mobile application for its employees to use in their efforts to persuade the public that fracking is safe. Eventually, under Castilian’s watch, the oil company would unleash 1,500 employees as the industry’s ambassadors to fracking. Castilian tells BW these industry-employed ambassadors are everywhere. “They’ve been all over the Western Slope. They’ve been all over Colorado,” he says.

Shortly after Castilian’s presentation in Rifle, Mark Truax, then vice president at PacWest and director of operations and coalitions for CRED, gave two presentations regarding what PacWest does for CRED. The presentations were part of the Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife’s 2015 Partners in the Outdoors Conference in Keystone, Colorado. Sponsors for this conference that brings together sportsmen and groups that advocate for sportsmen included the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, CRED co-founder/funder Noble Energy, and PacWest. CPW partners attending the conference included the Congressional Sportsmen Foundation, higher education recreation representatives, land trust organizations, town planners, county open space leaders, environmental educators, National Parks Service representatives, etc. — basically, leaders with credibility in their outdoor-related sectors.

According to a networking tool produced for the conference, PacWest was looking to build transactional partnerships with the sportsmen groups in attendance. For his part, Truax offered his new potential partners help with things including fiscal management (assisting in budget planning, fundraising planning), data resources (collection/analysis), and outreach to specific populations by way of social media, advocacy and marketing.

Truax was very straightforward about what he wanted from his new partners in return. He wanted help getting his oil and gas messaging out to the specific sportsmen subgroups his new partners had access to via their advocacy outreach, marketing and social media platforms. Thus his quid pro quo appears an attempt to ascertain demographic information on sportsmen and sportsmen-related groups, along with their de facto consent and social media outreach, in exchange for assisting the sportsmen groups with their fundraising efforts and data collection and analysis.

Truax’s first-day presentation used PacWest’s pro-fracking work for CRED as an example of using technology and marketing to accomplish goals. “Data and information is everything,” he told the audience.

Later that same year, Truax gave another presentation at the Interstate Oil and Gas Conference in Oklahoma at the end of September 2015. A transcript of a recording made of his presentation there was given to Boulder Weekly (see “Behind Closed Doors,” July 26, 2016). In this presentation to industry insiders, Truax specifically details the efforts of CRED to persuade sportsmen with their psychographically targeted ads. He told his audience, “how do we talk to hunters and anglers, there is a lot of movement that we have — so we are really making sure we have the right message for the right folks. Same with our digital ads, here are a couple of examples of our digital ads… the one in the back there — really focuses on hunters and anglers. And there are hundreds of thousands of folks in Colorado that either have a hunting license or a fishing license and they turn out to vote… So when you tell them in Colorado $82 million in severance tax went to Commissioner Lapore’s [then COGCC director] boss Mike King, and the Department of Natural Resources and go into wildlife restoration and habitat restoration, maybe the oil and gas industry isn’t so bad. We’ve got to walk them to that edge and explain to them why that actually matters, and why this matters to us.”

This is a perfect example of the manipulating messages being force-fed to sportsmen. As noted earlier, the vast majority of the $82 million going into the DNR actually goes to fund the COGCC to promote and regulate the oil and gas industry in Colorado. Of course sportsmen would be excited if $82 million was going to the DNR to support the cause of wildlife and habitat restoration, but that simply is a false message.

The ad aimed at sportsmen Truax is referring to in the quote above is known as the sportsmen-direct ad. It was first posted on Facebook Dec. 12, 2013. It appears as text overlaying an image of a man with a hunting rifle dressed in camouflage wearing a camouflage backpack standing next to a child, also camouflage-clad. They are overlooking a mountain valley, which is well-known elk hunting habitat. The header text above the image reads, “FRACKING,” and beneath, “helps protect Colorado’s heritage.” The use of the word “heritage” appears an attempt at evoking a sportsman ethos — one of pride in passing the love of hunting from one generation to the next. In this ad, fracking is framed as a defender of sportsmen values. The ad further reads, “last year the oil and gas industry contributed $81.5 million in severance tax revenue to the Department of Natural Resources.”

In reality, the wildlife aspect of CPW only received 2 percent of its funding from severance taxes between fiscal years 2010-2015, during this same period, it received 62 percent of its wildlife funding from license sales. Thus CPW generates far more revenue from hunting and fishing license sales, which are both dependent on healthy habitats and fish and wildlife populations, than it receives from oil and gas severance taxes, which have declined significantly in recent years.

Of all the revenue generated by license sales, resident elk hunting licenses comprise the lion’s share, making up nearly half of all hunting licenses sold by CPW. So perhaps it’s not a coincidence CRED’s logo prominently features a “trophy” bull elk.

It seems when it comes to public lands and sportsmen’s interests, the oil and gas industry is all hat and no cattle.

Targeting vets

As mentioned earlier, sportsmen aren’t the only group CRED has its sights on, as evidenced by its website, CRED also targets veterans. Before recently changing its website, sportsmen and veterans were the only two groups CRED specifically featured on its site, which raises the question, why would pro-fracking CRED, in the context of Colorado, target primarily sportsmen and veterans?

The answer to this question can also be found in the previously referenced Colorado College Conservation in the West poll in which 41 percent of all survey respondents, including sportsmen, cite dependence on foreign oil and gas as an extremely or very serious problem. And that, according to the poll, “may explain why voters try to seek a middle ground regarding drilling on public lands.”

In other words, the cumulative impacts of the oil and gas industry on public lands and wildlife in the U.S. are perceived to be necessary consequences in order to prevent Americans from dying in U.S. military interventions resulting from our perceived dependence on foreign oil. This patriotism-induced acceptance of public land destruction is critical to the industry because the majority of all those polled by Colorado College oppose coal (63 percent) and oil and gas extraction (62 percent) on public lands.

CRED understands this perception well, which explains its dual targeting of sportsmen and veterans using messaging that frames oil and gas drilling on public lands as the price that must be paid in order to obtain energy independence and thereby avoid future overseas military conflicts.

Colorado isn’t the first place PacWest has specifically targeted public lands users deploying the myth of energy independence. In 2006, it received a $3 million contract from the state of Alaska to reportedly press Congress to open up the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge for oil and gas drilling. PacWest reportedly used nearly half the money to set up a front group called, “Americans for American Energy.” According to a 2007 Anchorage Daily News report, PacWest’s advertising equated drilling on American soil with national security.

But according to an article by Jordan Weissmann on the myth of energy independence in The Atlantic, “American energy independence makes for great political rhetoric. And not much else.” The article describes how the term “energy independence” dates to the Nixon administration where it was coined during the dark days of the 1973 Arab oil embargo. Nixon publicly vowed to wean the United States off foreign energy sources by the end of the decade, “an initiative he dubbed ‘Project Independence.’” And while things didn’t quite pan out the way he imagined, “the dream he conjured has lived on with presidents from both parties ever since.” And not only presidents it appears, but also public relations companies like PacWest and industry propaganda arms like CRED that continue to fuel and exploit the “energy independence” myth.

There is a reason why drilling rigs are so often adorned by giant American flags or even sport red, white and blue paint jobs, which has nothing to do with love of country but rather love of money. After all, what better way to neutralize opposition to fracking and drilling on public lands or in dangerously close proximity to homes or schools than by calling it “un-American”?

And there’s another downside to exploiting patriotism to manipulate voter behavior. In their 2014 article in The World Financial Review, international affairs professors Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett wrote, “the notion of energy independence is a myth, and a dangerous one. It is a myth because it ignores the realities of today’s international oil and gas markets; it is dangerous because it conditions ill-advised foreign policy choices.”

At this point in time, the more oil and gas the U.S. produces, the more oil and gas it will likely export. Despite this reality, CRED and PacWest have deployed their flag-waving, energy-independence propaganda at sportsmen and veterans, two demographic groups whose shared views on gun-owner rights, patriotism and the idea of passing their love of hunting and fishing to their children makes them very vulnerable to the industry’s persuasion techniques.

The real message

According to the best available science, the oil and gas industry’s operations on our public lands and near our homes is having devastating effects on wildlife populations and human health respectively. The idea that we can balance healthy public lands and wildlife with the cumulative negative impacts of oil and gas extraction with its roads, noise, construction operations and pollution is just another industry-spun myth (see BW’s Off Target series).

As is the idea that we can balance oil and gas extraction operations with public safety or trust that the oil and gas industry will even take the necessary steps to try and keep the public safe.

Case in point. In recent days, in response to a final report on Anadarko’s role in the Firestone home explosion that killed two men and seriously injured a woman, it has been alleged —by Castilian himself — that Anadarko, since 2012, has failed to spend the money necessary to remediate oil and gas wells it knew to be safety hazards. If true — and Castilian should know —this failure occurred at the same time Anadarko, Noble and their industry peers were spending tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars via CRED, Protect Colorado and other pathways of influence in their effort to persuade the public of their commitment to “responsible energy development,” which now appears to be perhaps the biggest myth of all.

In light of Castilian’s allegations, not only was Anadarko’s money being spent on manipulating sportsmen and veterans instead of fixing its dangerous wells, it means that some of Anadarko’s unsafe wells may still be out there threatening Front Range communities. And we all know the death tolls from the explosions in Firestone, Mead and elsewhere in recent months.

What if they don’t bite?

So what happens if sportsmen and veterans realize that they have been targeted by a sophisticated effort to make them vote a certain way on issues pertaining to oil and gas extraction and fracking — a way that is not in their best interest or in line with their long-held conservationists beliefs?

Remember that poll from Colorado College? It also found that 65 percent of overall respondents — including sportsmen — prefer solar and wind power over all other energy sources, and 45 percent of these respondents called for solar, wind and renewable energy jobs to be encouraged, with only 12 percent favoring encouragement of oil and gas industry jobs.

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It seems more than a coincidence that a trophy elk is prominently displayed on CRED’s logo.

Compare these findings and those from earlier in this piece with the misinformation CRED uses to frame its ads targeting sportsmen. In the headlines of its ads, CRED usually asserts, “sportsmen support fracking,” an assertion that seems based only on what the industry wishes were true.

Such psychographic targeting is just a classic tool of socio-political control through media. That’s to say CRED would make a perfect case study for Noam Chomsky.

CRED, PacWest and all the other industry players at the intersection of sportsmen and oil appear to believe that this group of outdoor enthusiasts can be manipulated into accepting oil and gas extraction if they are exposed frequently enough to the false narratives that fracking is a matter of national security and that significant amounts of money from the process will be poured into preserving the legacy of hunting and fishing on public lands.

But what if sportsmen don’t bite? What if they realize what CRED and the others are trying to do to them? What if they were to realize that the vast majority of their outdoor-loving peers actually oppose drilling on public lands and support sustainable energy as an alternative to fossil fuels? What happens when sportsmen find out that the industry is only drilling on our public lands in order to generate more profits from exporting U.S. oil and gas over seas? What happens when sportsmen and veterans realize that tolerating drilling on public lands and in dangerously close proximity to homes and schools won’t actually prevent any future wars?

Let’s hope we find out this November.