Pike’s pique: A Range Rover TV ad raises some Forest Service hackles

Al Kamen
Columnist October 10, 2013

We’ve all seen the warnings that accompany those daredevil car ads admonishing us not to try such feats ourselves or warning us that they’re being pulled off by a “professional driver on a closed course.”

Despite the warnings, they still make some stunts look pretty cool. Some folks, it seems, have a problem with a new TV commercial that they say promotes off-roading on federal lands, which is a distinct no-no.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993. View Archive

A new ad for the 2014 Range Rover Sport shows the rugged-yet-luxurious SUV scaling the snow-crusted Pike’s Peak, which is part of the National Forest system. Up the paved roads of the mountain the truck goes. And then — as a group of impressed guys who look like a pit crew, wearing matching Range Rover jackets and hats, look on — the vehicle appears to go over the top and down the other, unpaved side.

“It clearly goes against the basic philosophy of ethical attitudes and proper driver behavior for using OHV’s [off-highway vehicles] anywhere, let alone on NFS lands,” Jack Gregory, a retired Forest Service officer, wrote to the Forest Service. (Jeff Ruch, the head of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, shared the missive with us.)

Forest Service spokesman Leo Kay, one of the few employees of the agency still in the office during the government shutdown, tells the Loop that the car did not actually go off-road on Forest Service land during filming, though it appeared to through the wonders of modern film-making.

And he says he’s unsure of the precise wording of the permit that the car company got to film the commercial there. The folks who handle those are furloughed.

“It’s kind of a ghost town around here,” he says.

But precedent exists for curtailing how film crews portray public land. When the Forest Service issues permits for crews to film in wilderness areas, for example, the agency requires them to “keep within the spirit” of the 1964 Wilderness Act, Kay explains. That might mean that they wouldn’t be allowed to depict, say, littering or tossing lit matches around.

The Forest Service isn’t up in arms over the commercial. It’s not protesting the way the National Park Service did in 2003, when a Metamucil commercial depicted a Park Service Ranger pouring some of the regularity-inducing product into Yellowstone’s Old Faithful geyser.

“This advertisement goes against all of the National Park Service’s efforts to encourage people not to put foreign objects into the thermal features,” NPS sniffed at the time.

In a statement, Range Rover tells the Loop that viewers needn’t take what they see so literally. “As is typical in much of advertising, there are scenes that are realistic but not meant to be taken literally, including both racing up the mountain, as well as driving off road back down, though the vehicle is more than capable of both.”

Woody would be proud

After a White House official told the Wall Street Journal that the administration was “winning” the shutdown fight, House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters Friday: “This isn’t some damn game.”

Our colleague Aaron Blake, however, noticed a report that the speaker couldn’t help using sports metaphors to discuss the budget battle.

Boehner huddled with his team at a closed-door GOP conference meeting Tuesday morning at the Capitol.

He told them the Democrats were trying to “annihilate us,” the National Review’s Jonathan Strong reported. But Boehner urged them to rally. “We can get through this if we stick together.”

He wanted something that “builds on the gains we’ve made over the past three years, puts points on the board and doesn’t raise taxes.”

So there was no need for a hole in one, a three-pointer, or a Hail Mary. Three yards and a cloud of dust — Ohio State Buckeyes-style ball — would get them to the end zone.

Just because House Republicans (and of course Democrats) voted unanimously to give furloughed federal workers, oft-maligned by the GOP, their back pay when the shutdown ends — effectively giving them a paid vacation of sorts and costing taxpayers the same as if workers had stayed on the field — it’s not a game.

And just because Senate Democrats, in a prevent defense with the clock ticking, have dropped back, probably to pass that back-pay bill to President Obama, running a post pattern and ready to catch it, doesn’t mean there’s any game-playing going on.

Nope, this is serious work, for serious people.

Connolly casts his spell

Democrats have often dismissed Republicans’ various investigations into the doings of the White House as “witch hunts.” On Wednesday, Rep. Gerald E. Connolly took a literary riff on this idea. During a hearing of the House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee looking into the implementation of Obamacare, the Virginia Democrat asked an IRS official if she had ever read Arthur Miller’s play “The Crucible.”

Anyone who’s taken high school English knew immediately where he was going with the line of questioning.

Sarah Hall Ingram, director of the IRS’s Affordable Care Act Office, who was testifying, replied that she had seen it performed and that she was from New England and therefore familiar with the legendary witch trials in Salem, Mass., that form the basis of the play.

“Have you been consorting with the devil?” Connolly asked.

“Not to my knowledge, sir,” she answered, with a slight smile.

“Are reports that you can fly accurate?” he asked.

“Greatly exaggerated, sir,” was her answer.

With Emily Heil

The blog: washingtonpost.com/
intheloop
. Twitter: @InTheLoopWP.

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