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DLNR finds no evidence ‘American Jungle’ violated rules

June 20, 2014 - 8:39am

The Department of Land and Natural Resources was unable to prove filmmakers were on state land during the production of a reality television show that aired last fall, a spokeswoman said Thursday.

Still, the creator of “American Jungle” said, the way the department handled its concerns has disrupted dicussions about another season of the Hawaii Island program.

“(The) Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement conducted an investigation of the show to see if the producers did indeed film on state land or if they had violated any marine or wildlife laws — and based on footage, DOCARE was not able to prove that they had,” Deborah Ward said in an email Thursday. “Through the Hawaii Film Office, DLNR has conveyed to the History Channel its view that the show was misleading in its depiction and disrespectful, and its expectation that any future film projects must obtain permits for filming on state lands.”

T’Jaye Forsythe, who pitched the story idea to the network, said he had not heard that the department had wrapped up the investigation.

He said DLNR issuing a statement in late November, a few weeks after the show premiered, created problems for him while talking with the network about a second season.

“It’s all false allegations,” Forsythe said. “They based the investigation on an animated map. As far as the show, we’ll see what happens.”

He said DLNR started its investigation after making claims that the production crews were working without the required permits.

Reactions to the show were mixed, he said.

“There’s a lot people that supported it,” he said, as well as people who didn’t like it. “People have a misconception about History Channel doing documentaries.”

Reality television, while unscripted, is a mix of fiction and reality, he said. Some viewers — including DLNR Chairman William Aila — questioned the show’s format, which showed clans that competed with each other for hunting grounds. Hawaii does have territorial disputes, Forsythe said.

“DLNR does land grabs,” he said. “They’re making the hunting grounds a lot smaller. People will do whatever it takes (to have a place to hunt). People who don’t really hunt don’t have an understanding of hunting culture.”

DLNR officials said in a statement in November that an episode showed hunters at night, but hunting at night is illegal on both public and private land. In another episode, the cast hunting for cattle, which DLNR officials said requires a special feral cattle control permit.

Maps used on the show also demark areas under the department’s jurisdiction, even though the state denied a request by the production crew for a permit to film on state forest lands, the department said. Officials also called the show culturally insensitive, and noted there is no evidence that Native Hawaiians ever used spears to hunt cattle or pigs in the forest.

Even Gov. Neil Abercrombie issued a statement criticizing the show.

“This appears to be a fictional ‘reality’ production with no connection to actual hunters in Hawaii,” he said.