The Happy Camper: Are YouTube Celebrities Above the Law?

Burning fire and a man with axe close up.


After reading about the two YouTube creators and outdoor survivalists Greg Ovens and Zachary Fowler who are facing fines for illegal activities in Banff National Park in July 2019, a great comedy sketch from Saturday Night Live came to mind. Comedians Steve Martin and John Belushi have a back-and-forth dialogue about stolen money. Martin goes on a tangent:

“Two simple words in the English language: “I forgot!” How many times do we let ourselves get into terrible situations because we don’t say “I forgot”? Let’s say you’re on trial for armed robbery. You say to the judge, “I forgot armed robbery was illegal.” Let’s suppose he says back to you, “You have committed a foul crime. you have stolen hundreds and thousands of dollars from people at random, and you say, ‘I forgot’?” Two simple words: Excuuuuuse me!!“

That seems similar to what these two YouTube celebs used to defend their alleged actions. Sadly, this is no comedy routine. But what they said as a defense was an absolute joke. Ignorance of the law, especially when it comes to the protection of wild species and their habitat, is never an excuse. If you go into the woods to “survive” knowingly in contravention, then you suffer the consequences.

The two outdoor survivalists, who were cast in the third season of the History Channel’s Alone TV series (Zachary Fowler was the winner), are facing several charges after camping and hunting illegally in the backcountry of Banff National Park for part of a 30-day survival challenge in the Canadian Rockies in 2019.

It took three years for Parks Canada and the B.C. Conservation Officer Service to lay the charges. I think they wanted to make sure it would stick in court and be a warning to others.

Seven charges were laid against Zachary Fowler and six against Gregory Ovens for activities such as hunting, discharging a firearm, having an illegal fire, catching fish, cutting down trees and flying a drone without a permit—all in a national park.

One of the biggest blunders of the list of illegal activities was the catching and eating of Yellowstone cutthroat trout out of Leman Lake in Banff National Park. There’s zero possession limit for this rare species.

The video series challenge gained millions of views. Ovens’ YouTube account, Ovens Rocky Mountain Bushcraft, has over half a million subscribers and the survival challenge video has gained over 12 million views to date. Fowler’s YouTube account, Fowler’s Makery and Mischief, has over 1.1 million subscribers.

People loved it. But it was one of Oven’s viewers who told officials about the alleged offences.

Fowler is an American citizen, but Parks Canada said that he has an arrest warrant outstanding in relation to his charges. Ovens’ fines could total up to about $140,000, plus possible jail time.

In a CBC article, Ovens is quoted as saying, “I just couldn’t believe it, really. At first I thought, well, this is not necessarily a huge deal, but apparently it’s a huge deal.”

It seems to me that Oven believes that his actions like cutting down live trees and shooting gophers will be cleared up in court as a “simple misunderstanding.” He also added that that the government changed the rules on the trout and said, “I mean, it’s obvious in the videos, but it’s just the principle that they don’t do anything to let the public know when they change the rules.”

Like Steve Martin once said, “If they told me armed robbery was illegal, I wouldn’t have done it.”

Steve Martin is an amazing comedian. These two guys are fake bushcrafters who are killing wild species and destroying their habitat for the sake of YouTube monetization money.

I hope the judge throws the book at them.


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