‘Far Afield’ offers birdseye view into the life of conservation legend

JACKSON HOLE, WYO – The “Bird Man.” It’s not often we get to appreciate living alongside a legend.

At this point, maybe there isn’t much more to know about Jackson Hole conservation icon Bert Raynes. Then again, there is admittedly a lot to mine when exploring the depths of a man who’s walked this beautiful earth for more than 91 years.

Meg and Bert make a fetching couple.

Now there’s an opportunity to learn more about Raynes with the release of an award-winning documentary Far Afield: A Conservation Love Story, available on Vimeo On Demand.

Raynes was recently awarded the Murie Spirit of Conservation Award in recognition of his commitment to conservation, civility and community. Jennifer Tennican, the film’s director/producer, was on hand at the Murie Ranch of Teton Science Schools and was inspired to expand the film’s distribution to include video-on-demand or VOD.

“The award reminded me of the importance of sharing Bert’s story with people in our community and beyond,” Tennican said.

Todd Wilkinson, environmental journalist and author, said, “Bert Raynes is already comparable to a great green mythological figure, the likes of which we will not see again in our lifetimes. The fact that he resides in Jackson Hole, one of the crucibles of the American conservation movement, only elevates his mystique. He is Jackson Hole’s own version of The Lorax.”

Bert and Meg share a moment at a picnic.

Bernie McHugh, the Secretary of the Jackson Hole Bird & Nature Club, said Far Afield is “a rare film with equal parts warmth, humor and genuine insight into its subject.”

Kevin Olson, publisher of the Jackson Hole News&Guide, described the documentary as “a gift to fans of Bert Raynes, feather-watchers, and conservationists everywhere. An admirable tale of one of the most likable characters around.”

Far Afield premiered in November 2015 to a sold-out audience at Jackson’s Center for the Arts. It was an official selection of the 2016 Big Sky Documentary Film Festival and the 2017 Wild & Scenic Film Festival. It was awarded “Best Conservation Film” at the 2016 Toronto Beaches Film Festival and the “Utopian Visions Award” at the 2015 Utopia Film Festival. The film was distributed by American Public Television with Wyoming PBS as the presenting station.

Video-on-demand has a smaller ecological footprint than manufacturing and distributing DVDs, and this method of distribution honors Rayne’s position as an advocate for environmental sustainability and conservation.

The cost to purchase the high-definition documentary for online viewing anytime or download is $9.99. A 48-hr rental is $2.99. Both options give viewers access to six bonus features ranging from a “making of” spoof to an interview with Ben Winship, who composed the film’s avian-inspired soundtrack.

More about Bert

Bert Raynes, 91 years old at the time of the filming, has been a conservation mentor to people of all ages and the writer behind the popular weekly Jackson Hole newspaper column “Far Afield” for more than three decades. His keen intellect, sharp wit, and encyclopedic knowledge of the flora and fauna of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem have long inspired his followers to observe and care about their wild neighbors.

In addition to his newspaper column, Raynes is the author of numerous books including “Birds of Grand Teton National Park and the Surrounding Area,” “Finding the Birds of Jackson Hole: A Bird Finding Guide,” “Curmudgeon Chronicles,” two pocket guides to the birds of Jackson Hole and, with Thomas Mangelsen, “Winter Wings: Birds of the Northern Rockies.” He also collaborated with artist Greg McHuron on “Birds of Sage and Scree.”

Raynes received the prestigious Murie Spirit of Conservation Award in August 2018 at the historic Murie Ranch in Jackson Hole. Mr. Raynes has also been recognized for his environmental advocacy work by the Wildlife Heritage Foundation, the National Museum of Wildlife Art, the Wyoming Chapter of the Wildlife Society, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance and the Town of Jackson.

Film synopsis

Bert Raynes, a boy from the “mean streets” of New Jersey discovers the two great loves of his life: nature and Meg, his wife and muse. Drawn to the natural beauty of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Meg and Bert foster a community of wildlife lovers, motivating them to become a force for nature. With a keen intellect, sharp wit and twinkle in his eye, this 91-year-old inspires young and old to observe and care about their wild neighbors.

Far Afield available exclusively at VimeoOnDemand.

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