Only Congress Can Prevent Smokey Bear’s Death by Budget CutsYou read that title right. Smokey (along with Woodsy Owl) is part of the U.S. Forest Service’s suite of programs aimed at advancing conservation education among American students and the public at large.
This week, that’s being targeted for elimination as part of the House Republicans’ YouCut program, led by Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-TN).
YouCut, a year-old attempt by Majority Leader Eric Cantor and colleagues to cut government programs as selected by public internet voting, designates the Forest Service ‘green school’ curricula as an example of “issue-oriented advocacy” that is “inappropriate” for public funding. This is at a time when Republican and Democrat governors nationwide have opted in to the U.S. Green Ribbon Schools Award Program. Odd, no?
Aside from the idea that teaching kids about the world and their impact on it (and helping their schools save money through energy efficiency measures to boot) is “inappropriate,” here’s the funny part: the drive to defund Smokey’s family is being led by a Congressman from a state that has suffered 1,126 wildfires claiming about 12,875 acres of land so far in 2011 alone (PDF). Maybe he’d like the Great Smoky Mountains to more aptly live up to their name (they and Cherokee National Forest both happen to be highly forested and subject to significant fires).
The U.S. Forest Service’s conservation education programs include efforts to get kids outdoors, healthy and connecting with the natural world. Do we really want to say farewell to Smokey Bear at a time in our nation’s history where kids spend less time outdoors than any generation in human history?
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If the conservation education program ‘wins’ the vote and the cuts are eventually enacted by Congress, the “Starve Smokey” effort would likely completely eliminate the (already cash-strapped) Conservation Education office at USFS.
Dear U.S. Representative @Scott DesJarlais: Please keep Smokey the Bear and his family off the federal budget chopping block. He’s not to blame for the budget problems our country faces today.