Spokesbears everywhere have a lot to fear this week.
Representative Scott DesJarlais (R-TN) wants to eliminate funding for the U.S. Forest Service (USFS)ís conservation education program, a leader in Smokey Bear's iconic, decades-long campaign to prevent wildfires.
Smokey Bear is one of the most recognizable figures in the United States, ranking alongside of Mickey Mouse and Santa Claus. In fact, 3 out of 4 adults are able to recall Smokeyís message of "Only You Can Prevent Wildfires" without prompting.
Rep. DesJarlais proposed the drastic reductions in YouCut, an online voting program that features issues each week that members of the House of Representatives think should be eliminated from the federal budget. These proposed cuts would not reduce federal spending. To the contrary, the proposal would likely increase spending to combat wildfires and would hurt communities that rely on the publicís understanding of the value of forest products and ecosystem services.
Now is not the time to slash resources to an education program that includes hazard assessment planning and wildfire preparedness. In 2010, 36,108 human-caused wildfires burned in the southern region of the United States, an area represented in part by Rep. DesJarlais. Seeing as firefighting costs the government about $700 per acre, federal spending would be higher without Smokey Bearís powerful message.
In the fiscal year 2011, the USFS reached more than 4 million people through its conservation education program, a critical partner for AFF's Project Learning Tree (PLT).
PLT teaches kids how to think, not what to think, about complex natural resource issues. Since 1976, PLTís award-winning curriculum has helped educators give students the tools to learn about our natural resources, while better preparing students to succeed in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programming. The USFS conservation education program is essential to this progress.
Take action today by contacting members of the media in your ZIP code. Your local media must hear from you that the U.S. Forest Service conservation education program is needed to protect and enhance the health of Americaís forests, and prepare the next generation of conservation leaders.
To keep Smokey Bearís wildfire prevention legacy alive for another 65 years, please visit http://capwiz.com/plt/issues/alert/?alertid=57802501 today.
Photo of Texas' Possum Kingdom wildfire, credit Flickr's Texas Military Forces and SSG Malcolm McClendon.