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Budget cuts snuff out state Smokey program ^ | Jul. 18, 2003 | JOEY HOLLEMAN

Posted on 07/18/2003 7:26:27 AM PDT by stainlessbanner

The state government budget cuts are getting serious now: Smokey Bear has been furloughed.

"When you get Smokey requests, you should explain that staffing and budget issues have forced us to narrow our focus, concentrating on more essential services," S.C. Forestry Commission spokesman Ken Cabe wrote recently in a reminder to employees.

"Mention that we hope to resume our Smokey efforts when (and if) the budget situation improves."

The agency has several Smokey costumes that state employees have used during appearances at school functions or festivals.

The U.S. Forest Service also has Smokey Bear costumes, though the one used in the Midlands is being refurbished, said forest service spokeswoman Stephanie Neal Johnson.

The federal Smokey soon will be available for local events, so the area won't be Smokey-less when school starts next month.

Smokey Bear has been working since 1944 to remind Americans of the importance of outdoor fire safety and wildfire prevention. The Smokey-led Forest Fire Prevention campaign reduced the number of acres lost annually to fires from 22 million to 4 million, according to the forest service.

The costumed mascot makes appearances at schools, camps and festivals. The U.S. Forest Service takes those events seriously. The person in the bear costume must be an employee of a federal or state forestry agency. With its work force trimmed by budget cuts, the state forestry agency no longer can afford to take employees away from normal jobs to play Smokey.

And don't even think of calling to see if you can borrow the costume for a school program.

"You undoubtedly will get requests to borrow our Smokey costumes," Cabe wrote. "Be polite, be understanding, but be firm: We do not loan the Bear."

TOPICS: Culture/Society; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: forest; park; smokeybear; symbol

1 posted on 07/18/2003 7:26:28 AM PDT by stainlessbanner
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