For Immediate Release: May 13, 1998
Contact: David Ridenour (202) 507-6398 or [email protected]
A deal brokered by the National Forest Foundation that would permit the Japanese automaker Subaru to use Smokey Bear (also known as "Smokey the Bear") to sell one of its new products not only violates federal statute, but raises serious questions about U.S. Forest Service management, according to The National Center for Public Policy Research. It also raises the question, the group says, as to whether or not independent organizations are being permitted to set Forest Service policy. The National Center for Public Policy Research will raise these concerns during a House Resources Committee beginning at 11:00 A.M. on May 13 at 1324 Longworth House Office Building. National Center activists, one donning a bear constume with a "Sold" sign affixed, will distribute press materials outside the hearing.
The National Forest Foundation (NFF) is a private foundation set up by the U.S. Forest Service to help solicit private sector donations in support of Forest Service conservation programs. As a private entity, it does not have the authority to make commitments for the U.S. government. Nonetheless, the NFF signed an agreement with Subaru that commits Smokey Bear to attend 10 auto shows, the primary purpose of which is to promote sales of Subaru's new "Forester" Sports Utility Vehicle. In return, the NFF received $25,000, the use of 30 sports utility vehicles for two years and the promise of $150 for every Forester vehicle purchased by a NFF member.
But the Smokey Bear trademark was removed from the public domain in 1952 (PL 82-359). A subsequent amendment to the law in 1974 (PL 93-318) gave the Secretary of Agriculture the authority to protect the symbol of Smokey Bear for fire protection. Forest Service regulations make the limits on the use of Smokey Bear even more explicit. According to Title 36 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Section 271.4, "The Chief [of the Forest Service] may authorize the commercial manufacture, importation, reproduction, or use of 'Smokey Bear,'" but only if the use of Smokey "shall contribute to public information concerning the prevention of forest fires" and "does not in any way detract from" Smokey's status as the symbol of forest fire prevention. Participating in auto shows and selling automobiles would violate these restrictions.
"By allowing the National Forest Foundation to lease Smokey to Subaru, the Forest Service has permitted an independent foundation without direct accountability to the U.S. taxpayer to determine how a government resource will be used," said David Ridenour, Vice President of The National Center for Public Policy Research. "One wonders what other taxpayer resources and what other policy decisions the Forest Service has surrendered to outside groups."
The NFF also agreed apparently on behalf of the Forest Service that the 30 Forester SUVs would be used, complete with U.S. Forest Service shields, in high profile areas of the nation's National Forests.
The National Center for Public Policy Research is a non-profit, non-partisan educational foundation that, among other things, promotes government accountability. For more information, contact David Ridenour of The National Center for Public Policy Research at (202) 507-6398 or at [email protected].
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