Congress Finally Legalizes Smokey Bear Impersonations


The latest $2.3 trillion spending bill rescinds criminal punishment for utilizing Smokey Bear’s similitude without permission from the government.

The $2.3 trillion,  5,593-page government spending bill approved by Congress yesterday is riddled with jewels — $900 billion in COVID-19 relief aid, $10 million for “gender programs,” for two new Smithsonian museums $1 billion, the establishment of a special authority to curb doping in horseracing, and — the long-anticipated overturn of felonious penalties for using the likeness of Smokey Bear without consent. Persons who use Smokey Bear for revenue— on a book, in a live costume setting, on a  t-shirt —presently face 6 months imprisonment for their crime, according to Title 18 of the U.S. Code.

The emblematic character was devised in the 1940s and has ministered about the significance of fire safety since then. “Only YOU Can Prevent Wildfires,” he prods. Those desiring to leverage the bear for any commercial initiatives must be accredited by the feds, and the objective must enhance the prevention of wildfires. Minus that license, Smokey exploiters risk prison time and fines. The government instructs: “Report suspected violations directly to the national Program Manager [of the Cooperative Forest Fire Prevention Program], who shall take action necessary, up to and including civil and criminal court actions, to stop the violator.”

A brochure reads: “Smokey is not any agency’s mascot and shouldn’t be treated as such. Areas that are especially subject to abuse: t-shirts and jacket art for fire crews, employees, and ranger districts… Smokey Bear’s image will not be demeaned or tarnished.” Providing President Trump signs the charabanc bill, no longer will the fire-deterring bear be such a privileged asset: Jail time would no longer be on the table for entrepreneurs interested in selling and making, say, a shirt with his furry, implacable visage.


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Aaron Granger


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