Subscription Preview

To read the full article, you must log in or subscribe. Enter your email address:

Beavers battle oil and gas spills

THE WEST

It takes a bold person to tinker with Smokey Bear, the U.S. Forest Service icon who proclaims, "Only YOU can prevent forest fires." Messing with the paunchy blue-jeaned bear and his strong message might just earn you a cease and desist letter, plus a threat of jail time and fines. That happened to Lopi LaRoe, an artist and Occupy Wall Street activist, after her altered image of Smokey went viral on Facebook and the Web. LaRoe's "NO FRACKING" Smokey warns, "Only you can prevent FAUCET fires" -- referring to flaming water taps caused by nearby gas extraction. "This is Smokey waking up and saying, 'Oh, you didn't do that to my environment,' " LaRoe says. "Smokey wants to fight the corporations and protect the air and the water and the plants and the animals and the people." LaRoe plastered her vision of Smokey on everything from T-shirts to tote bags -- "great for Dumpster diving" -- and, as she notes with a grin, "It spread like wildfire." Legal counsel for the Forest Service, however, told LaRoe in no uncertain terms that Smokey is government-owned, and co-opting his image to sell a product can result in up to six months in prison and a fine of up to $150,000, reports the website readersupportednews.org. No word yet on whether LaRoe has severed her relationship with her controversial anti-fracking bear.

THE WEST

Who knew that six beavers could become environmental saviors? Unwittingly, of course, a dam they created was crucial in halting the spread of 27,000 gallons of gasoline from a leaky pipeline. Absent the beaver dam, the gas would have spread across a huge area from Salt Lake City through Idaho to Spokane, Wash., reports the Idaho Statesman. But the beavers paid dearly for their community service, "with petroleum burns that Utah officials treated with baths of Dawn dish soap and water at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah." Four of them recovered fully, but two younger animals needed more time to battle infections. Leaks along the Chevron pipeline, which supplies Boise with gas and diesel fuel, are nothing new: Two earlier pipeline breaks earned the company $400,000 in federal fines.

From our friends

Inspiring words from a die hard reader:

"I subscribed to HCN for a number of years, loved every issue...I stopped subscribing because my work load escalated. It was ok the first few months but after six months I was regretting the decision...the relevance of HCN did not diminish. I continued to look at the enticing titles of articles in the online newsletter but couldn't read enough to satisfy the craving. So I'm back. I also kicked in another 50 bucks as a personal reminder that quality reporting is not free."

Robert E. Hall, Washington D.C.

HCN in the outhouses of the West

From my Alaska trip: I flew into a small town that is not reachable by road, then hopped on a motorboat and drove across lakes and rivers for 2.5 hours to reach the scientists' camp way out in the boondocks -- out there they have a few rough cabins and a generator that makes electricity only in the evening and two outhouses -- and lo and behold, for reading material in the outhouses they have issues of the Economist magazines and HCN -- amazing to discover HCN readers way out there!

Ray Ring, HCN Senior Editor