NEW ORLEANS — "Saturday Night Live" icon Mr. Bill is saying a resounding "Nooooo!" to further appearances in a public awareness campaign aimed at saving Louisiana's wetlands.
In recent months, state residents have watched as Mr. Bill, the animated clay character famous for his 1970s appearances on the comedy show, lent a hand to ads for the America's Wetland campaign.
But now Mr. Bill's creator, Walter Williams, is yanking his character from the campaign, saying he believes that it is selling out to big oil companies -- the very people accused of having a hand in destroying wetlands in the first place.
Williams said Shell Oil Co. is using the campaign as a public relations move to masquerade as a green-friendly business. The last straw, he said, came when TV spots featuring Mr. Bill showed up in Shell-sponsored kiosks at tourist centers throughout Louisiana.
"If they had taken the Shell stickers and logos off, that would have been fine," Williams said.
Darci Sinclair, a Shell spokeswoman, said that the company respects Williams' "right to remove his property from the America's Wetland educational kiosks" and that Shell will "continue its strong partnership" with the wetland campaign.
The campaign was kicked off two years ago by former Gov. Mike Foster to sell Americans on the idea that Louisiana's wetlands need billions of dollars in federal help.
Levees, canals, and oil and gas exploration have been blamed for causing Louisiana to lose 1,900 square miles of wetlands since the 1930s. Advocates say another 700 square miles could disappear unless something is done.
The campaign and its slogan -- "America's Wetland: Keep It Alive!" -- have taken on a host of sponsors, including Coca-Cola, Tabasco and ConocoPhillips. Public and private money has paid for a documentary, brochures, TV spots and bracelets.