Idaho may be land locked, but Valley residents are pulling together to help the Gulf clean-up effort by using fibers from ranch animals. Tetonia alpaca breeder Tom Cleary is spearheading an effort to collect clippings that will be made into oil-soaking booms in the coastal relief effort.

Cleary said the local relief effort happened over night and turned into Teton Valley Friends of the Gulf Coast. Cleary was recently at a national alpaca show in Indiana. There a truck was set up to be filled with fiber from some of the animals to be sent to Florida. Upon returning to the Valley Cleary began researching how to send his own sheerings. He called some other sheep ranchers in the area and the project began to snowball. Alta ranchers KB Heslin and Meredeth Wilson as well as Ralph Egbert agreed to donate some of their fiber. A dog grooming business had already shipped boxes of pet hair and also joined the effort.

While TV Friends of the Gulf Coast is helping absorb some of the oil, they need help absorbing some of the shipping costs. Watts Barden, another Valley resident is from Louisiana. He’s traveling south soon and offered to drive the fiber down, but Cleary estimates that they’ll collect 400 to 500 pounds of animal fibers, which means a UHaul will be needed. A fund has been set up at Wells Fargo Bank to accept donations for the effort. All the money donated will be used for transportation costs. Extra money will be divided between two nonprofit organizations, Matter of Trust and Sunshine and Shores Foundations.

Matter of Trust is a San Francisco based nonprofit that collects hair, fur, waste wool and recycled nylons and turns them into absorbent materials to contain petroleum spills. The trust has 19 warehouses spread along Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida. Sunshine and Shores is a similar organization founded in Florida.

“It’s a really grass roots effort,” said Cleary. “We all share in the problem and this is one way to do something about it and take some responsibility.”

Cleary said he travels a lot, working as a fishing guide and going to alpaca shows and that we share some of the blame for the spill.

TV Friends of the Gulf Coast is working with Matter of Trust and Sunshine and Shores Foundations to help find places to take the fiber. Right now, Cleary said the hot spot seems to be Alabama and the fiber will likely go there. It could also be sent to a Native American tribe in Florida that’s trying to protect its coastline.

Working with those two organizations, Cleary said people can be sure that their money is going to good use.

Cleary’s farm is part of a nationwide effort by alpaca breeders to help absorb some of the millions of gallons of oil. Breeders say the fabric is uniquely suited for the job and does it better than other materials. The fiber is a hollow fiber rather than wool or human hair, which is solid. So it has more space to absorb the oil.

To see how the booms work check out: 

The Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico April 20, killing 11 people. Since then thousands of gallons of oil have been leaking from miles under the sea into and around the Gulf. British Petroleum, the company operating the Deepwater Horizon, is working with the Federal Government to contain the oil and stop the leak. Today marks day 52 of the disaster.

Wetlands, wildlife and the livelihoods of Gulf fishermen are threatened by oil plumes that continue to spew from the leak and follow Gulf currents onto and around beaches in Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida.

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