The nostalgic bear that educates the public on the dangers of wildfires turns 65, today! Smokey Bear’s first public poster release was August 9, 1944. In case you don’t know, Smokey Bear is one of the most recognized symbolic images of the United States Forest Service.
According to Wikipedia, Smokey Bear is often unofficially referred to as “Smokey the Bear” after two songwriters added the word “the” for rhythm purposes. Smokey Bear vigilantly reminded us with his popular slogan “Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires”. It wasn’t until April of 2001 that his message was updated to “Only You Can Prevent Wildfires” which included all unwanted, unplanned fires in natural areas.
When I think of campfires, I envision the fictional character, Smokey Bear. Growing up, there were posters of “Smokey the Bear” plastered on every classroom wall. I can even remember the commercials. A recent study proved 95% of those surveyed could finish the sentence when given the first words of his famous slogan.
Goes to show, how much influence the U.S. Forestry wildfire propaganda had on us. Smokey Bear remains villigant in his message about conservation and protection of America’s forests. The number of wildfires has significantly reduced from 22 million (1944) to an average of 7 million today. Wildfire prevention plays a key role in the environmental issues affecting the U.S. today. On average, 9 out of 10 wildfires nationwide are caused by people; mainly due to campfire carelessness. Leaving campfires unattended, arson, trash burning on windy days, and littering cigarette butts are among the causes. Wildfires have been prevented and forest land has been saved due to Smokey Bear’s message
In the 1950’s Smokey Bear’s Conservation Pledge was:
I give my pledge as an American to save and faithfully to defend from waste the natural resources of my country – its soil and minerals, its forests, waters and wildlife.
Today’s pledge is a much more modernized and elaborate. It’s known as the “Get Your Smokey On” Wildfire Pledge. You can take the pledge at the Smokey Bear website and learn more about wildfire ecology and wildfire safety. The site is interactive for kids with games, stories and fun. You can even download a Teacher’s Guide, Activity Book or Poster. A great way to introduce your children on the dangers and preventions of forest fires while also educating about them about nature and wildlife. Smokey Bear is legendary and his image and message will forever be imprinted into our brains.
[This post was written by Leslie Quigley.]