Recycling and Conservation

When was the symbol of Smokey Bear first used to encourage forest fire prevention?

The origin of Smokey Bear can be traced to World War II when the U.S. Forest Service, concerned about maintaining a steady lumber supply for the war effort, wished to educate the public about the dangers of forest fires. They sought volunteer advertising support from the War Advertising Council, and on August 9, 1944, Albert Staehle (1899–1974), a noted illustrator of animals, created Smokey Bear.

Since 1944, Smokey Bear has been a national symbol of forest fire prevention not only in America, but also in Canada and Mexico, where he is known as Simon. This public service advertising (PSA) campaign is the longest running PSA campaign in U.S. history. In 1947, a Los Angeles advertising agency coined the slogan “Only you can prevent forest fires.” On April 23, 2001, after more than 50 years, the famous ad slogan was revised to “Only you can prevent wildfires” in response to the wildfire outbreaks during 2000. The campaign gained a living mascot in 1950 when a firefighting crew rescued a male bear cub from a forest fire in the Capital Mountains of New Mexico. Sent to the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., to become Smokey Bear, the animal was a living symbol of forest fire protection until his death in 1976. His remains are buried at the Smokey Bear State Historical Park in Capitan, New Mexico.


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