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USDA Smokey Bear Paintings on Display for First Time

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

If you hear a deep resonant voice and the words, “Only YOU…,” you probably could complete the iconic words, “…can prevent forest fires.” More than seven in ten adults in the United States would recognize Smokey Bear and know his message, according to a 2011 Ad Council survey.

Now some of the illustrations that helped create the image we most associate with Smokey, who celebrates his 70th anniversary as spokesbear for the U.S. Forest Service (FS) this year, are on display for the first time. Nineteen original paintings by Virginia artist Rudolph Wendelin from USDA’s National Agricultural Library (NAL) Smokey Bear history collection are being featured in an exhibit at the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, Virginia.

Smokey Bear, Iconic Symbol of Wildfire Prevention, Still Going Strong at 70

“Remember . . . Only YOU Can Prevent Forest Fires.”

For more than 50 years, that iconic catch phrase grabbed the hearts and minds of generations of children, spurred a series of books, games and gifts, helped to change the face of wildland firefighting and prompted more than one child to grow up to be a forester.

“On Saturday morning’s, I would watch the ‘Farm Report’ just waiting for ‘Lassie’ to come on,” said Glenn Casamassa, a Long Island, New York, native who grew up to become a forester. “Right after the Farm Report I saw this bear talking about forest fires, and it got me thinking about the woods. As a kid, Smokey and his message really stuck in my head.”

A 'Plane' View about Wildland Firefighters and a New Disney Movie

This week’s opening of Disney’s animated movie, Planes: Fire & Rescue is especially exciting for the U.S. Forest Service because the agency played an important role in the production of the film.

Actually, no Forest Service employees appear in the new comedy-adventure, which features a dynamic crew of elite firefighting aircraft devoted to protecting the mythical Piston Peak National Park from wildfire. The agency’s role was an advisory one, giving access to firefighting facilities for Disney animators so that even as a cartoon, the movie has a degree of authenticity.

Letters to Smokey Bear Reveal Promise of Hope for the Future

Smokey Bear, the iconic symbol of wildfire prevention for 70 years, is for many people a comforting symbol of a promise that everything will be okay. As long as we all work together, as one of Smokey’s young pen pals wrote recently.

“Dear Smokey: I would like to be a Junior Forest Ranger and help the big rangers. I promise to look after the forest and watch out for baddies making fires and damaging trees. Love Adam”

The letters come one-by-one or in neatly piled stacks, with carefully drawn portraits and hastily scrawled letters. They want to know if Smokey Bear is okay. They ask if he can write to them. They show compassion, knowing Smokey’s mother did not make it out of the fire.

Let's Move Outside All Summer Long

Summer is fast approaching but packing up the kids to head outside could be daunting, especially for those whose experience with outdoor activities is limited.

But don’t worry. With a little help and some simple planning, the whole crew will want to unplug and find activities that will invigorate not just the body, but the mind. The opportunities to show our kids how to eat healthy and be active can stay with them for a life time. Young children and the young at heart will enjoy summer days filled with picnics and outdoor barbecues that create great memories.

Smurfs Encourage Kids to Get Outdoors

Little blue gnome-like creatures helped the U.S. Forest Service kick off its latest campaign to get people out into the woods. Partnering with the Ad Council and Sony Pictures Entertainment, the Forest Service recently launched its Discover the Forest campaign featuring the Smurfs and their new movie, The Smurfs 2.

Studies have shown that the time children in the United States spend outdoors has declined 50 percent over the past 20 years. Population shifts to urban and suburban environments, an increase in children’s indoor activities, and a lack of awareness of, or access to, nearby nature locations have contributed to this trend. However, research shows there are many benefits to kids spending time in nature. Time spent outdoors gives children the ability to explore, use their imaginations, discover new wildlife and engage in unstructured and adventurous play.

Smokey Bear Gives Bear Hugs in New Wildfire Prevention Campaign

Imagine dousing your campfire then getting a big bear hug from Smokey Bear, the iconic symbol of wildfire prevention for nearly 70 years.

That’s the idea behind three videos in a new series of Smokey Bear public service advertisements released July 12, 2013, designed to raise awareness about wildfire prevention. The Smokey Bear campaign is the longest running PSA campaign in U.S. History. The new ads will feature his well-known tagline, “Only YOU can prevent wildfires.” The new twist is the bear hugs.

From Orphaned Cub to Internationally Known Forest Service Icon, Smokey Bear Turns 70 Years Old Next Year!

Sometimes, a story speaks for itself. Although Smokey Bear was created on August 9, 1944, when the U.S. Forest Service and the Ad Council agreed that a fictional bear named Smokey would be the symbol for their efforts to promote forest fire prevention – what later happened is simply amazing.

Imagine this. The year is 1950, and a fire has been spotted in the Capitan Mountains of New Mexico. The responding fire crew quickly realized that the blaze was more than they could handle. Word quickly spread that they needed help. Area forest rangers, Army soldiers, Native American crews and assorted state and local volunteers gathered together in an attempt to contain the inferno that was fueled by increasingly gusty winds.