HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – A beloved American icon, Smokey Bear is turning 68 on Thursday, August 9. Smokey Bear has been rated one of the most recognizable figures in America, ranking alongside Mickey Mouse and Santa Claus.
Since 1944, Smokey Bear has been a recognized symbol of conservation and protection of America’s forests, and he has educated generations of Americans about their role in wildfire prevention. Smokey’s message ‘Only You Can Prevent Wildfires.’ is just as relevant today as it was 68 years ago.
His message about wildfire prevention has helped to reduce the number of acres burned annually by wildfires, from about 22 million (1944) to an average of 7 million today. However, wildfire prevention remains one of the most critical environmental issues affecting our country. While lightning has been the primary cause of recent fires on public lands managed by the National Forest, this is unusual.