The Planet

Smokey Bear Is Getting A Makeover — And A Snapchat Lens

by Kate Ryan

August 11, 2017
Image via Wendy/Flickr.

“Only you can prevent wildfires.” We all know the mantra well because it’s been Smokey Bear’s slogan for the past 73 years. Whether you’ve seen him holding a fire danger sign at the entrance of a national forest or praising fire safety on TV, he deserves more attention than ever in light of a recent uptick in wildfires. Luckily, his new public service announcements are lit enough to spark some interest.

Partly to raise awareness about the little-known causes of wildfires and partly to bring Smokey Bear up to speed, the U.S. Forest Service and the National Association of State Foresters partnered with the Ad Council to revamp Smokey’s image. Thanks to new artwork by Brian Edward Miller, Evan Hecox, Janna Mattia, and Victoria Ying and social profiles on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snaphat, Smokey Bear is now fully emerged in the 21st century. 

Ever since the original, real-life Smokey Bear was rescued from a New Mexico blaze as a cub in 1950, he’s served as a gentle reminder to camp conscientiously — not to mention one of the most notable American icons to date. Though there’s still plenty of work to do when it comes to spreading awareness. U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell said in a press release,

“Humans cause nearly 90 percent of all wildfires nationwide, which today burn hotter and longer, destroying millions of forested acres and homes; Smokey needs our help now more than ever. It is helpful to provide information to children and adults about the less commonly known wildfire causes such as improperly burning debris and not fully extinguishing ashes and hot coals. By bringing awareness and inspiring responsibility, we hope to show how important it is to be mindful of how everyday activities can start harmful fires.”

Another fun fact: You can blame Steve Nelson and Jack Rollins for starting the controversy over including a “the” in Smokey’s name. While many have been calling him “Smokey the Bear” since their popular 1952 song debuted, his real name has always been a little simpler: just Smokey Bear. It’s cleaner. 

With all the drama surrounding national parks this year at the hands of a less-caring administration, it really is up to us to preserve and protect what beautiful natural landscapes we have left. The Trump administration has moved to water down protections for public lands in the hopes of opening up pathways for extensive oil drilling and privatization of national parks. This goes against a century-long tradition of designating public lands as national monuments, effectively preserving them for future generations and maintaining the health of the ecosystem as a whole. That, combined with the Trump administration’s aggressive denial of climate change, means it’s entirely up to us to protect the environment — for both our sake and for generations to come. 

Share image via Wendy/Flickr.

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Smokey Bear Is Getting A Makeover — And A Snapchat Lens