Happy birthday to the hardest working bear in the world

By Kelli Bender
August 09, 2019 02:54 PM
Credit: Ad Council

For 75 years, Smokey Bear has kindly, but sternly, reminded America’s nature lovers that “Only you can prevent wildfires.”

Smokey’s message is the longest running public service advertising campaign in U.S. history, which means this watchful bear has been working hard for decades.

To give the bear a break on the big 7-5, celebrities are taking over and spreading the word about the best way to prevent human-caused fires.

For years, actor Sam Elliott, who happens to have the same birthday as Smokey, has voiced the cautious creature. Now, Betty White, Stephen Colbert, Al Roker, and Jeff Foxworthy are all speaking for Smokey in their own spots about the importance of wildfire prevention.

In addition to these star-studded PSAs, Smokey is also getting one more special gift from the USDA Forest Service, the National Association of State Foresters, and the Ad Council: his own float in this year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Together, the USDA Forest Service, the National Association of State Foresters, and the Ad Council, make up the Cooperative Forest Fire Prevention (CFFP) Committee, the coalition behind Smokey Bear and his wildfire prevention campaign.

“This coalition of partners has created an extraordinary legacy for Smokey Bear over the past 75 years, and the Ad Council is so proud to be part of Smokey’s story,” Lisa Sherman, President and CEO of the Ad Council, said in a statement. “Very few advertising icons have stood the test of time the way Smokey has, and thanks to our favorite bear, individuals across the nation know they play an important role in helping to prevent wildfires.”

The numbers back up Smokey’s importance. According to the Ad Council, there has been “an approximate 14 percent reduction in the average number of human-caused wildfires from 2011-2018, compared to the previous 10 years.”

With the help of his celebrity friends, Smokey is able to expand his message and provide more information on how wildfires are a year-round danger and the many ways we can protect America’s forests and all the animals that call the woods home.

“The hardest working bear in the world, Smokey, has for decades now tirelessly shared with the public the message ‘Only You Can Prevent Wildfires,’” U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen said in a statement. “And I’m certain that 75 years from now, Smokey will still be active in his duty of spreading the wildfire prevention message – reminding us to do our part in preventing unwanted wildfire.”