Smokey Bear’s 75th Birthday Sparks an Imaginative Video Challenge

ATLANTA, June 13, 2019- Foresters from the southern states are wishing Smokey Bear a happy 75th birthday with a series of unique birthday videos.

Member agencies of the Southern Group of State Foresters are challenging each other to create these videos to show their affection for Smokey Bear. “Smokey Bear is truly a remarkable symbol and one of the most recognized icons by Americans. This challenge has been a fun and imaginative way for state forestry agencies to express their admiration for our favorite bear,” commented Tom Boggus, Director and State Forester of the Texas A&M Forest Service. Texas A&M Forest Service made the first birthday video and challenged Georgia’s Forestry Commission to continue the fun.

“Smokey Bear has been a light-hearted way to share an important wildfire prevention message for years. This friendly challenge is a spirited, artistic display of our appreciation for the 75 years Smokey Bear has given us as a symbol of prevention” remarked Wendy Burnett, Communications Chair of the Southern Group of State Foresters. Smokey Bear has encouraged the public to help prevent wildfires since 1944. In fact, his message that “Only you can prevent wildfires” has persevered as the longest running public service advertising campaign in U.S. history.

Gary Wood, the Cohesive Wildland Fire Strategy Coordinator for the Southern Group of State Foresters, first heard of Smokey Bear when forest rangers conducted a fire prevention program at his elementary school. As a young boy on vacation with his parents, Gary saw Smokey at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. “A photo was snapped of me standing in front of Smokey, capturing a moment that would change the direction of my life. I was so inspired by the encounter that it eventually sparked me to pursue a career in forestry,” said Gary. This video campaign celebrates the impact Smokey has had on young children like Gary Wood, who have been listening to Smokey’s important message for the last 75 years.

Visit the Southern Group of State Forester’s YouTube channel to see the already made birthday messages and new videos as they become available. Smokey’s party may be a big hit even without candles, but wildfire prevention remains a dire issue now more than ever. The thirteen southern states experienced 27,059 wildfires in 2018. It is critical that everyone does their part to prevent wildfires and care for our public lands, which is certainly the best birthday gift Smokey Bear could ever receive.

Media contact: Ginelle Heller at info@southernforests.org or 404-782-9894

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