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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

The Living on Earth Almanac

Air Date: Week of

This week, facts about ... the nation’s symbol of forest fire prevention, Smokey the Bear.


CURWOOD: It's Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood

(Music up and under)

CURWOOD: "Remember: only you can prevent forest fires." For 55 years now, Smokey the Bear has been delivering that message to forest visitors. Smokey first appeared on a Forest Service poster during World War II, when the war effort diverted resources away from fighting fires and prevention became more crucial. The Forest Service thought to rally the public behind the mascot. Their first choice was the fawn Bambi, but after heated debate, officials opted for a more rugged symbol, and Smokey was their bear. Although his image is fictional, there was a real Smokey. As a cub he was rescued from a New Mexico fire. Badly burned and motherless, Smokey was moved to the National Zoo in Washington, DC, where he became America's official wildlife prevention spokesbear until his death in 1975. But Smokey's image lives on. He is recognized throughout North America and even in Australia, a country which has no native bears but plenty of fires. And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.



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