I want to propose Smokey Bear, who turned 60 in August, as a new symbol for proper stewardship. We Martys became Smokeyites during our years of camping. The image and message of Bear traveled with us as mentor, judge and conscience, as our sons learned to drench all embers and tattle on all smokers. Only we could prevent forest (now “wild”) fires.
Ninety-five percent of American adults are aware of Smokey Bear. His message has helped reduce the number of acres lost to forest fires annually by more than 62 percent—from 22 million when he was born to 8 million now. Anti-Bear people say that lightning causes most fires. Not so: 88 percent of wildfires are set by humans. Still, Charles Little in American Forests (May-June 1993) is typical of the editorialists who say that we need more burning, not less, since forests refresh themselves by burning. To them, Smokey is “an object of scorn.”