SALEM, Ore. - The new Keep Oregon Green license plates featuring Smokey Bear will be available August 1, ahead of the wildfire prevention icon's 75th birthday.
Proceeds from the license plates are to serve as a reminder that “only you can prevent forest fires” and protect Oregon’s scenic landscapes.
"Each year, approximately two-thirds of Oregon's wildfires are human-caused and they are all completely preventable," says Keep Oregon Green's CEO, Kristin Babbs. “Keep Oregon Green has been a household slogan since its inception in 1941, and this message is more important now than ever before. Wildfire awareness opportunities like this will help ingrain it in Oregonian’s DNA.”
Smokey Bear stepped into the world August 9, 1944.
The iconic bruin is as recognizable as Santa Claus, Uncle Sam and the Easter bunny, according to a style guide for his usage.
Smokey Bear traces his origins to World War II.
"With the looming threat of potentially disastrous wildfires in America’s National Forests due to incendiary munitions shells, the Wartime Advertising Council and the USDA Forest Service joined forces to form the Cooperative Forest Fire Prevention (CFFP) program," according to a style guide for usage of Smokey Bear.
The program launched with the help of Bambi, on loan from Walt Disney Studios for one year.
Then an illustration known as Smokey Bear stepped onto the world stage.
"Smokey always appears only with his traditional blue jeans, belt, buckle, and 'campaign' hat. Optionally, he carries a shovel," according to "The Condensed Guide to Smokey: A Style Manual". "It is inappropriate to show Smokey wearing a three-piece suit or other attire not consistent with the image of Smokey Bear."
Not that Smokey Bear is frozen in time: In 2001, his message "Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires" was updated to "Only You Can Prevent Wildfires".
And living incarnation of Smokey Bear - a black bear cub rescued in 1950 from a forest fire in New Mexico - served as a symbol of fire prevention until its death in 1976.
But the illustrated Smokey Bear lives on, the subject of the longest running public service campaign in U.S. history, according to style guides for his usage.
"One of the reasons that he continues to be a powerful icon is because he is carefully managed by those authorized to use his likeness," according to the guide. "Only careful adherence to the specific rules and conditions laid out in this guide will guarantee that Smokey Bear remains the strong and authoritative voice of fire prevention for years to come."