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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

The Living on Earth Almanac

Air Date: Week of August 15, 1997

Facts about... the Panama Canal.


CURWOOD: Remember: only you can prevent forest fires. Smokey the Bear has been delivering that message since August 9, 1944, the first time he appeared on a Forest Service poster. Smokey's origin goes back to World War II, when the war effort diverted resources away from fighting fires, making prevention more crucial. The Forest Service sought to rally the public behind a mascot and 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 wildfire prevention spokesbear. Today, Smokey 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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