THE UPPER VALLEY − The Idaho Falls Bureau of Land Management took Smokey Bear on a tour around some of Idaho’s public lands this week for his 75th birthday, including a hike to the Menan Butte.
It wasn’t the actual Smokey Bear — he died in 1976 — rather it was a stuffed-toy Smokey.
“This year is Smokey’s 75th birthday and, to celebrate, Idaho BLM wanted to do that in style by showing him around Idaho to all of our beautiful public lands,” Kelsey Griffee, public information officer for BLM said.
Griffee said The Idaho Falls BLM district covers 3.7 million acres and includes areas in eastern Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and Utah.
“He started his tour in Boise then went to Coeur d’Alene and then went to Idaho Falls,” Griffee said. “He was in Twin Falls yesterday and today he’s back in Boise and tomorrow he’ll be in Boise having a huge birthday party. There will also be another party at the Roaring Youth Jam at the greenbelt in Idaho Falls (Thursday). But his actual birthday is Friday.”
She said during Smokey’s travels he visited engine crews as well as hotshot crews across the district.
“Why he went to Menan was that in the last couple years for BLM, in our area, that’s where we’ve had the highest occurrence of human-caused fires,” Griffee said. “His motto is ‘only you can prevent wildfires’ and he wants to prevent any human-caused fires.”
She said they’ve had issues with visitors shooting explosive targets and using fireworks in the area, both of which are not allowed but still used.
Menan Butte has seen an uptick in human-caused fires in the last couple of years, according to a post on the Idaho Fire Info Facebook page. In the previous two years the area averaged six human-caused fires, which burned a total of 20,000 acres. Target shooting, includes shooting exploding targets, fireworks and vehicles off-roading were the most common causes. Idaho Fire Info reminds recreationist that exploding targets, fireworks and incendiary and steel-core ammunition are prohibited on BLM lands.
According to the U.S. Forest Service website Smokey Bear was born on Aug. 9, 1994 and the first painting of him was made by artist Albert Staehle.
“It depicted a bear pouring a bucket of water on a campfire and saying ‘Care will prevent 9 out of 10 fires,’” the website read. “Smokey Bear soon became very popular as his image appeared on a variety of forest fire prevention materials. In 1947, his slogan “Only YOU Can Prevent Forest Fires!” became the familiar.
According to the website, a young bear was later found in 1950, in the Captain Mountains of New Mexico. The cub was found stranded in a burning forest and had serious injuries. The firefighters who found the cub named him Smokey and the nation quickly gained interest in the young bear. He lived at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. for a number of years before dying in 1976. He is buried in Captain, New Mexico, at the State Historical Park.
“It’s a really big birthday it’s 75 years of preventing wildfires! We wanted to show him around the great state of Idaho and highlight all the great places that the public can go and enjoy and to highlight our awesome BLM fire program,” Griffee said.