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Celebrate Woodsy Owl’s 50th birthday

Robert Hudson Westover
Office of Communication
April 22, 2021

A picture of Woodsy Owl with the words It's My 50th Birthday! on the side and bottom of the Woodsy Owl graphic.
Caption: This year Woodsy Owl celebrates 50 years of caring for the land, beginning with his "Give a Hoot! Don’t Pollute!” motto that gave way to the all-encompassing, “Lend a Hand! Care for the Land! Share in Woodsy’s birthday celebration this year by adopting one – or all – of his 4Rs. (USDA Forest Service graphic)

I can remember Woodsy Owl’s public service announcements pop up between episodes of my favorite cartoon, Speed Racer. Laying on then-fashionable 1970s-era green shag carpet, my friends and I would call out as the pudgy, animated owl encouraged us to help spread an anti-pollution motto to “Give a Hoot! Don’t Pollute!”

On Sept. 15, the Forest Service’s iconic defender of the Earth turns 50—and what a difference 50 years make. He’s slimmed down and developed broader shoulders that help him to handle the weight of the world. However, his message that we all pitch in is still the same, although altered from the original motto to a deeper, more encompassing call-to-action of “Lend a hand! Care for the land!”

And I’m sure all he wants for his birthday is a cleaner, greener Earth.

“Woodsy Owl is a mentor who instills conservation ethics, principles and practices in children and their families, said Woodsy’s handler  Iris Velez, who manages Woodsy’s use and likeness through the Woodsy Owl program and the National Symbols Cache.

The cache is a store front of sorts for Woodsy, his pal Smokey Bear, and other free or low-cost products for children and educators. Free digital downloads include posters and coloring pages. Low cost items include Woodsys’ ABCs, which features woodland plants and wildlife he protects, the Woodsy Activity Book, and Woodsy’s stickers. Most items are less than $10. You can even purchase a metal sign for your yard.

Those items help parents, teachers, and others working with children to help educate children about their role in caring for the Earth, particularly around Woodsy’s 4Rs:

  • A picture of Woodsy Owl working with several young kids.
    Popular with children for 50 years, Woodsy Owl is an enduring icon of wildland and urban green space conservation. His message of caring for the land has reached millions of children. (USDA Forest Service photo)

    Reduce: Buy only what you use

  • Reuse: Use items more than once, like plastic bags, or turn them into other uses, such as using an egg carton to start seeds.
  • Recycle: Take advantage of your local recycling program instead of putting glass and cans in the trash
  • Rot: Turn leftover fruit and vegetables into compost. Even apartment dwellers can plant small gardens near a window or on a patio. 

 With the individual responsibility of 4Rs in mind, help us make this year the year of Woodsy in honor of his 50th birthday. Whether or not you have children, consider adopting one of the 4Rs. Then share on your social media with the hashtag #HootforWoodsy. He wants to know what we are collectively doing to help conserve and protect our open spaces whether in the a national forest or grassland, wilderness area, or green spaces right in your neighborhood.

Let’s make our nation’s most famous owl proud!