News Release

National Garden Clubs Honored With Golden Smokey Bear Award

The award is the highest national honor for outstanding work and significant program impact in wildfire prevention

May 27, 2011 -

U.S. Forest Service today announced the National Garden Clubs Inc. as a winner of the Golden Smokey Bear Award for the group’s 50-year commitment to wildfire prevention education.

“The National Garden Clubs have artfully cultivated a half-century of wildfire prevention education through a very successful poster contest and have helped to keep alive the words, ‘Only You Can Prevent Wildfires,’” said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “In the world of wildfire prevention, there is no greater honor than to receive the national Golden Smokey Bear Award.”

Jim Hubbard, deputy chief of State and Private Forestry, presented the award on behalf of the Forest Service to Renee Blaschke, president of the National Garden Clubs Inc. during the group’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C. The award is reserved for people or organizations, such as the Garden Clubs, that provide sustained, outstanding service with significant program impact in the wildfire prevention arena.

National Garden Clubs works with the Forest Service across the country to promote wildfire prevention among elementary school children by conducting the annual Smokey Bear and Woodsy Owl Poster Contest. Winning artwork is then used by the Forest Service in promotional and conservation education materials.

When the poster contest started in 1960, the focus was on Smokey Bear, the nation’s iconic wildfire prevention symbol. The first poster contest winners were named in 1961, chosen from just 458 student entries. Woodsy Owl, a Forest Service symbol for conservation since 1971, became part of the poster contest in 1974. The contest has since blossomed into an original artwork contest for children in first to fifth grades with roughly 35,000 submissions annually.

Past winners of the Golden Smokey Bear Award include the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., which became home to the “real life” Smokey Bear after he was found as a young cub suffering from burns sustained in a fire on the Lincoln National Forest; “The Lassie Show”; Walt Disney Productions; Boy Scouts of America; and Rudolph Weinstein, a Forest Service draftsman and illustrator who helped launch the Smokey Bear project.

The Smokey Bear Awards are sponsored by the U.S. Forest Service, the National Association of State Foresters and the Ad Council. The national Cooperative Forest Fire Prevention Committee determines the winners in gold, silver and bronze categories.

The National Garden Clubs is a not-for-profit educational organization that includes nearly 200,000 members in 50 State Garden Clubs and the National Capital Area.