Smokey Bear Awardees chosen for their ingenuity, exceptional dedication to wildfire prevention

Smokey Bear Awards are reserved for individuals, teams, and organizations that provide outstanding service with significant and sustained program impact in the wildfire prevention arena.

WASHINGTON—The partners behind the wildfire prevention legend Smokey Bear and his public service advertisement campaign—the longest running in United States history—have announced the 2021 winners of the national Smokey Bear Awards.

In the world of wildfire prevention, there is no greater honor than to receive a Smokey Bear Award. From the 1950s to today, the Smokey Bear Awards program has been managed by the National Association of State Foresters (NASF), the Ad Council, and the USDA Forest Service.

“These Smokey Bear Award winners are being honored for the dedication, innovation and energy they bring to wildfire prevention,” said USDA Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen. “Throughout the many years of these awards, it’s people like these who show up with the passion and desire to make a difference. We thank them for their outstanding work in preventing human-caused wildfires.”

This year’s Smokey Bear Awardees are:

Kent Nelson
Kent Nelson of the Maine Forest Service has been an integral member of the Northeast Forest Fire Protection Compact Prevention and Education Working Team since 2005. While serving as the team’s chair, Kent initiated four Smokey hot air balloon events, including two held in Maine and New Hampshire in celebration of Smokey’s 75th birthday. Kent’s imaginative and effective approach to wildfire prevention messaging has included allusions to Maine’s devastating 1947 wildfires and highway billboards with at-risk forested areas as backdrops. He has coordinated Smokey Bear appearances across New England and helped produced a 30-minute educational video that won a bronze Telly Award. Kent has earned a Silver Smokey Award for these activities and many more in support of wildfire prevention.

Frank Riley
Frank Riley’s career-long dedication to promoting wildfire prevention has earned him a Silver Smokey Bear Award. Frank has used every opportunity, small and large, as the executive director of the Chestatee-Chattahoochee RC&D Council, a state Firewise USA liaison, a volunteer firefighter, a member of the Appalachian RC&D Council Fire Adapted Communities Coalition, and chair of the Georgia Prescribed Fire Council to champion wildfire prevention. In just the past two years, Frank has given hundreds of presentations, displayed inflatable Smokey Bears and Smokey Bear banners in popular parades and fairs, and handed out promotional prevention materials at more than 150 events. According to the Georgia Forestry Commission, there were 1,566 human-caused wildfires in 2020—51% fewer fires than the five-year average. Frank contributed tremendously to this improvement.

Anna Henderson
Anna Henderson of the USFS Northern Region has led the Southwest Montana Zone Wildfire Prevention Education Team for the past three years to great success. Thanks to Anna’s leadership and foresight, well-known campaigns like BeOutdoorSafe.org and One Less Spark were deployed through social media when traditional face-to-face wildfire prevention programming wasn’t impossible. Anna and her team’s digital efforts led to a decrease in human-caused fires in the Northern Region in 2020 and earned her a Bronze Smokey Award.

Doug Miner
Doug Miner of the New Hampshire Division of Forests and Lands has gone well-beyond his normal duties as a forest ranger captain in support of wildfire prevention. In 2019 alone, Doug coordinated 61 prevention efforts, including Smokey Bear 75th Birthday celebrations and displays at local parks and festivals, a Smokey Bear poster contest and public library program, and a first pitch by Smokey at a Manchester Fisher Cat’s game. Doug’s terrific foresight has helped the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources and the Northeast Forest Fire Protection Compact better promote prevention programming statewide. His efforts to expand wildfire prevention education have earned him a Bronze Smokey Award.

Anne Nelson
Anne Nelson of the Alaska Department of Law was chosen to receive a Bronze Smokey Bear Award for her instrumental role in modernizing Alaska’s Wildland Fire Prevention Statutes and Regulations. As the drafting attorney, Anne took the original statutes—which were adopted in 1961 when Alaska’s population was less than one-third of what it is today—and updated them to enhance wildfire prevention efforts in the wildland urban interface, where humans start more than 80% of wildfires in the state. In addition to ushering the bill through the legislative process, Anne assisted in drafting regulations for its implementation. The new regulations have been a springboard for the Alaska Division of Forestry’s  public education campaign—“Take the time to LEARN before you burn”—and its mascot Spruce the Moose, who will work alongside Smokey Bear to prevent forest fires through education and outreach.

“Wildfire prevention remains as relevant today as it was 77 years ago when the Smokey Bear campaign began,” said Ad Council Chief Campaign Development Officer Michelle Hillman. “Keeping our forests safe from unplanned and unwanted fires takes exceptional dedication, and we congratulate this year’s awardees for this well-deserved recognition.”

“The Smokey Bear Awards have honored extraordinary prevention work for many decades now, but this year’s winners are different,” said Joe Fox, NASF president and Arkansas state forester. “These individuals are the first to excel in their efforts during a pandemic year, despite tremendous limitations, and at a time when their service was more critical than ever to protecting our first responders from harm, our neighbors from smoke, and our forests from destructive wildfire. We commend the 2021 awardees for their accomplishments and thank them for their valued contributions to wildfire prevention.”

The 2021 Smokey Bear Awards will be presented at the 2021 NASF Annual Meeting in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on September 9, 2021. You can get to know this year’s award winners, as well as past winners, with a visit to SmokeyBear.com. The nominations period for the 2022 Smokey Bear Awards will open on Smokey’s 77th birthday: August 9, 2021. News regarding the 2022 nominations period will be published here on NASF’s website and on NASF’s Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram channels.

Ad Council
The Ad Council is where creativity and causes converge. The non-profit organization brings together the most creative minds in advertising, media, technology and marketing to address many of the nation’s most important causes. The Ad Council has created many of the most iconic campaigns in advertising history. Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Drunk. Smokey Bear. Love Has No Labels. To learn more, visit AdCouncil.org, follow the Ad Council’s communities on Facebook and Twitter and view the creative on YouTube.

USDA Forest Service
The Forest Service is the agency responsible for overseeing the use of Smokey Bear in cooperation with the National Association of State Foresters and the Ad Council. The Forest Service manages 193 million acres of national forests and grasslands for the American Public. Its mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the Nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations.

National Association of State Foresters
On behalf of the nation’s 59 state and territorial foresters, NASF influences forest policy and leads efforts to optimize the social, economic, and environmental benefits of forests and trees. State foresters, and the forestry agencies they lead, are committed to the continued delivery of Smokey Bear’s message of personal responsibility and fire safety. Learn more at www.stateforesters.org.