He turns 65 this year, but Smokey Bear’s nowhere near extinguished, the Los Angeles Times reports. The mascot remains as fiercely beloved by baby boomers as he is fiercely protected by the government: Federal law keeps his image from unauthorized use, which can result in a $150,000 fine. Annually, he brings in $1 million—but over the years, he has seen his share of controversy.
Smokey Bear was born in 1944 as part of a campaign to protect America’s wood for the war effort. But some say his longtime message, “Only you can prevent forest fires,” has actually contributed to raging wildfires. Forests wind up artificially packed with wood, “creating a very flammable forest,” says an expert. Today, Smokey's message has been adjusted to focus on wildfires while marketers try to update his image. “We want him to be seen as a very cool bear,” says one.