Last September, we were thrilled to announce Cleatus the FOX Sports Robot and Woodsy Owl as the winners of the 13th Annual Madison Avenue Walk of Fame. While Cleatus is a regular fixture during sporting events on TV, Woodsy tends to spend his time in forests alongside fellow conservation icon (and friend), Smokey Bear.
Since 1971, Woodsy Owl has been encouraging one and all to “Lend a hand — care for the land!” and be the environmental change they wish to see in the world. From the story behind his name to his makeover in 1993, here’s what you might not know about the wise owl representing the United States Forest Service.
1. Woodsy was “born” on September 15, 1971.
As part of an expansion of environmental consciousness with the public, Woodsy was created to be a leader in the fight against pollution and littering in America. As he flew throughout the country, Woodsy worked with adults and kids alike to teach them how to fight pollution in a positive way by using the 4R’s: reduce, reuse, recycle, and rot to keep the world we live in a clean one. He also encouraged people of all ages to build a relationship with nature and to naturally enjoy and explore the beauty of the land while giving back to it.
2. Woodsy the… Raccoon?
Forest Service employees and consultants on the TV show Lassie Glen Kovar and Chuck Williams, alongside merchandising agent Harold Bell, are credited for creating Woodsy.
Initially, there was discussion of making Woodsy a trout, elk, or raccoon. The latter in particular was up for consideration because raccoons wash their food before they eat. Instead, the trio decided to go with an owl, due to the wise nature of the bird and how they could be found at the edges of urban areas, which made the owl appealing to urban and rural populations.
Fans of Woodsy Owl probably remember one of his most infamous early sayings was “Give a hoot, don’t pollute!” Who came up with this slogan, anyway? It was a joint effort between Kovar, Williams, and Bell who collectively coined the motto during a brainstorming session.
3. What's in a name?
What’s in a name? As told by the U.S. Forest Service, Woodsy’s name is the representation of a fanciful owl. His character is friendly and caring, wearing a white shirt, green slacks, and brown belt. Atop his head is a green alpine hat with a red feather. Funnily enough, a promotional item Williams picked up on the Lassie set for his daughter inspired this hat!
4. Why he’s a short fellow.
In comparison to Smokey, Woodsy is much shorter in stature and that’s a good thing! Woodsy was designed to be a short woodland animal with the same height as preadolescent children to better appeal to them. The first Woodsy Owl costume was created and designed by Betty Conrad Hite — and today, the costume is still available to order.
5. A design and slogan revamp in the 1990s.
While Woodsy remained popular throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the dawn of the 1990s saw the need for Woodsy to get a makeover in order to maintain relevancy with audiences.
Alongside the Children’s Television Workshop, the Forest Service helped redesign Woodsy so he looked less like an owl and more like a person. The new and improved Woodsy was much more slender and wore a backpack and hiking boots to project an active image. Debuting on Earth Day in 1997, Woodsy arrived with a new jingle and message.
Woodsy Owl’s gonna help us see
Look all around, look what we can be
Open up your eyes
Caring for the land that is yours and mine
Open up your eyes
Come lend a hand, care for the land.
As America’s symbol for environmental conservation, Woodsy can be spotted flying all throughout the country (and tweeting on Twitter) sharing messages for how children and adults can get involved in giving back to the land. Now over 40 years old, Woodsy still advocates for a positive difference to be made throughout the natural world, no matter where you may live, and that active participation now can lead to a brighter, better future for the next generation.