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June 29, 2023

Contact: Caryn Shinske    (609) 984-1795
Lawrence Hajna       (609) 984-1795
Vincent Grassi       (609) 984-1795


(23/P040) TRENTON –A special collection of original work by Rudy Wendelin, the artist whose brushstrokes and fine pencil drawings brought Smokey Bear to life on canvas and in posters recognized by millions, across multiple generations, is visiting several locations across New Jersey this summer, Environmental Protection Commissioner Shawn M. LaTourette announced today.

The DEP’s Forest Fire Service is presenting the traveling art gallery, which features a collection of timeless Smokey Bear artwork by Wendelin, who for many years was known as Smokey Bear’s “caretaker.” The collection is in locations around New Jersey from Saturday, July 1 through Monday, Aug. 14 and is on loan to the state from the Special Collections section of the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Library in Washington, DC.

Smokey Bear artwork by Rudy Wendelin“Smokey Bear has been a beloved presence in American culture for nearly 80 years, reminding children and adults of the importance of preventing wildfire, a significant concern as New Jersey continues to address the worsening impacts of climate change,” said Commissioner LaTourette. “To have this priceless art collection visit our state and share the visionary talent of Rudy Wendelin is a gift to us all.”

Wendelin, who died in 2000, began his career with the U.S. Forest Service in 1933, and in 1944 was given the responsibility of bringing newly created wildfire prevention symbol Smokey Bear to life with his pencils, paints, brushes and artistic prowess.

Smokey Bear artwork by Rudy WendelinWendelin went on to create hundreds of Smokey Bear representations that highlighted natural resources conservation and wildfire prevention. Under Wendelin’s direction, Smokey Bear grew into the beloved image and national icon that he remains to this day. After a long and distinguished career, Wendelin retired from the U.S. Forest Service in 1973.

“Rudy Wendelin’s iconic artwork has brought Smokey Bear to life for generations of New Jerseyans,” said Greg McLaughlin, Administrator and Chief of the DEP’s Forest Fire Service. “As wildfire becomes more frequent and intense in New Jersey, Smokey Bear’s role as an education ambassador for the Forest Fire Service is more important than ever.”

Admission is free to the exhibit, which will be in these locations:

  • July 1-8: Cape May-Lewes Ferry Terminal, Cape May County, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • July 10-17: Batsto Village Historic Site Visitor Center, Wharton State Forest, Burlington County, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekends
  • July 19-23: Monmouth Battlefield State Park Visitor Center, Monmouth County, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • July 25-Aug. 1: Central Railroad of New Jersey Terminal, Liberty State Park, Hudson County, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Aug. 7-11: New Jersey State House, Trenton, Mercer County, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visitors interested in viewing the exhibit will be required to check in with security at the State House Annex, request to visit the exhibit and will then receive a visitor’s pass.

    Created through legislation on July 4, 1906, the DEP’s Forest Fire Service is tasked with protecting life, property and natural resources from wildfire in the Garden State.

    The Forest Fire Service’s primary response area is 3.72 million acres, comprising 77% of the state’s land area. To date in 2023, the Forest Fire Service has responded to 903 wildfires which have burned 16,448.25 acres across New Jersey. Twelve of these fires were considered to be major wildfires burning in excess of 100 acres.

    To learn more about wildfires in New Jersey, steps to protect property and other resources, visit

    Like the Forest Fire Service’s Facebook page at

    Follow the Forest Fire Service on Twitter @njdepforestfire and Instagram @newjerseyforestfire

    Follow Commissioner LaTourette on Twitter and Instagram @shawnlatur and follow the DEP on Twitter @NewJerseyDEP, Facebook @newjerseydep, Instagram @nj.dep and LinkedIn @newjerseydep