On this date in 1940, Washington Governor Clarence D. Martin issued an influential proclamation appealing for the positive action by all of Washington’s citizens in the prevention of wildfires. This public proclamation would directly lead to the creation of the Keep Washington Green Association, an organization whose model was eventually copied by states throughout the country.
Martin’s address came at a crucial time in the history of Washington and Oregon’s forests. An increase in destructive forest fires in the Pacific Northwest during the early 20th century had culminated in the Tillamook Burns of the 1930s, a series of fires which destroyed massive amounts of the region’s timber. These catastrophic fires led to great concern among foresters and forest industry leaders, including former U.S. Forest Service chief William B. Greeley, who at the time served as head of the West Coast Lumbermen’s Association. Greeley publicly called for improved logging practices and more organized fire suppression. His continued championing of these issues eventually led directly to Washington Governor Martin’s public proclamation of May 31, 1940.
Along with his address urging the public to embrace forest fire prevention, Governor Martin also called for a public meeting in Olympia five days later to further address the issues at hand. At this meeting an organization was formed to create publicity campaigns promoting forest fire prevention. Roderick Olzendam, public relations director for Weyerhaeuser Timber Company and originator of such slogans as “Timber is a Crop” and “Tree Farm,” proposed the new organization be named Keep Washington Green. As the new organization began implementing forest fire prevention advertising campaigns and radio programs in Washington, the idea quickly began to spread. In May 1941 Oregon Governor Charles Sprague called together 250 state leaders in Portland to replicate the program, forming a Keep Oregon Green Association.
Both state organizations undertook increasingly larger projects and campaigns to spread the word about forest fire prevention to the public. Grassroots community-focused plans were established, as well as the production of dramatic radio presentations, newspaper features, and various promotional items.