Do you know who the above man is? Well, in case you don’t, I’d like to fill you in on his legend. He was for a few years a true environmental hero across the United States.
Just a little background first.
Just like our National Park System, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) manages some amazing places. Just to name a couple—
Aravaipa Canyon in Arizona—
And these beautiful wilderness areas in southern Idaho in the Owyhee Lands—
If you managed places like these wouldn’t you want to make sure they stayed clean? Johnny Horizon was just the man for the job.
Back in the late 1960s, BLM created a mascot named Johnny Horizon to get Americans to help with an anti-littering campaign. His use accelerated in the build up to the Bicentennial under the premise of let’s cleanup America for her 200th birthday. Unlike Smokey Bear, Johnny Horizon was phased out in the late 70s. During his heyday though, he was so successful, that the entire Department of the Interior used him as a mascot to aid in cleaning up America on the eve of the Bicentennial.
He was a huge hit. However, for some reason he headed for the horizon himself in the late 1970s. Soon, he was largely forgotten.
A great forestry-related website described his “tragically short career” with the following—
He came from out of the West. He was a loner who brought the people together. With their help, he said, together they could clean up their towns and farms. “Do-gooder,” they called him. “Square-jawed,” they said. Troubadours traveled the countryside, singing about how a folk hero walked among them. Hearing his story changed the people’s lives. Rural folk and urban kids, hippies and businessmen, even the president—they all did as he asked. As his fame and power spread, the government grew nervous. Then one day the suits in Washington said they’d had enough. They’d created him, they could silence him. They ordered him “phased out.” To this day, he is still honored in the one state that loves its forest history characters more than any other. He was Johnny Horizon. And his legend lives on.
He was huge and then no more…except in Twin Falls, Idaho. The legend of Johnny lives on. This fine city has annual Johnny Horizon Day to focus beautification efforts across the city.
Good on them! Johnny would be proud of them! I kind of miss Johnny. Perhaps he’ll return one day.