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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Almanac/Refuge Centennial

Air Date: Week of

This week, we have facts about the first National Wildlife Refuge. President Teddy Roosevelt granted legal protection for Pelican Island one hundred years ago, daring anyone to stop him.


CURWOOD: Welcome back to Living on Earth. I’m Steve Curwood.

And here is Theodore Roosevelt IV on one of the memorable achievements of his great-grandfather, the 26th president of the United States.

ROOSEVELT IV: Who knows of anything as grand as the National Wildlife Refuge System that began this humbly: a dollop of mud, a few spent shotgun shells and a few feathers.

[MUSIC: Peerless Orchestra “Smokey Mokes” Black Wax Sampler, 1902-1912 tinfoil.com]

CURWOOD: One hundred years ago, birds were killed by the millions to furnish feathers for women's hats. Among the hardest hit were the shorebirds of Florida, including brown pelicans. In 1903, the pelicans had only one remaining rookery on Florida's east coast, the aptly named Pelican Island. Luckily for them, they had a friend in the White House.

In March of that year, President Teddy Roosevelt granted legal protection to a small island and its birds. He declared it the first National Wildlife Refuge.

ROOSEVELT IV: When asked to intercede on behalf of the pelican breeding ground, Roosevelt essentially asked: is there anyone out there who can stop me? Evidently, no one could.

CURWOOD: Those three acres of protected land have grown today to nearly 100 million acres in 535 refuges. Each refuge is diverse and each has its own specialty. From manatees in Florida to bison in Montana to dragonflies in New Mexico.

Unlike most federal lands, refuges exclude logging, grazing, mining and drilling. And while limited hunting does occur in refuges, ecological science has taken a leading role. Conservation work today includes wetland protections, prescribed burning, control of invasive species and the reintroduction of native plants.

And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.




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