Celebrating 115 Years of the National Wildlife Refuge System • March 14 2018
The National Wildlife Refuge System celebrates 115 years on March 14, 2018. In 1903, Pelican Island in Florida was the first federal land set aside to protect non-marketable wildlife, the brown pelican. Since then, the refuge system has morphed from three-acre Pelican Island to 566 national wildlife refuges, 38 wetland management districts, and three national monument areas encompassing more than 800 million acres of land and waters. The system is home to more than 8,000 species of wildlife.
How well do you know your national wildlife refuges? In honor of the refuge system’s 115 years, take our quiz to see how you fare. You might learn something new, or get inspiration for your next vacation!
In the late 1800s, the whims of fashion dictated that women’s hats would be decorated by bird feathers. To meet this need, poachers hunted many species of birds to the brink of extinction. Concerned citizens, scientists, and conservation groups found a champion in President Theodore Roosevelt.
Their concern about the rookery at Pelican Island on the Atlantic Coast of Florida inspired Roosevelt to use his presidential powers to protect pelicans, egrets, ibises, and other birds. With the establishment of Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge on March 14, 1903, Roosevelt created the National Wildlife Refuge System. While in office, he would go on to create 50 more federal bird reserves and four national game preserves.
Building on that foundation, the National Wildlife Refuge System today spans 850 million acres, including seven marine national monuments, 566 national wildlife refuges, and 38 wetlands management districts.
More than 50 million people visit refuges every year, creating economic booms for local communities. These visitors generated nearly $2.4 billion in consumer spending and supported over 35,000 local jobs. Find a wildlife refuge near you to witness the curious behavior of mammals, hear the sweet melodies of birds, cast a line into a rippling river and more.