We mark the return of Flashback Friday by celebrating the anniversary of the oldest National Wildlife Refugee – Pelican Island which is just outside Sebastian. As we discussed last week in reviewing the film Wind Over the Everglades the bird trade was becoming a poacher’s paradise in the early 1900’s as the demand for feathers particularly in the manufacturing of women’s hats became overwhelming. As early as the late 1800’s the problem had reached a critical stage on the coast of the Indian River Lagoon.
An executive order of President Theodore Roosevelt on March 14, 1903 established Pelican Island, which was the first national wildlife refuge in the country. Egrets in particular were beneficiaries after having been nearly hunted to extinction in the years running up to President Roosevelt’s Executive Order.
Roosevelt’s Executive Order was one of the first signs of the growing influence of the Audubon Society on national opinion. While National Parks and preservation was a movement that started out west, few today realize the first National Wildlife Refugee was actually here in Florida.
For more on Pelican Island visit here.