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It is hereby ordered that Pelican Island in Indian River in section nine, township thirty-one south, range thirty-nine east, State of Florida, be, and it is hereby reserved and set apart for the use of the Department of Agriculture as a preserve and breeding ground for native birds.
—President Theodore Roosevelt, March 14, 1903

Pelican Island

Paul Kroegel - first FWS ranger at Pelican Island NWR

Everglades Headwaters N.W.R.

The History of Pelican Island

Pelican Island acquired its fame at the turn of the century from the wildlife photographers and naturalists who visited the area. Many of these people were disturbed by the slaughter of countless pelicans, herons, egrets, and other birds by plume hunters. A local resident, Paul Kroegel, who cared about the pelicans on the island became the staunch protector and enlisted the support of noted ornithologists, such as Frank Chapman, who helped establish the Audubon Societies.

At the urging of Mr. Kroegel, the Florida Audubon Society, and the American Ornithologists' Union, President Theodore Roosevelt signed an Executive Order on March 14, 1903 that permanently set aside the three-acre island as a wildlife sanctuary; and made Pelican Island the first National Wildlife Refuge. Since then, the National Wildlife Refuge system has grown to become the world's largest network of lands managed for wildlife with over 500 refuges totaling over 93 million acres.

"Pelican Island, located in Florida's (USA) Indian River, was the first unit of the USA's National Wildlife Refuge System. Reserving this area was not an instantaneous brainstorm of President Theodore Roosevelt, as astute as he was. Actions by persons to protect birds over a century ago ultimately contributed to T.R.'s bold commitment to an American wildlife and habitat conservation system."

Excerpted from "History of Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge," Encyclopedia of Earth website. Click here to read the rest of this in-depth, extensive article on Pelican Island's history.

Shared staff for Pelican Island, Archie Carr, Lake Wales Ridge,
and Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuges

CONTACT Pelican Island NWR

Refuge Fact Sheet

2001 Pelican Island NWR Brochure

Pelican Island Preservation Society

Pelican Island N.W.R. homepage link

Titusville Florida link
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