Why Theodore Roosevelt created the first Bird Preserves
were the first federal bird preserves. Dr. Paul Russell Cutright, in
his book Theodore Roosevelt the Naturalist (New York: Harper
& Brothers, 1956), tells the story of the origin of the federal bird
preserves: "As Governor of New York .... Theodore Roosevelt had insisted
that the state forbid factories to make bird skins into articles of
apparel. Birds in the trees and on the beaches were much more beautiful
than on women's hats, he had insisted.
After he became President, he was in a position to do even more about it. He took his first important step on March 14, 1903. For some time ornithologists had been making a determined effort to get protection for the birds on Pelican Island, a pinpoint of land in Florida's Indian River, where plume hunters had been making such inroads on the egrets and other birds of lively plumage that it was feared they would soon be exterminated. When all other efforts failed, they ap- pealed directly to Roosevelt. In considering this appeal Roosevelt asked: 'is there any law that will prevent me from declaring Pelican Island a Federal Bird Reservation?' When told that there was none, the island being federal property, he replied, 'Very well, then I so declare it.'
In this manner, quickly, without fanfare, Roosevelt established the first Federal Wildlife Refuge. Pelican Island was only a speck of land, less than four acres in extent, but from that time on its birds and other innocuous animals were able to mate and raise their young without fear of human molestation. Having made this start toward protecting our wildlife,
Roosevelt...created fifty more reservations, making fifty-one in all. They were scattered from the Gulf of Mexico to California and Oregon, even to Puerto Rico, Alaska, and Hawaii. He gave protection to the colonies of laughing gulls, black skimmers, and brown pelicans on the Breton Island Reservation, Louisiana; he provided safe nesting grounds for migratory waterfowl on Klamath Lake and Mallicur Lake Reservations in Oregon; he gave sanctuary to the sooty and noddy terns on the Dry Tortugas Reservation in the Gulf of Mexico; and he supplied protected homes for the petrels, cormorants, puffins, and murres on the Three Arch Rocks Reservation off the coast of Oregon." Top
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Note: The status, borders, names, and other details about the projects and areas mentioned in these lists have changed over the years. For instance, some National monuments are now parts of National Parks, while the borders and names of National Forests have been changed in some cases.
and edited from research done by the National Geographic Society and
The Theodore Roosevelt Association staff.