Department of Interior

Fish and Wildlife Service
Office of Public Affairs
1849 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20240
Fax: 202-208 5634

For more information, contact:
Cindy Hoffman, 772-234-2078


For Immediate Release

Or: Mitch Snow, 202-208-5634
Interior Secretary Norton Kicks Off 100th Anniversary Celebration at America's First National Wildlife Refuge

Administration Highlights Commitment to Conservation at Historic Event

(Sebastian, FL) March 14, 2003 - Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton was joined today by thousands of wildlife enthusiasts, members of Congress and notable conservationists to celebrate the Centennial of the National Wildlife Refuge System, the only federal system of lands dedicated to conserving wildlife. Sebastian, Florida is home to Pelican Island, the first National Wildlife Refuge, created by President Theodore Roosevelt on March 14, 1903.

Secretary Norton presided over a special ceremony at Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge to honor the entire Wildlife Refuge System by installing the final plank in the Centennial Boardwalk, leading to a new viewing tower overlooking Pelican Island. Each plank in the Boardwalk is inscribed with the name of a wildlife refuge created in the past 100 years, 540 in all. The site was rededicated as a national historic landmark.

"President Bush is committed to carrying on the 100-year conservation legacy of President Roosevelt," said Secretary Norton. "On this historic occasion, we invite every American to discover a wildlife refuge near their home and to join with us in protecting these natural treasures for the next 100 years."

Centennial celebrations occurred simultaneously at wildlife refuges across America, and will continue throughout the year. National Wildlife Refuges are open to the public, with many having new facilities such as the observation tower at the Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge. The new observation tower offers, for the first time, views of the pelicans for which the island was named.

"The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is using this historic occasion to put the welcome mat out to every American. There is a wildlife refuge in every state and one within an hour's drive of most cities," said Steve Williams, Director of the Fish and Wildlife Service. "Wildlife refuges are unique because we have struck a balance between the needs of wildlife and people. Wildlife refuges offer unprecedented opportunities for wildlife observation, school education programs, and fishing and hunting."

At a public celebration attended by thousands of conservation enthusiasts, the United States Postal Service issued a new commemorative postage stamp celebrating the creation of the Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge.

"This stamp will provide Americans with an opportunity to learn more about our natural resources and encourage people to help preserve the beauty and majesty of American wildlife," said Patrick R. Donahoe, chief operating officer and executive vice president, U. S. Postal Service.

The United States Mint marked the occasion by announcing that it will create a National Wildlife Refuge System Centennial Medal Series, which will be available for sale in May. The proceeds from the medal sales will go to the National Wildlife Refuge System's conservation programs.

"This U.S. Mint five medal series will feature an image of President Theodore Roosevelt with each reverse featuring a bald eagle, canvasback duck, salmon or elk to represent the diverse wildlife that we can all enjoy due to the conservation efforts of our National Wildlife Refuges," said Henrietta Holsman Fore, director of the United States Mint.

The Centennial Celebration kick-off also was attended by The Walt Disney Company Vice-Chairman of the Board, Roy Disney, who presented a $100,000 gift to establish the Centennial Commission Scholarship Fund for Conservation.

"The Walt Disney Company has joined hands with the National Wildlife Refuge System because of our commitment to environmental education," said Disney. "We have an obligation to our children to conserve our wild places for them and for their children."

A special Centennial Commission, created by Congress and comprised of a group of distinguished private-sector individuals, oversees Centennial Campaign activities and is charged with rallying public support for the National Wildlife Refuge System.

"As we celebrate the first 100 years of wildlife conservation we now turn our attention to the next 100 years," said Centennial Commission Chairman William Horn. "All throughout this year we will reach out to outdoor enthusiasts from across America - hikers, hunters, anglers, birders, photographers and educators - to build and strengthen support for the National Wildlife Refuge System."

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses more than 540 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

B-Roll and Photos: Beta copy of b-roll and stunning photographs from this event and many of America's 540 National Wildlife Refuges are available upon request. The b-roll includes dramatic wildlife footage and special historical footage of Pelican Island NWR. In addition, digital images of the new Pelican Island commemorative postage stamp are available in JPEG and PDF formats.

For more information on the National Wildlife Refuge System, and the wildlife refuge near you please visit: To schedule an interview or to obtain a copy of the b-roll or a digital photo of the postage stamp, please contact Lindsey Gordon at 772-234-2078.


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