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I So Declare It

What quote am I vibing? "After listening attentively to their description of Pelican Island's quandary, and sickened by the update on the plumers' slaughter for millinery ornaments, Roosevelt asked, 'Is there any law that will prevent me from declaring Pelican Island a Federal Bird Reservation?' The answer was a decided 'No'; the island, after all, was federal property. 'Very well then,' Roosevelt said with marvelous quickness. 'I So Declare It.'" Douglas Brinkley, from The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America

Federal Bird Reservations visited Today / All-Time: 1/1

When I recently learned that America's First National Wildlife Refuge, signed into existence by Theodore Roosevelt in 1903, was located just a little over an hour from my Stuart, FL home - I had to go ASAP. I knew that my birding friend Wendy would be the perfect partner for this trip. She has taught me a lot about our Florida birds - she is excellent at identifying the different species, which often look the same to me - and just a fun friend for any occasion!

I'll quote another section from Wilderness Warrior because I was moved by the prologue which includes so much information about how this little bird reservation came into being.

"If Roosevelt paddled around the island he would have heard the loud murmur of bird chatter, a dozen species all singing in different keys, yet all somehow in unison, giving the Indian River rookery the distinct feel of a God-ordained sanctuary. Exuberant streams of birds actually congregated on Pelican Island like figures in a timeless dream. Great blue herons, for example lingered for long and often hot hours, statue-still while somehow still managing to groom their breeding plumage, including ornate onyx head feathers that seductively lured a mate. Reading about the calls, stillnesses, and hesitations of these long-legged birds fascinated Roosevelt to no end." (Brinkley)

Pelican Island itself is not accessible to the public, but observable from a distance - Wendy and I had the great pleasure of seeing a couple pelicans land on the island and a formation of four or five pelicans in the air around it. Leading to the Pelican Island Observation Tower is Centennial Trail, which was really the highlight of the Park for me - it is a boardwalk with a slat to commemorate each National Wildlife Refuge created from this first one in 1903 to the centennial celebration in 2003 - an exciting and heartwarming visual of how much land is available for us to enjoy in the United States - and in such a variety of environments.

We also walked the Joe Michael Memorial Trail and spent a long time at Joe's Overlook observing Roseate Island and the salt marsh separating us from it. There, we saw a great variety of Florida's favorite feathered friends. Roseate spoonbills (one in flight), ospreys, herons, and kingfishers were preening and perching. Two osprey(s) were eating fish in a tree, which is all I ever seem to observe osprey(s) doing.

I am terrifically happy having visited this first national land that Roosevelt created in the name of conservation with Wendy. I am happy to report the island has lots of beautiful birds thanks to the efforts of TR and other conservationists throughout the years, but sad that we continue to lose our bird population over time. The sanctuary is not as teeming with birds as it once was. Now that I have become more educated about our public lands, I find that there are many more national spaces for me to visit right here in southeast Florida - looking forward to planning the next adventure!

The man who popularized the idea of "conservation" in America. TR

Beautiful water. Beautiful sky. Some relief from the cool and rain we've been experiencing in FL.

A section of the Centennial Trail celebrating America's National Wildlife Refuges.

Lush and alive.

Pelican Island in the distance.

Wendy and I are at Joe's Overlook. A salt marsh, and Roseate Island in the distance.


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