Original Pelican Island Survey Found in Donated Collection, March 1999Although we all know that Teddy Roosevelt was an ardent conservationist, staff at the National Conservation Training Center recently discovered a startling fact: the designation of the first national wildlife refuge at Pelican Island, Florida, was in part the result of a surveyor’s error. While sorting through documents donated to the Service’s archives at NCTC by the family of late Service employee Phil DuMont, someone discovered the original 1902 survey of Pelican Island. The 1902 survey was contracted and paid for by the Committee for the Protection of North American Birds for the American Ornithologist's Union. They elected not to file the survey with the General Land Office when they discovered its acceptance would immediately open the land to homesteading. In 1903, after the island had been declared by Executive Order to be a bird reservation, a second suvey was conducted which calculated the island at 5.5. acres (as opposed to 4.5 acres in the orgianl survey). This latter survey became the official survey.
A Service employee from the 1920's through the 1960's, Phil DuMont worked alongside Ira Gabrielson, J. Clark Salyer, and other auspicious contemporaries in the National Wildlife Refuge System. His son, Paul, recognized the importance of his archives to the Service, and donated those which related to Phil’s tenure with this agency to NCTC even before the facility was completed.
The documents included original letters from Jay N. “Ding” Darling pertaining to the establishment of what was to become “Ding” Darling NWR in Sanibel, Florida, letters to and from legendary refuge manager J. Clark Salyer, and the 1902 Pelican Island survey, which NCTC staff members reported to be in excellent condition.
During his tenure as President, Roosevelt designated 52 other properties as bird and mammal reservations, laying the foundation of our present-day refuge system.
--Jeanne Harold, National Conservation Training Center, Shepherdstown, West Virginia