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A Talk on the Wild Side.

Honoring Women in Conservation

What kind of mark have American women made on wildlife conservation?

A profound one.

First, meet some of the many talented women who manage refuges today. These include Shannon Smith, at Kaua'i National Wildlife Refuge Complex in Hawaii; Susan Silander, at the Caribbean Refuge Complex; Susan White, at the Pacific Reefs Refuge Complex; and Raye Nilius, at South Carolina’s Low Country Refuge Complex.

The pioneer era isn’t over. Just ask Heather Bartlett, not yet 30, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s only female pilot/law enforcement officer, assigned to the Arctic Refuge.

National wildlife refuges also honor the legacy of outstanding women conservation leaders through the names of some refuges and refuge facilities. Books, photos and historic displays also tell their stories. The Refuge System is count women among its historic conservation heroes.

The best-known of these women is American conservation legend Rachel Carson. The author of Silent Spring (1962), the book that led the nation to confront the toll of pesticides on the environment, Carson began her career with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. A refuge on the southern coast of Maine now bears her name.

Other women leaders whose names are tied to refuges include:

  • Elizabeth A. Morton, who donated 187 acres of land in Long Island, New York, to protect habitat from commercial development,
  • Elizabeth Hartwell, who spearheaded a grassroots movement to protect habitat on the Mason Neck peninsula in Virginia,
  • Julia Butler Hansen, who worked closely with the Refuge System and other natural resource agencies during her 14 years in the House of Representatives, and
  • Contaminant researcher Lucille Farrier Stickel, former director of the Patuxent Research Center at Patuxent Research Refuge in Maryland, where laboratories still bear her name.

Photos and displays at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, WV, recall two giants of the conservation movement: Mardy Murie and Mollie Beattie. Both exerted special efforts on behalf of America’s last great frontier: Alaska. Murie, with her husband Olaus, pushed for passage of the Wilderness Act and the creation of Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. In 1998 President Clinton awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Beattie, the Service’s first woman director from 1993 to 1996, is memorialized in the Mollie Beattie Wilderness in Arctic Refuge.

Less well-known conservation heroes include journalist Esther Lape and attorney Elizabeth Read, women’s rights advocates and friends of Eleanor Roosevelt, who donated the Salt Meadow Unit of the Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge in Connecticut to protect it from development.

Get great images to share with your friends and family on our Flickr site! Check out the set Women Leaders on Refuges.

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