The Sand Lake Civilian Conservation Corps camp, under the direction of Phil DuMont, created the “largest waterfowl refuge in South Dakota,” according to the Morning American newspaper in Aberdeen, “achieving an enviable record both in work accomplished and in the education and professional training for the boys.” DuMont achieved another enviable record, too. During a single year as manager of Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge, he banded 16,453 birds of 93 species, a near–record high in North America.


DuMont was with the National Wildlife Refuge System from 1935 until 1972, working side by side with J. N. “Ding” Darling, Ira Gabrielson and J. Clark Salyer. In fact, he was hired by Darling to identify potential wildlife areas for protection in Iowa, later becoming a biologist at Malheur Refuge in Oregon and then manager of Sand Lake Refuge, where he made his mark banding birds. He once told the Aberdeen Lions Club that the Dakota pothole was the best nesting area in the nation, while the cow was the greatest natural menace to wildlife through its grazing habits.


DuMont’s fieldwork took him to all 50 states, Mexico, several South American countries, Europe and East Africa. Before coming to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, DuMont spent 16 months studying and collecting in Madagascar for the American Museum of Natural History. He was also one of the first biologists to research albatross–airplane collisions on Midway Island. His extensive research on ornithology and conservation was donated to the University of Iowa, but his son recognized the value of DuMont’s archives to the Service and donated information related to his Refuge System career to the National Conservation Training Center.


The collection included the original 1902 survey of Florida’s Pelican Island, prepared for the Committee for the Protection of North American Birds of the American Ornithologists’ Union, of which DuMont was a member. The committee, however, did not file that original survey with the General Land Office because it would have immediately opened the land to homesteaders. Instead, an official survey—marking a slightly larger area—was not completed until after the island had been declared a bird reservation by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1903.


DuMont was born in Minnesota and raised mostly in Iowa. He was 93 years old when he died in 1996.