For Immediate Release
March 14, 1999

Contact: Tom MacKenzie
404/679-7291

AMERICA'S FIRST REFUGE, PELICAN ISLAND, CELEBRATES 96th ANNIVERSARY;
ACQUIRES ADDITIONAL 38 ACRES OF LAND

Thanks to bipartisan support from members of Florida's Congressional delegation, The Conservation Fund, announced today that it has purchased 38 acres of land for inclusion into the Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge in Indian River County. The announcement coincides with the 96th anniversary of America's first of over 500 refuges. Pelican Island is about 15 miles from Vero Beach. A special anniversary celebration will be held Sunday, March 14, in Sebastian.

At the request of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, The Conservation Fund, a nonprofit organization headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, arranged to buy the land when it was on the market, prior to the availability of federal funding. The property will be transferred to the Service within the coming month. Money for the purchase, $2 million, will come from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund.

In addition to this year's federal funding, the Department of the Interior's Year 2000 budget request to Congress includes another $2 million to acquire additional sensitive lands for the Pelican Island refuge.

"We all owe a debt of gratitude to Representative Dave Weldon, Senator Connie Mack, and Senator Bob Graham for the successful bipartisan effort to secure the necessary funding. This acquisition marks a terrific accomplishment for supporters of Pelican Island and the National Wildlife Refuge System throughout Florida and the nation," said John Turner, president of The Conservation Fund.

"I was pleased to lend my support to this effort which had the full backing of the local community and the landowner," said Representative Weldon.

"With the centennial of the National Wildlife Refuge System in 2003, this acquisition will honor President Theodore Roosevelt and early conservationists who recognized the tremendous value of Pelican Island almost 100 years ago," said Turner, who served as the Director of the Fish and Wildlife Service from 1989-1993.

"The Conservation Fund has provided the Service with the crucial assistance necessary to acquire another important addition to the National Wildlife Refuge System," said Sam D. Hamilton, Southeast Regional Director of the Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Conservation Fund acts to protect the nation's legacy of land and water resources in partnership with other organizations, public agencies, foundations, corporations, and individuals. To date, the Fund has helped its partners safeguard wildlife habitat, greenways, community "greenspace" and historic sites totaling more than 1.6 million acres throughout the nation.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish and wildlife and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System comprised of more than 500 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands, and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries and 78 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.

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Release #: R99-025


1999 News Releases

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