Refuge Establishment Timeline

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 This is a timetable of important events leading to the creation of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the National Wildlife Refuge System, and the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge.


Date Event 
1871The U.S. Commission on Fish and Fisheries established by Congress. The Commission is the first Federal agency concerned with natural resources conservation, directed to study "the decrease of the food fishes...and to suggest remedial measures."
1885The Division of Economic Ornithology and Mammology is established in the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The division studies the geographical distribution of animals and plants throughout the country.
1896The Division of Economic Ornithology and Mammology is renamed the Division of Biological Survey.
1900The Lacey Act becomes the first Federal law protecting game, prohibiting the interstate shipment of illegally taken wildlife and the importation of species. Enforcement of the act is the responsibility of the Division of Biological Survey.
1903Pelican Island Federal Bird Reservation is established by President Theodore Roosevelt and placed under the jurisdiction of the Division of Biological Survey. Pelican Island is recognized as the first unit of what is now the National Wildlife Refuge System.
1905The Division of Biological Survey becomes the Bureau of Biological Survey in the Department of Agriculture.
1913Congress passes the first Migratory Bird Act providing the Federal government with the authority to regulate hunting of migratory birds. This law is repealed in 1918 as a result of the passage of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which implements the Convention between the United States and Great Britain (for Canada) for the Protection of Migratory Birds.
1916The Bureau of Biological Survey's administrative responsibilities are expanded to focus on five program areas: investigations of food habits of birds and mammals in relation to agriculture; biological investigations with special emphasis on the distribution of native species; supervision of reservations set aside for birds and mammals and the preservation of wild game; enforcement of the Lacey Act; and, administration of the Federal Migratory Bird Act.
1925The Alaska Game Law is passed, authorizing the Bureau of Biological Survey to work with the Alaska Game Commission to manage fish and wildlife in the state.
1934The Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act (or "Duck Stamp Act") is passed. Waterfowl Hunters are required to purchase a stamp; revenues from the sales provide for lands to be purchased by the Federal government for "inviolate migratory bird sanctuaries." Since 1934, 4.5 million acres of waterfowl habitat has been protected.
1934Jay Norwood "Ding" Darling is appointed as Chief, Bureau of Biological Survey, resulting in a new and ambitious course for the agency, to acquire and protect wetlands and other vital habitat throughout the country.
Darling appoints J. Clark Salyer II as the first Chief of the Bureau's Wildlife Refuge Program. The number of refuges expands tremendously over the next 30 years under Salyer's leadership. Salyer is widely regarded as the "Father of the Refuge System."
1939The Bureaus of Biological Survey and Fisheries are transferred from the Departments of Agriculture and Commerce, respectively, to the Department of the Interior.
1940The Fish and Wildlife Service is created by combining the Bureaus of Biological Survey and Fisheries.
1940Executive Order 2416 renames 193 "reservations" as "refuges," where it is "unlawful to hunt, trap, capture, willfully disturb, or kill any bird or wild animal...or to enter thereupon for any purpose, except as permitted by...rules and regulations of the Secretary of the Interior."
1956The Fish and Wildlife Service is renamed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, with two bureaus, the Bureau of Sport Fisheries and the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries. Management of wildlife refuges falls to the former.
1964The Wilderness Act establishes the National Wilderness Preservation System. Since its passage, over 20 million acres of wilderness have been designated on units of the National Wildlife Refuge System.
1966The National Wildlife Refuge System is formally established, under section 4 of the Endangered Species Act. This law, commonly referred to as the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act, consolidates various authorities and authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to permit the use of refuges whenever it is determined that such a use is compatible with the purposes for which the area was established.
1968The first Wilderness Area managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is designated by an act of Congress at the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, New Jersey.
1969Cape Newenham National Wildlife Refuge was established by the Secretary of the Interior. With goals of protecting important waterfowl staging areas, nesting seabird colonies, and marine mammal haulouts, 265,000 acres of land were included in the refuge.
1970The Bureau of Commercial Fisheries is abolished and its functions are moved to the National Marine Fisheries Service in the Department of Commerce. The Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife remains in the Department of the Interior, continuing to manage refuges.
1971Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) passed. This act allowed for the withdrawl of lands that were considered "national interest" lands as possible additions to the National Park Service, Refuge System, or Forest Service, or to establish Wild and Scenic River desigantions. ANCSA, and the subsequent withdrawls, set in motion a chain of events that would lead to the creation of Togiak National Wildlife Refuge and several other refuges in Alaska.
1974The Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife is renamed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
1980Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) passed. This act designated the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge and incorporated the Cape Newenham Refuge within the 4.7 million acre Togiak Refuge, with the northern 2.3 million acres designated as a Wilderness Area.
1984The Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta Goose Management Plan, originally known as the Hooper Bay Agreement, was passed by the Association of Village Council Presidents meeting in Hooper Bay, Alaska. The plan works to conserve populations of cackling Canada geese, black brant, white-fronted geese, and emperor geese that breed on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. Togiak Refuge is an important area for these geese as well.
1997The National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act explicitly states that the mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System is wildlife conservation. The act identifies a number of wildlife-dependent recreational uses that will be given priority consideration, mandates a long-term refuge planning process, and clarifies the process for determining the compatibility of refuge uses.
1998The National Wildlife Refuge Volunteer and Community Partnerships Act authorizes partnerships with organizations to promote the understanding and conservation of fish, wildlife, plants, and cultural resources on refuges and directing the Service to develop educational programs.
2003Centennial of the National Wildlife Refuge System: 100 years since the creation of Pelican Island Refuge by President Theodore Roosevelt. Happy Birthday!