Fish & Wildlife Service Header

Indian River Commissioner Ruth Stanbridge Wins Refuge Hero Award


July 19, 2001

Tom MacKenzie, 404/679-7291

Since 1963, Ruth Stanbridge, now a County Commissioner in Indian River County, Florida, has worked tirelessly to protect and expand Pelican Island Refuge. On Wednesday, July 18, she was nationally recognized with a Refuge Hero award at a congressional reception in Washington D.C.

Refuge Hero awards have been given annually since 1995 to private individuals or companies to honor their support of the Service's National Wildlife Refuge system. Also receiving awards, along with Stanbridge, were George Berklacy of Washington D.C. and J. M. Associates of Little Rock, Arkansas. Berklacy, a retired National Park Service employee, received his award for his work with the Service's Refuge Centennial promotion. J. M. Associates, a contractor with the television sports network ESPN, received its award for its National Wildlife Refuge public service announcements on ESPN.

"Ms. Stanbridge's leadership for Indian River County has enabled the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to work with a partner that has helped to fund land acquisition, public use facilities, and restoration activities at the nation's first refuge," said Paul Tritaik, refuge manager at Pelican Island. "She is very deserving of a Refuge Hero award."

I was speechless when I heard about my award," said Stanbridge, a resident of Vero Beach. "I didn't expect it and I felt very honored."

As an employee with the Florida Game and Fish Commission, she conducted bird surveys and gathered any other biological data needed to convince the Commission to support the refuge. After 32 years as a career employee, she retired from the Commission, but not as an advocate for Pelican Island.

"Ruth traveled to Washington D.C. on her own time, to convince lawmakers that the refuge needed land acquisition funds to purchase buffer lands to protect the refuge from private development," said Tritaik. "Her efforts have been instrumental in stopping attempts to build a private marina, canals, and boat docks in the refuge."

Now, thanks to State, federal and local government partnerships, 400 acres of buffer lands protect the refuge. As the County Historian, she is actively involved in trying to preserve the homestead of Pelican Island's first refuge manager, Paul Kroegel. She was also influential in getting tourism funds for a Paul Kroegel statue.

The Pelican Island refuge will soon be able to open to visitors because Stanbridge was successful in getting funds for access roads, parking areas, public facilities, and kiosks for the refuge. Stanbridge is working with the Florida State Department's Division of Historic Resources and the Trust for Public Land, and is chairing a local Centennial Committee to plan for the refuge's Centennial on March 14, 2003.

Established in 1903 as the first National Wildlife Refuge Pelican Island was established as a 5.5-acre refuge to protect brown pelicans and other native birds. Pelican Island is now a 5,175-acre refuge of marsh and lagoon habitat. It is located in Indian River lagoon, close to the city of Sebastian.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish, wildlife, and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 94-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System which encompasses more than 535 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 70 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices, 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.

NOTE: You can view our releases or subscribe to receive them -- via e-mail -- at the Service's Southeast Regional home page at Our national home page is at:

Atlanta, GA 30345

Phone: 404/679-7289 Fax: 404/679-7286

2001 News Releases

| Home | Privacy Information | Site Map | Contact Site Administration | Got Fish & Wildlife Questions?