Dear Friend in Peace,

Each step I took on the gently rising boardwalk filled my heart with inspiration and joy.  By the time we reached the top to view Pelican Island, my heart had extended and encompassed all I could see. Brown pelicans, Roseate spoonbills, Wood storks, Tricolored herons, White ibis, Great egrets, and other water birds greeted us, flew overhead, and nestled in the mangroves.  This world of inspiration which lay before us was made possible by past actions.

Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, our nation’s first National Wildlife Refuge, was created in 1903 through an executive order by President Theodore Roosevelt to protect brown pelicans and other birds being killed for their feathers.  It is used for feeding, nesting, and roosting by over 130 species of birds.  The refuge itself includes not only the island, but a total of over 5,400 acres of protected waters and lands which means it is home to myriad wild beings including fish, toads, frogs, insects, anoles, skinks, lizards, snakes, butterflies, trees, and plants.

The enormity of what was begun in 1903 became increasingly apparent as Ernie, Willie, and I walked the boardwalk which listed every National Wildlife Refuge created from 1903 to 2024, all 571 of them!  Each Refuge was listed on a plank inserted in the boardwalk beginning with the most recent and gradually winding up to where one could see Pelican island. Each listing includes the name of the Refuge, the state in which it is located and the year in which it was added.

The very first one we saw was for the "Everglades to Gulf Conservation Area" in southwest Florida and was added on March 14th 2024.  As we walked along through all the boardwalk markers, I became more and more enthralled and elated at the scope, wisdom, and vital benefits of preserving lands undertaken by our Nation.

Hope, inspiration, and awe continue to flow within me to know and honor that year after year, our government, influenced by the foresight of Teddy Roosevelt has had the wisdom to continue such acquisitions to protect and preserve natural lands and waters for our children’s children.   May we as individuals seek ways to provide hope and inspiration for future generations through thoughtful, peaceful choices regarding our Mother Earth and how we treat ourselves and one another.

Tricolored heron in pond near boardwalk.
The 571st entry on the boardwalk and 1st National Wildlife Refuge in US is Pelican Island, NWR, FL   1903
Ernie and Willie at the top of the boardwalk in the viewing area for Pelican Island. Access to Pelican Island is restricted to protect birds and other wildlife.  The island is best seen through the spotter scopes on the boardwalk or binoculars.

Photo is courtesy of Ian Shive of the USFWS Access to the island is limited to viewing from a distance on either land or by boat.

Photo of Roseate Spoonbills at Pelican Island courtesy of USFWS
This Wood stork appeared to be selecting nesting materials while doing an amazingly acrobatic dance and breaking branches off the tree.  His legs had the appearance of rubber.  He prevailed!