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Strictly for the Birds

Following in the footsteps of pioneer Paul Kroegel, the Pelican Island Preservation Society is dedicated to saving Florida's wildlife.

In the late 19th century, tens of thousands of pelicans were slaughtered for their feathers, which adorned women’s fashions of the time, particularly hats.

In the late 19th century, tens of thousands of pelicans were slaughtered for their feathers, which adorned women’s fashions of the time, particularly hats.

Steve Massey never knew Paul Kroegel, but tales of the German immigrant’s passion for protecting the wildlife on Pelican Island passed down by his great-grandfather was one of the things that prompted Steve to become a member of the Pelican Island Preservation Society. Today he serves as president of the non-profit organization formed in 1993 to support and promote the Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge and National Wildlife Refuge System with their efforts to conserve habitat and wildlife.

“The refuge was a haven for birds and Mr. Kroegel was the first game warden appointed by President Theodore Roosevelt to protect them from being slaughtered for their feathers,” says Steve, who grew up in Wabasso and, coming from a family of avid fishermen, knows the island and the waters around it well. “The fact that in 1903 Pelican Island was established as the very first Wildlife Refuge in the United States is remarkable because it has become such a major part of our history. Pelican Island still exists because of the PIPS friends’ group and the Fish & Wildlife Service’s continued efforts to educate the public about the island’s existence and to provide educational wildlife information.”

Read the entire article in the February 2010 issue