Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge Earns Sanibel Island Top Place as Travel Destination


The United States Fish and Wildlife Service can be proud of all its efforts to preserve the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island following the visionary mission of the park’s namesake, Jay Norwood Darling. Darling was part of the original committee that preceded the USFWS. He thought of the Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act, also known as the Duck Stamp Act, which was passed in the 1930s and generated essential monies for the preservation of fowl habitat.

Now the USFWS can add another bragging right to its list. Arthur Frommer just recently named the park his favorite travel spot in the world. Frommer’s travel guidebooks are the forerunners of the popular budget travel guidebooks that inspired Lonely Planet and Rick Steve’s travel guides.

When the world slows down in the cold north of the United States, many wildlife enthusiasts flock down to the refuge in hot pursuit of the 500 some species of birds that arrive at the onset of winter. Read the full story below.

Original press release issued by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service on January 23rd, 2012:

Travel guru Arthur Frommer has ranked Florida’s Sanibel Island his all-time favorite travel destination — ahead of Bali, Paris and St. John — because the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge makes the island a mecca for “thousands of birds of every species.”

The refuge is world-famous for its spectacular congregations of migratory birds, such as American white pelicans and wading birds such as roseate spoonbills, anhingas and wood storks. The birds, says Frommer, “bask in the sun after diving for fish, and are one of the great natural sights of wildlife in America.” Frommer voiced his preference in a blog on December 28 of his 10 “favorite travel destinations.”

Nearly 800,000 people visit the refuge each year. Winter months are the busiest, supervisory refuge ranger Toni Westland says, when the refuge offers more than 30 free programs a week, including birding and biking tours. To view program offerings, click on the spoonbill cartoon on the refuge’s homepage.

Westland called the listing an honor not just for the refuge but for the National Wildlife Refuge System — made up of more than 550 national wildlife refuges across the country that protect habitat for wildlife. “Hopefully this is a springboard for people to visit national wildlife refuges in their own backyards as well,” she said. Sanibel Island’s national wildlife refuge was established in 1945 to provide feeding, nesting and roosting areas for migratory birds. In 1967 the refuge was renamed in honor of conservationist and Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Jay Norwood “Ding” Darling. From 1934 to 1935 Darling served as chief of the U.S. Biological Survey, a forerunner of the Service.

Made up of more than 6,400 acres of mangrove forest, submerged seagrass beds, cordgrass marshes, and West Indian hardwood hammocks, the refuge also provides habitat for bobcats, river otters and alligators. Refuge “megafauna” also include one crocodile, says Westland, and a bear. The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov. Connect with our Facebook page, follow our tweets, watch our YouTube Channel, and download photos from our Flickr page.

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