In 1896, Boston socialites Harriet Lawrence Hemenway and her cousin, Minna Hall, hosted a series of tea parties, hoping to convince their friends to forgo a popular fashion trend: wearing hats adorned with feathers. Poachers were killing scores of birds in coastal rookeries for that purpose; without a market for feathers, the two ladies reasoned, the slaughtering of birds to near extinction would end.
They founded the Massachusetts Audubon Society that year; within two years, Audubon groups had formed in 15 other states and the District of Columbia to support their conservation movement (the groups banded together as the National Audubon Society in 1905).
Among the places in peril was 3-acre Pelican Island off the east coast of Florida, whose residents included pelicans, egrets and herons. With the encouragement of the Florida Audubon Society and the American Ornithologists’ Union, President Theodore Roosevelt established the islet and 2-1/2 acres of surrounding waters as America’s first wildlife refuge on March 14, 1903.
Celebrating its 115th anniversary this year, the National Wildlife Refuge system now comprises 566 refuges and 38 wetland management districts in every U.S. state and territory (a total of 150 million acres of land and water). Administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, it is the largest network devoted to conserving wildlife in the world.
The refuges also protect important historic, archaeological and paleontological sites and provide magnificent settings for hunting, hiking, fishing, photography and other recreational activities.
National Wildlife Refuge Week is observed annually in October; this year’s dates are Oct. 14-20.
Hawaii has 10 national wildlife refuges, including the James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge on Oahu, Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge on Maui and the Kauai National Wildlife Refuge Complex.
Here’s a wrap of activities at those three locations:
KAUAI NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE COMPLEX
Set within the Kauai National Wildlife Refuge Complex against a dramatic backdrop of pounding surf and soaring cliffs, the 200-acre Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge harbors some of Hawaii’s largest populations of nesting seabirds, among them the Laysan albatross, red-footed booby, white-tailed tropicbird, great frigatebird and wedge-tailed shearwater. The kolea (Pacific golden plover) and other migratory shorebirds can be spotted from August through May.
Established in 1985, this refuge is also known for the Daniel K. Inouye Kilauea Point Lighthouse, which was built in 1913 as a navigational aid for ships traveling between Asia and Hawaii. It was decommissioned in 1976.
Enjoy nature walks, book signings, kids’ activities and presentations by conservation groups during National Wildlife Refuge Week (the complete schedule for each park is on its website).
Also within the Kauai complex, of special note on Oct. 17 is a half-day activity in the Huleia National Wildlife Refuge (fws.gov/refuge/huleia), which is normally closed to the public. It includes hiking, kayaking (one way up the Huleia River) and a motorized boat ride back. Cost is $20.25 per person (ages 3 and older). Reservations required, call the Kilauea Point phone, (808) 828-1413, ext. 2228.
>> Address: 3500 Kilauea Road, Kilauea, Kauai
>> Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, except federal holidays (Because they often fall on Mondays, the refuge may close on the Saturday prior.)
>> Admission: $10 per person, ages 16 and older (cash or traveler’s checks only); free for children under 16. Admission free on Oct. 20.
Tours of the Daniel K. Inouye Kilauea Point Lighthouse are included with admission. They’re available on Wednesdays and Saturdays, depending on staff availability. See details at 808ne.ws/2N2kJjp.
>> Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
>> Phone: (808) 828-1413, ext. 2228
>> Website: fws.gov/refuge/kilauea_point
JAMES CAMPBELL NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE
Established in 1976, 1,100-acre James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge is a sanctuary for waterfowl, seabirds, migratory shorebirds, the endangered Hawaiian monk seal, the threatened Hawaiian green sea turtle and a variety of native plant species. It holds a community workday on the first Saturday of every month from 9 to 11 a.m.; in observance of National Wildlife Refuge Week, the Oct. 6 workday will run a half hour longer and will be followed by an optional bring-your-own picnic lunch and self-guided birding.
Keep your eyes peeled for migratory shorebirds such as the pectoral sandpiper and bristle-thighed curlew as well as endangered waterbirds, including the Hawaiian stilt, Hawaiian coot and Hawaiian gallinule. A biologist will be on hand to answer questions.
You don’t have to sign up for the workday in advance, but participants should be punctual and wear a hat, sunscreen, sturdy shoes and clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty, and bring water. Meet at the main office.
From Oct. 11 to Feb. 17, free guided tours are given at 4 p.m. Thursdays and 9 a.m. Saturdays. No reservations required. Bring water and binoculars, and wear sun protection and comfortable shoes and clothing. Tours last one to two hours.
>> Address: 56-795 Kamehameha Highway, Kahuku (Look for the entrance near the shrimp trucks.)
>> Email: email@example.com
>> Phone: 637-6330
>> Website: fws.gov/refuge/james_campbell
KEALIA POND NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE
The 700-acre Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge is home to more than 30 species of birds, including the wandering tattler, ruddy turnstone and other migratory waterfowl. Founded in 1992, it features walking paths, the Kealia Coastal Boardwalk beside Maalaea Bay and a visitor center offering interactive exhibits and hands-on children’s activities.
To celebrate National Wildlife Refuge Week, it has planned the following free activities. Meet at the visitor center.
>> Oct. 16 and 18: Guided bird walk, 9 a.m. Wear comfortable covered shoes and bring water and binoculars.
>> Oct. 17: Hawaiian hoary bat presentation, 1 p.m.
>> Oct. 20: Keiki crafts, guided bird walk and presentation on birds and bats, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Stroll through the native pollinator garden to see greenery that attracts bees, moths, beetles and butterflies.
>> Address: The refuge and visitor center are at Milepost 6, Mokulele Highway 311, and the boardwalk is on North Kihei Road between Kihei and Maalaea.
>> Hours: Except for federal holidays, the refuge is open 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays, and the visitors center is open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays. The boardwalk is open sunrise to sunset daily.
>> Admission: Free
>> Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
>> Phone: (808) 875-1582
>> Website: fws.gov/refuge/kealia_pond