Our Treasure: Ding Darling Wildlife Society
The coastline of Southwest Florida is breathtaking. Bottom line is there are few other coastlines that can come close to what we have at our fingertips. From the salt sand beaches of Sanibel, Captiva, or Marco Island to the lesser traveled shores of Cayo Costa, Southwest Florida truly has it all. Our state parks and nature preserves are known for their plants and wildlife. Protecting our natural resources is an ongoing process. Our community is invested in keeping our coastline pristine.
Sanibel is home to the J. N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Society Refuge. The refuge is famous for its migratory bird populations and is part of one of the largest undeveloped mangrove systems in the United States. Jay Norwood “Ding” Darling was one of the most influential cartoonists of his era. His witty cartoons earned him two Pulitzer prizes in the early 1900’s. Ding Darling was also a devoted hunter and fisherman. He became alarmed at the destruction of so many natural habitats and extinction of animals. He was one of the first proponents of wildlife conservation, a topic that he often worked into his many cartoons. His visibility and influence created awareness for wildlife preservation that previously did not exist.
In 1934 “Ding” Darling’s cartoons caught the attention of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. President Roosevelt appointed “Ding” as the Director of the U.S. Biological Survey. During his 18 months as Director, Ding developed the Federal Duck Stamp program. “With the passage of the Migratory Bird Hunting Act in 1918, all waterfowl hunters 16 years and older became required by law to purchase a Federal Duck Stamp. Proceeds from the sales of these stamps are used to purchase wetlands for the protection of wildlife habitat. Since 1934, over $670 million in funds have been raised and more than 5.2 million acres of habitat have been purchased for wildlife.” Ding also increased the size of the National Wildlife System exponentially and was involved with numerous state universities to help train students interested in wildlife biology.
The Ding Darling Wildlife Society is constantly giving back to our community. After Hurricane Charley, the Society donated time and money to the cleanup of Sanibel, Captiva, and the refuge. They spearheaded and financed the new $3.3 million education center and established a radio information system. They have an internship program, and annually donate $5,000 for Lee County teacher conservation grants. These are just a few of the many programs the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society has in place to help educate and give back to our community.
The “Ding” Darling Wildlife Refuge is one of the best examples of natural landscape design in Southwest Florida. The refuge was designed as a natural habitat. The sustainable design of the refuge is continuously being updated. Sanibel is home to some of the most beautiful and exotic wildlife. Millions of people visit the Sanibel beaches each year. The Refuge is just one of the many reasons Southwest Florida is the place to be.