History of RWR

History and Origin of the Property

Only a year after purchasing and donating Marsh Island and State Wildlife refuges to the Conservation Commission of Louisiana, E.A. McIlhenny became interested in creating another wildlife refuge on a large tract of land located in western Vermilion and eastern Cameron Parishes totaling 86,000 acres (McIlhenny 1930). On July 12, 1913, he purchased the property for $212,500 using $27,500 cash and $185,000 of donated monies. On May 20, 1914 he sold the property to the Rockefeller Foundation for preservation and protection of migratory birds. Through the encouragement of McIlhenny, the Rockefeller Foundation agreed to allow the Conservation Commission of Louisiana to control the lands for a period of five years, and on September 25, 1914, the State formally accepted the care of the property. The property was donated to the State on December 18, 1919 and the State of Louisiana officially accepted the lands in 1920 thus creating the Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge.

During the early years, management practices at RWR consisted primarily of patrolling the area against poaching and trespassing, burning the marsh to encourage production of preferred goose and muskrat foods, and a trapping program aimed particularly at muskrats. RWR at this time was held to be self-supporting: that is, any funds needed for management or patrolling on the refuge had to be generated from within the refuge (Lynch 1942, cited in Wicker et al. 1983.) Thus, the sale of fur hides, especially those of the abundant muskrat, was an important source of revenue in the refuge’s early history.

In addition to being “one of the most important wildlife areas in the United States”, the refuge functions as a natural laboratory for research on “marsh management, plant ecology, pond culture and life history studies of the many forms of fish and wildlife found on the refuge” (Joanen 1969a). The information gained in these research efforts “demonstrates what man can do to improve on nature to benefit wildlife” (Joanen 1969a) and can serve as management guidelines for other state and Federal management areas, as well as private property owners.