The 2,166th Meeting of the Society

October 10, 2003

The Audubon Movement

Harbinger of Our National Wildlife Refuge System

Kent Minichiello

Audubon Naturalist Society

About the Lecture

The Audubon movement was a reaction to the slaughter of wild birds for sale for food and feathers. Wild game was brought from the Midwest and lakes regions to eastern cities; bird skins and plumes came from the coasts and the South to New York's millinery trade. The first organized opposition appeared in the mid-1880's with the forming of the American Ornithologists Union and its committee for bird preservation; Committee action led at once to the establishment in the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) of a section which later became the Bureau of the Biological Survey and latter the Fish and Wildlife Service. In 1896, women in the Boston area formed the Massachusetts Audubon Society for the purposes of educating the public about bird conservation and lobbying local, state, and federal governments for protective legislation. Soon other Audubon Societies formed in most states and began educational programs for children, teachers, and other adults. In Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and Florida, the state Audubon Societies purchased refuges and/or hired wardens to enforce newly-passed state laws. In 1903 Audubon Society members told Theodore Roosevelt of the threat of the plume trade to birds on Pelican Island, Florida; Roosevelt responded by making the island the first federal wildlife refuge. Audubon societies involved themselves in the long battles to pass federal bird-protection legislation which met the then-strict constitutionality requirements.

About the Speaker

J. Kent Minichiello received his Ph.D. in mathematics from George Washington University in 1967. He retired as professor of mathematics at Howard University in 1993, and was the coordinator of the Audubon Naturalist Society's Natural History Field Studies Program from 1992 to 2000. He co-edited From Blue Ridge to Barrier Islands: An Audubon Naturalist Reader with Anthony W. White. (This book at He currently teaches the Philosophy of Conservation class for the ANS /USDA certificate program and is a member of the USDA Graduate School Natural History Advisory Committee.