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Happy 40th Anniversary!


The “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society, one of the first two friends group created for the U.S. National Wildlife Refuge System, begins celebrating its 40th anniversary year today.

The yearlong celebration begins with the reveal of a new 40th anniversary logo for DDWS shown above.

DDWS helps the refuge plan a full slate of special events each year.  Events coming up soon include the annual “Ding” Darling Day (October 10), the unveiling of “Ding” Darling’s own limited-edition Wild Daze Pilsner beer (December 4), and the return of Project Refuge: A Couture Fashion Show Using Trash (March 2022), among others.

“The refuge would be a very different place without the support of our society friends, so we are beyond excited to celebrate this milestone with them,” said Supervisory Refuge Ranger Toni Westland.  “We will be honoring a long history of support that has helped make ‘Ding’ Darling one of the top, most robust refuges in the nation and its friends group a respected model for those that have followed.”

Facing staff shortages to handle its new administration building’s welcome area in 1982, the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island started a volunteer program, but needed help.  That’s when the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society-Friends of the Refuge came together as a nonprofit organization to, at its inception, support the volunteer program.

It incorporated on Oct. 6, 1982, with volunteers stepping in as officers.

During the past 40 years, its support of the “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge has widened broadly to embrace support of conservation education programs, research, land acquisition campaigns, internships, and staffing through retail operations — two physical and one online Nature Store — and fundraising.

DDWS has added to refuge facilities, starting with the current Visitor & Education Center, which was later built in 1999 by dedicated leaders and community support.

Most recently, DDWS helped the refuge bring the Wildlife on Wheel (WoW) mobile classroom project to fruition.

Other major recent accomplishments include the Wildlife Education Boardwalk, the upgrading and addition of numerous exhibits and trails; the completion of the award-winning America’s Best Restroom; the addition of solar paneling to refuge buildings; and the acquisition of more than 92 acres of land on Sanibel Island.  It has bused thousands of students each year for onsite education and now reaches over a thousand more with WoW.

For more information, visit www.dingdarlingsociety.org.

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