In 1974, a new park was added to the National Park system -- the Big Cypress National Preserve. Unlike national parks, the country's first national preserve allowed traditional uses of the land, including hunting, air boats, swamp buggies -- even oil drilling. It was a landmark conservation compromise that allowed unprecedented resource usage, while protecting the vast swamp from development.
The J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge complex represents promises kept: a promise to nature and the earth to preserve and protect its habitat and its inhabitants, and a promise to the American people to make this 8,000-acre sanctuary available for their enjoyment, reflection and education. It is a fragile, carefully orchestrated balancing act. But the result is a true partnership between man and nature that bears the name and the stamp – literally and figuratively -- of an unassuming political cartoonist from Iowa who led the initial charge to save Sanibel Island from unbridled development and exploitation.