CAMERON, La. (AP) - What used to be Louisiana's largest state wildlife refuge is celebrating its centennial.
The Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge in southwest Louisiana was 86,000 acres (34,800 hectares) when the land was bought in 1914 and donated to Louisiana in December 1919.
Officials say it's now down to about 71,500 acres. That's about a 17% loss. Rockefeller is now a bit smaller than the White Lake Wetlands Conservation Area donated to the state in 2005 and a bit larger than Marsh Island Wildlife Refuge, which itself has lost 7% of its land since it was donated in 1920.
Rockefeller, in Cameron and Vermilion parishes, has been a site for research to reduce coastal erosion, such as finding ways to build stone breakwaters light enough not to sink in the soft silt near what remains of the shore. There's also been a great deal of wildlife research, including studies that helped alligators and bald eagles get off the endangered list.
"Rockefeller is certainly a place that you would conjure in your mind when you think of a Louisiana refuge. But it is so much more than that," Jack Montoucet, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, said during a centennial celebration Wednesday. "It is best described as a giant outdoor laboratory. The work done here by our dedicated staff along with all the research performed in the last century truly makes Rockefeller the special place that it is."
The refuge is home to ducks, geese, roseate spoonbills and other wading birds, bald eagles, and, lately, an expansion of Louisiana's flock of whooping cranes. Alligators, deer, muskrat, mink, otter, and many kinds of fish also live there. Recreational fishing is allowed but hunting is forbidden.
In addition to the Rockefellers of New York, Edward Avery McIlhenny of the Tabasco sauce family was a driving force behind Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge.
McIlhenny already had helped create State Wildlife Refuge in Vermilion Parish and Marsh Island Wildlife Refuge in neighboring Iberia Parish.