Tuesday marked an obscure anniversary in American history: It was 114 years to the day after President Theodore Roosevelt established the first national wildlife refuge, in Pelican Island, Fla.
Countless birds had been slaughtered in the area for their feathers, and the federal designation stopped the mass killings. Now, more than 560 wildlife refuges across the country have been set aside, as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says, “for wildlife first.”
Yet the meaning of that phrase was muddied in the minds of many conservationists on the refuge system’s anniversary this year.
On Tuesday, the Senate voted to repeal a rule created by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife...