1922, 54 sportsmen and sportswomen met in Chicago, Ill.,
to discuss an issue of common concern: the deteriorating
conditions of America's top fishing streams. Uncontrolled
industrial discharges, raw sewage and soil erosion threatened
to destroy many of the nation's most productive waterways.
Within hours, the group formed an organization to combat
water pollution and other environmental abuses. As a
constant reminder of this goal, they named the group
after Izaak Walton, the 17th-century English angler-conservationist
who wrote the literary classic, The Complete Angler.
Today, the Izaak
Walton League of America's 50,000 members and
380 chapters still fight to "defend the nation's
soil, air, woods, waters and wildlife."
good water quality remains the top IWLA priority. Since
organizing the first national water pollution inventory
in 1927 -- at the request of President Calvin Coolidge
-- the League has won many important clean water battles.
League members, or "Ikes, " in the 1940s helped
pass the first federal water pollution control act,
followed by a decade-long campaign against acid mine
drainage. During the 1960s and '70s, the league launched
the Save Our Streams program and broke the political
ground necessary for passage of the landmark Clean Water
Act of 1972. Most recently, Ikes have led the fight
to fund and strengthen the Clean Water Act during its
reauthorization and to fend off efforts to weaken wetlands
League also has spearheaded protection of public lands,
such as the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, National
Elk Refuge in Wyoming, Everglades National Park, Upper
Mississippi National Wildlife and Fish Refuge and Isle
Royale National Park. In addition, the IWLA led the
effort to create the Land and Water Conservation Fund,
the major source of money for park land acquisition
and recreational facilities.
protection remains a major focus as well. National projects
have included organizing the 1926 campaign to protect
black bass, purchasing a helicopter to help game law
officers catch waterfowl poachers in the Gulf of Mexico
in the late 1980s, and a 16-year outdoor ethics campaign
to improve behavior by recreationists.
the IWLA begins its 71st year, its members and supporters
can recognize that the League's tradition of grassroots
conservation activism will help ensure a clean, enjoyable
environment for future generations.