An appreciation for the Izaak Walton League: Founded in Chicago, the IWLA turned 100 last week

An appreciation for the Izaak Walton League of America, founded in Chicago, which turned 100 last week.

SHARE An appreciation for the Izaak Walton League: Founded in Chicago, the IWLA turned 100 last week
File photo of a father and daughter fishing at Giant Goose Conservation Education Workshop. Credit: Dale Bowman

File photo of a father and daughter fishing at Giant Goose Conservation Education Workshop.

Dale Bowman

For some of us, conservation and environmentalism are of biblical importance.

I understood what Michael Reinemer meant when I asked if he had photos of the meeting in Chicago in which the Izaak Walton League was formed 100 years ago on Jan. 14, 1922.

“We don’t have a photo from that 1922 meeting, but we do have the actual tablecloth on which the 54 organizers signed with dollar amounts pledged to the new organization,” emailed Reinemer, communications director for the IWL of America. “It’s sort of a mess, but in terms of its significance to us, it’s like the Shroud of Turin.”

The tablecloth on which the 54 organizers of the Izaak Walton League signed with dollar amounts pledged to the new organization; “It’s like the Shroud of Turin,” at the founding in Chicago on Jan. 1922. Provided photo

The tablecloth on which the 54 organizers of the Izaak Walton League signed with dollar amounts pledged to the new organization; “It’s like the Shroud of Turin,” at the founding in Chicago on Jan. 1922.

Provided

Izaak Walton wrote “The Compleat Angler,” first published in 1653. It’s “The Fishing Book,” but also about politics and conservation.

Aptly, the League became a leading force in modern environmentalism on the local and national levels.

“I joined the IWLA in 1975; I joined because my family was young and enjoyed the outdoors,” emailed Gary Struck, Illinois Division president. “And growing up near Lake Michigan, I was always concerned about water-quality issues. As I started to attend meetings, it didn’t take long for me to appreciate what the IWLA stood for. Soon I got involved in local, state and national conservation issues.”

Several highlights stand out for Illinois. By 1924, the League led the establishment of the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge. At the 1927 convention in Chicago, the Outdoor Writers Association of America was formed. In 1951, a project resulted in thousands of trees planted in the Shawnee National Forest.

The League worked to protect giant Canada geese, a subspecies thought to be gone. That included renting, then buying a reclaimed Peabody Coal Company mine near Atkinson that became the Giant Goose Conservation Education Workshop with fishing, camping, boating, fossil-hunting and bird-watching.

The Blackhawk chapter spent years on what is the Elton E. Fawks Bald Eagle Refuge. Illinois Division members worked on the designation of the middle fork of the Vermilion River as a National Wild and Scenic River.

Clean water has been an emphasis from the beginning. In 1927, President Calvin Coolidge commissioned the League to conduct the first national water pollution survey. That emphasis continues with citizen science efforts such as Save Our Streams and Salt Watch. Non-League members, including teachers and students, can participate (iwla.org/water/stream-monitoring).

This matters. The last time I was at Giant Goose, it was for a stream-monitoring presentation.

More on the Illinois Division is at iwla.org/illinoisdivision.

Illinois hunting

When the overall deer-harvest numbers for the 2021-22 seasons come, I will post at chicago.suntimes.com/outdoors.

Wild things

Carl Strang’s updated “Singing Insects of the Chicago Region” is out. He notes the finding of slow-tinkling trigs in the region, with adjustments to tinkling ground crickets, and the discovery of two forests with persisting big emergences of Brood X periodical cicadas. For a copy, email wildlifer@aol.com.

Stray cast

To anyone using “pivot” during a professional or committee meeting, find a bass-fishing neighbor, ask for a 1/0 hook, then open your mouth and (you get the idea).

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