Izaak Walton League of America, founded in Chicago, celebrates its 100th anniversary

The organization celebrated with its 100th-anniversary national convention in East Peoria.

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A retake Wednesday at the 100th anniversary national convention of the Izaak Walton League of America of the iconic photo of the first convention of the Izaak Walton League in 1923 in Chicago.

A retake Wednesday at the 100th anniversary national convention of the Izaak Walton League of America of the iconic photo of the first convention of the Izaak Walton League in 1923 in Chicago.

Provided by IWLA

The iconic photo of the first convention of the Izaak Walton League in 1923 in Chicago. Provided by IWLA

The iconic photo of the first convention of the Izaak Walton League in 1923 in Chicago.

Provided by IWLA

EAST PEORIA — The Murray Baker Bridge over the Illinois River lit up green and gold at night this week in honor of the 100th anniversary national convention of the Izaak Walton League of America.

East Peoria was an apt choice.

On Jan. 14, 1922, 54 fly fishermen met at the Chicago Athletic Club and formed what became the Izaak Walton League. Dr. Preston Bradley, considered the early League’s conscience, insisted on naming it for Izaak Walton, who wrote “The Compleat Angler,” first published in 1653. It’s as much about politics and conservation as fishing.

Convention goers to the 100th anniversary convention of the Izaak Walton League of America sign a tablecloth similar what the 54 founders did in 1922 when The League was founded in Chicago.  Credit: Dale Bowman

Convention goers to the 100th anniversary convention of the Izaak Walton League of America sign a tablecloth similar what the 54 founders did in 1922 when The League was founded in Chicago.

Dale Bowman

The tablecloth signed by the 54 founders of the Izaak Walton League in 1922 in Chicago. Provided by IWLA

The tablecloth signed by the 54 founders of the Izaak Walton League in 1922 in Chicago.

Provided by IWLA

The Ikes have come a long way in 100 years with lead roles in national and local action on water, land and wildlife issues. They sound ready for the changes in the next 100.

In the opening session Wednesday, Scott Kovarovics, IWLA executive director, said, “Environmental problems are not solved, they have evolved,”

He noted that the IWLA with its outdoor recreation had the expected Covid bump. From under 40,000 membership in 2019, membership has grown to more than 42,000 with more than 200 chapters.

He also noted traditional shooting sports are changing. People come to them later in life on different paths, rather than the way many, including myself, came to them through family traditions.

He called the IWLA the first grassroots sportsman’s organization. The Boone and Crockett Club was founded earlier (1887) but with elites that included Theodore Roosevelt and generals.

“The League was different, made of average folks that grew into a movement,” Kovarovics said.

National president Vicki Arnold gave the vision for IWLA’s second century as “engaging more Americans in community-based conservation and volunteer science, advocating for sound public policy to protect America’s natural resources for future generations, and connecting people to the natural world.”

Her strongest statement was “No challenge is greater than climate change.”

The IWLA is broad-based organization focused on conservation and outdoor recreation with different routes—camping, fishing, hunting, shooting, conservation—to becoming Ikes, so opinions vary (it’s a big tent as IWLA communications Michael Reinemer put it).

File photo of Boy Scout Cove at Giant Goose Conservation Education Workshop in Atkinson, the premier facility of the Illinois division of the Izaak Walton League of America with camping, hiking, fishing and conservation education. Credit: Dale Bowman

File photo of Boy Scout Cove at Giant Goose Conservation Education Workshop in Atkinson, the premier facility of the Illinois division of the Izaak Walton League of America with camping, hiking, fishing and conservation education.

Dale Bowman

In the comments after Arnold’s vision for the future, a gentleman said that the Virginia division and its chapters would not support efforts on “man-made global climate change.” He cited William Gray, the late climate-change skeptic that climate-change deniers cling to like an overboard sailor clutches flotsam.

The big tent showed when “Responses to Climate Change at Scale” led the afternoon sessions. Leading off was Dr. Imre Gyuk, director of energy storage research, U.S. Department of Energy, who detailed the need for three levels of storage (short term, 4-12 hours, 12 hours to three days) to be able to utilize renewable energy sources at adequate amounts.

His bottom line was simple, “We haven’t got a 100 years.”

Chris Gloninger, chief meteorologist, KCCI, Des Moines, Iowa, uses his role to help people take climate change seriously.

“We should be speaking about this nightly, this thing isn’t going away,” he said during Q&A.

Emily Rodriguez, agricultural outreach coordinator for the IWLA, presented on the value of agriculture as “the most cost effective way to store carbon.”

Unfortunately, I think battling climate change is not as sexy as fighting industry spewing black smoke or dumping sludge into our waters, something the IWLA played a key role in fighting in its first 100 years.

Jim Piateski, executive board chair, put it simply in his report, “We still need clean water, clear air.”

That core value is not changing.

The vision statement is at iwla.org/100years/future/our-vision.

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

The Murray Baker Bridge lit up in honor of the 100th anniversary national convention of the Izaak Walton League of America. Provided by IWLA

The Murray Baker Bridge lit up in honor of the 100th anniversary national convention of the Izaak Walton League of America.

Provided by IWLA

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