In This Issue
Izaak Walton League of America Turns 90!
Izaak Walton League of America Turns 90!
On January 14, 1922, fifty-four visionary sportsmen met in Chicago to discuss an issue of common concern: the deterioration of America's top fishing streams. Uncontrolled industrial discharge, raw sewage, and soil erosion threatened many of the nation's most productive waterways. At the same time, critical wildlife habitat was being destroyed across the country and the nation's forests and wilderness areas were quickly disappearing.
Aware that action – not just talk – would be necessary to solve these problems, the group formed an organization to combat water pollution and protect the country's woods and wildlife. Ninety years and many victories later, the 39,000 members of the Izaak Walton League of America are responding to today's conservation challenges and building on the accomplishments of those who preceded them.
Over the course of this year, we will celebrate the League's many achievements at the local, state, and national levels and look forward to the next decade ... and beyond. We will provide updates in Conservation Currents e-newsletters and in Outdoor America magazine. And you can visit us on the Web for updates and resources at www.iwla.org/90.
In December, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued requirements to control mercury and other toxic air emissions from coal- and oil-fired power plants – the largest unregulated industrial sources of hazardous air pollution in the United States. The new rules are the culmination of 10 years of work by the Izaak Walton League and partner groups to ensure EPA meets its obligations under the Clean Air Act to safeguard the health of all Americans and our natural resources.
Existing power plants release 48 tons of mercury into the air each year. Many states have issued advisories warning women and children – and in some cases, all citizens – to avoid or limit their intake of freshwater fish because many fish are contaminated with mercury. In addition, coal- and oil-fired power plants emit enormous quantities of lead, arsenic, and other hazardous chemicals.
"We applaud EPA for taking this step to protect public health and the environment," says Nancy Lange, Director of the League's Energy Program. "This standard is long overdue, and the American people have been paying the price with their health. More than half our nation's coal-fired power plants have already upgraded their facilities to scrub mercury out of their emissions. It's time for the rest to follow suit."
Epic flooding along the Missouri River last year caused billions in property damage and disrupted the lives of thousands of residents. Unfortunately, some in Congress are trying to use this disaster to undermine long-standing efforts to restore fish and wildlife and critical habitat throughout the river basin. The League worked hard to blunt these efforts, and with the help of our members and other state, regional, and national organizations, we won a partial victory in the final 2012 budget bill.
The most serious threat was a proposal to slash $50 million from a budget of about $72 million for on-the-ground restoration projects. These projects create and restore habitat, which directly contributes to species recovery and indirectly supports the broader outdoor recreation economy across the region. A cut of this magnitude would have devastated recovery efforts. Thanks in part to League engagement, this proposal was rejected and Congress provided more than $71 million for recovery projects and programs.
On the other hand, the final budget for 2012 includes two provisions blocking the Army Corps of Engineers from spending any funds on two critical studies. One provision stalls development of the Missouri River Ecosystem Restoration Plan, a long-term plan to restore fish and wildlife habitat in and along the river. The second blocks funding for the Missouri River Authorized Purposes Study, which would review the fundamental tenets of Missouri River management for the first time since 1944. These short-sighted provisions do not address the root causes of the flooding but directly undermine ongoing and long-overdue efforts to improve and modernize river restoration and management.
We'll need the active support of League members in 2012 as we work to convince Congress to fund these studies – both of which are critical to restoring fish and wildlife habitat and increasing outdoor recreational opportunities on the river. Many thanks to those of you who contacted your members of Congress during the recent budget battle.
In the waning days of December, Congress passed a federal budget for 2012. The good news is that critical conservation programs were spared some of the deep and damaging cuts proposed earlier in the year. However, these same investments – which support outdoor recreation, public land management, and fish and wildlife conservation – will be on the chopping block again this year. Congress is required by law to cut annual domestic spending in 2013 by more than $38 billion (defense and programs such as Medicare must also be trimmed by tens of billions of dollars), and conservation will absorb some of these cuts.
Our goal is not to prevent any cuts at all – there is widespread agreement that every area of the federal budget must contribute to deficit reduction. Instead, we are working to prevent conservation from suffering disproportionate and debilitating cuts. And there is serious cause for concern. The House of Representatives passed several budget bills last year that slashed funding for programs to conserve wetlands, acquire public land for national parks or wildlife refuges, and help states restore important wildlife populations. Although the deepest cuts did not become law, investments that underpin the hunting and angling economy; help restore our rivers, streams, and lakes; and conserve soil and other natural resources on farms across the country are seriously at risk in this budget climate.
The League and many other hunting, angling, and conservation groups rallied in strong opposition to steep conservation cuts last year, and the message reached Capital Hill. As a new budget season begins next month, we'll need to demonstrate the same resolve and level of engagement to maintain investments that boost our economy and conserve the resources important to us.
Volunteers are the heart of the Izaak Walton League. Recognize the outstanding volunteers in your chapter and the outstanding work you have done over the past year. It's quick and easy. And you deserve to be recognized!
Do you know a college student studying conservation or an environment-related major? The Izaak Walton League offers two $2,500 scholarships for qualified college juniors or seniors. Specific requirements are available on the League Web site.
Applications are due no later than April 1. For more information about the application criteria and process,
These scholarships are made possible through the generous support of the Izaak Walton League of America Endowment.
The National Park Service will waive entrance fees this year during select dates: Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend (January 14-16), National Park Week (April 21-29), Get Outdoors Day (June 9), National Public Lands Day (September 29), and Veterans Day weekend (November 10-12). This will eliminate entrance fees at more than 100 national parks that normally charge these fees. More than 200 other national parks are regularly open to the public free of charge. Visit the National Park Service Web site for more details and to start planning your visit.
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