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  • Musings of a Macroinvertebrate Movie Star

    Posted by Dawn Merritt      Login and comment
    By Leah Miller, IWLA Clean Water Program Director

    I am trying to stay modest as I await my debut as a “macroinvertebrate movie star” later this year, when the League will release training videos for Virginia Save Our Streams volunteer water quality monitors. I had the great pleasure of spending several lovely fall days – and one rainy one – shooting footage in the coastal and the piedmont regions of Virginia. We captured additional footage to produce a video training series for the national Save Our Streams program and expect to release those in early 2015. 

    I have long wanted to update our Save Our Streams training video, which was last updated in the early 1990s (fashion and hair styles now give us a chuckle), and to produce a similar video for Virginia Save Our Streams. The opportunity presented itself this year when several Virginia partners – including the York River Roundtable, the Roanoke River Roundtable, and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality – offered funds, volunteers, and technical assistance to develop a video series. The timing was a bit ironic, however, because it meant that I would be in hip waders, knee deep in fast-moving water, at seven and eight months pregnant. (Although that baby bump picture – shown here – garners a lot of attention on Facebook!)

    We started filming in the Zoar State Forest in Virginia’s King William County, where a group of York River Roundtable volunteers gathered to learn how to collect aquatic macroinvertebrates in slow-moving, muddy-bottom streams. We were joined by former Virginia Save Our Streams coordinator Stacey Brown and by James Beckley, quality assurance coordinator for Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality, who contributed his considerable talents as a videographer for the project. 

    Next, we collected footage of rocky bottom stream monitoring at Green Hill Park near Roanoke, Virginia. Sharon Stinnette, Virginia Save Our Streams statewide trainer, and another volunteer helped demonstrate how to collect bugs by rubbing rocks in front of the net in fast-moving water. I narrated the collection, provided a show-and-tell of all of the monitoring equipment, and shared tips for identifying the bugs as we captured footage of them (the bugs, not the volunteers!) swimming in the water. We had to be careful to keep the dragonfly larva and other predators separate from the caddisfly and other potential prey. We also had fun with a nearly 6-inch dobsonfly larva that kept backing away from my tweezers as I tried to demonstrate the best way to pick one up – behind the head and away from those pinching jaws.

    Our final shoot took place at Pocahontas State Park in Chesterfield, Virginia. It was raining steadily, but we bravely captured the last shots needed for the film, with James sporting an umbrella to protect his video camera from the rain. Unfortunately, we didn’t do as good a job protecting our data forms, which ended up in wet tatters as I demonstrated how to determine water quality based on the bugs in the sample. The rain eventually let up, though, and gave us the opportunity to go hunting for submerged aquatic vegetation – an elusive habitat type that can host myriad macroinvertebrates. This is one of four habitat types that we use to collect bugs for the muddy-bottom method, and we wanted to be sure to demonstrate the collection protocol in the video. 

    Lorne Field, our host in Chesterfield County, led us on a brief drive to a site he thought might have submerged aquatic vegetation. When Lorne pulled into the parking lot of a shopping center off a busy divided highway, I thought he had missed a turn and wanted to confer with us on directions. But no – this was the stream site. And there it was: a tiny, slow-moving stream that could easily be mistaken for a ditch – right along the side of the road, flanked by pavement on both sides. But looking at the stream itself, you could almost imagine it was in the middle of a vast field of native plants. The stream was positively crowded with submerged aquatic vegetation of several types. It was too deep for even tall boots – we tested it with the 4-foot handle of our D-frame net. But it was easy to run the net through the thick mats of vegetation while standing on one bank of the narrow stream. We were very pleased to find some excellent specimens of freshwater shrimp – one of the few macroinvertebrate types we hadn’t yet found during our filming excursions. 

    It’s too bad we weren’t able to capture certain moments on film, because they would have made for a great blooper reel – including me jumping a mile high when a horsefly took a chunk out of my arm. Or me wrenching my drenching shoe out of the muddy water after stepping right through a mat of plants that looked like solid ground but was just floating above the water’s surface. In an effort not to lose my shoe in the muck, I over-compensated by jerking violently backwards and landed square on my backside in the thankfully springy mud and vegetation. Note to self: it is always worth taking the extra few minutes to put those waders back on after a brief drive to the next stream site.

    Even without a blooper reel, the films should be very helpful to every stream monitor, whether you are learning about it for the first time or looking for a quick refresher before the next monitoring session. We are all very excited to see the final results and to share them with you in the next few months.

  • Overuse of Antibiotics in Agriculture Poses Threats to Human Health

    Posted by Dawn Merritt      Login and comment
    Over the last few decades, the use of antibiotics for purposes other than treating human infections has become widespread throughout agriculture. The use of antibiotics on food animals and the subsequent residues in our food, water, and soil are creating new health concerns. Currently in the United States, more than 70 percent of all antibiotics sold are added to drinking water or feed for industrial livestock and poultry. This type of antibiotic use is called “non-therapeutic” because the antibiotics are not being used to treat a diagnosed infection but rather to promote more rapid growth of the animals. This widespread use of human antibiotics in agriculture – nearly 30 million pounds per year – along with over-prescribing by physicians for their patients has created a dangerous epidemic of antibiotic-resistant infections in humans, such as C. diff, Staph, and others. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates conservatively that at least 23,000 ...continue reading
  • Views on Soil Health from Two Farmers: One a Cancer Survivor and Dietitian, the other an Iowa State Researcher

    Posted by Dawn Merritt      Login and comment
    The Izaak Walton League of America and Healthy Food Action, in partnership with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, are collaborating this summer on a series about soil health and its impact on farming and food.  The series launched June 26 with a ground-breaking webinar, " The Soil that Feeds Us: Cultivating Healthier Food and a Healthier Environment on the Farm ," with Healthy Food Action's Dr. David Wallinga, MD; Dietitian Christine McCullum, PhD; and the Izaak Walton League's Bill Wenzel.  Now we've compiled two additional perspectives on the issue: one from dietitian Diana Dyer , MS, RD, author of A Dietitian's Cancer Story , and one from Matt Liebman , PhD, the Henry A. Wallace Chair for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University. Both are farmers. Diana grows 40 plus varieties of garlic on her farm in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Matt farms and carefully documents the results as part of his research on cropping system diversification, ...continue reading
  • Bats, Birds, and Bugs!

    Posted by Dawn Merritt      Login and comment
    By Erin Johnson, IWLA Clean Water Fellow As the Clean Water Fellow at the Izaak Walton League, it is my job to bring the League’s Creek Freaks program to educators across the country, teaching them how to use our water-based curriculum as effective education and youth programming. I recently had the opportunity to host a workshop in California with our long-time partner and supporter of the Creek Freaks program, the Bureau of Land Management.   This Creek Freaks workshop took place at the Cosumnes River Preserve, a beautiful 50,000-acre property located in Galt, California, on the Pacific Flyway. The preserve boasts more than 250 species of birds, including many migratory species. It also had a remarkable collection of partners working under one roof, including the Bureau of Land Management, the Nature Conservancy, California Department of Fish and Game, Sacramento County government, Department of Water Resources, Ducks Unlimited, the California State Lands ...continue reading
  • Clean Water Rule Public Comment Period Opens Today (4/22/14)

    Posted by Tara Scibelli      1 comment      Login and comment
    By Mike Leahy, IWLA Conservation Director. The public comment period officially opened today on a proposal to protect more U.S. waters from pollution, draining, and filling. The long-awaited proposal from the Army Corps of Engineers and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will clarify which waters of the United States are protected by the Clean Water Act. The public has until July 21, 2014, to submit comments supporting clean water. This is a great opportunity for hunters, anglers, outdoors enthusiasts, and anyone else who appreciates clean water to support an effort that will actually help clean up our water. All Americans who hunt, fish, boat, and enjoy the outdoors can make their voices heard by submitting comments in support of the clean water rule, helping to put essential protections back in place. The draft clean water rule is a great step toward restoring protections for upstream waters and wetlands that were eliminated over the last decade due to ...continue reading
  • Izaak Walton’s Compleat Angler (4/1/14)

    Posted by Dawn Merritt      Login and comment
    Walton’s Philosophy on Conservation and Outdoor Recreation Was Embraced by Our Founders and Is Embodied in Organization Today By Scott Kovarovics, IWLA Executive Director When the men who founded the Izaak Walton League met for the first time, they could have called their new organization almost anything. They were Midwestern sportsmen, journalists, salesmen, and even one preacher. For many of them, the lands and waters they knew and loved best were along the upper Mississippi River in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, and Iowa. Yet they did not choose a regional name – the Upper Mississippi Conservation League, for example – nor did they pick a name focused on one natural resource or one species of fish or wildlife.  Instead, they named their new organization for Izaak Walton , who wrote a book in 1653 entitled The Compleat Angler . In the Angler , Walton uses fictional characters to write about fishing as equal parts philosophy, recreation, social ...continue reading
  • It's a Good Day for Clean Water! (3/25/14)

    Posted by Dawn Merritt      Login and comment
    By IWLA Executive Director Scott Kovarovics . After years of delay, we have some very good news on the clean water front today. The Army Corps of Engineers and Environmental Protection Agency released a proposed rule (March 25, 2014) to amend their regulations implementing the Clean Water Act to begin restoring protections for small streams and wetlands nationwide.   Restoring these protections has been a League priority for more than a decade – and this is the most significant step toward that goal during that time. Confusing Supreme Court decisions and deeply flawed administrative policies during the last Bush administration rolled back 30 years of protections that had been provided under the Clean Water Act, leaving small streams and wetlands especially vulnerable to pollution, degradation, and being drained and filled.   While a proposed rule does not sound glamorous, it represents a very positive step forward. Based on the clear and ...continue reading
  • Economic Impacts of Habitat Restoration (3/22/14)

    Posted by Dawn Merritt      Login and comment
    By Olivia Dorothy, IWLA Regional Conservation Coordinator.    Habitat restoration projects on the Upper Mississippi provide double their value through local economic benefits. The Upper Mississippi River Restoration Program, also known as the Environmental Management Program, was authorized by Congress in 1986. The program was established to restore and enhance river habitat and mitigate the environmental impacts of the lock and dam system on the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers. The program has completed more than 50 habitat rehabilitation and enhancement projects between the Twin Cities and St. Louis. More than $400 million has been appropriated to date, and about 70 percent of that has gone directly to habitat construction.   With the program approaching its 30th birthday, many Mississippi River managers, scientists, and members of Congress are asking, “What has the program given back?” We know that the program has restored natural habitat on more than ...continue reading
  • The True Value of Solar (3/14/2014)

    Posted by Dawn Merritt      Login and comment
    By Eric Jensen, IWLA Energy Associate.  There’s broad desire to increase solar on the electric grid. Let’s set aside the debate about who gets what subsidies and which technology needs an incentive. What if we step back and tried to answer the question: What are the costs and benefits of solar? The end result would be a thoroughly developed net “Value of Solar” that works with utility business models and compensates customers fairly for helping add solar to grid. Minnesota just did that. On Wednesday, March 12, the state’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC) reviewed the work done by the Minnesota Department of Commerce’s energy division and heard oral arguments from the Izaak Walton League, utilities, environmental organizations, businesses, the solar industry, the public, and other stakeholders. What the PUC approved was a rigorous, analytical methodology for utilities to calculate how to fairly credit customers for their solar energy. This ...continue reading
  • America Needs a New Farm Bill

    Posted by Dawn Merritt      Login and comment
    For the first time since the 2008 Farm Bill expired more than 15 months ago, there is reason for optimism that passage of another Farm Bill is within reach. After four months of negotiations, an agreement has been reached by the House-Senate Farm Bill Conference Committee, which will now go to both houses of Congress for final approval. Amendments to the legislation are not allowed, and passage of requires a simple majority vote in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. The road to a Farm Bill has been filled with potholes – a process that has frustrated farmers and conservationists alike. As with previous Farm Bills, conservation groups did not get all they wanted. However, our number one priority – re-establishing the link between crop insurance and conservation compliance – is included. The biggest setback was in the failure to establish a national Sodsaver program. However, the regional Sodsaver program established in this legislation will create financial ...continue reading
  • No Money for Key Conservation Programs?

    Posted by Dawn Merritt      Login and comment
    The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) – the program that helps make public lands available for us to hunt, hike, and enjoy – and other key conservation programs would receive zero dollars in the next fiscal year if certain House appropriators get their way. By Mike Leahy, IWLA Conservation Director In July, the House subcommittee that funds the Department of the Interior, U.S. Forest Service, and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) voted to eliminate all funding for five longstanding conservation programs. In addition to the LWCF, the other programs that would be effectively ended if this bill is not changed are the North American Wetland Conservation Fund, which supports public-private partnerships that maintain wetlands for waterfowl and other wildlife, water quality, and flood and erosion control State and Tribal Wildlife Grants Program, the primary program funding non-game wildlife management by states Neotropical Migratory Bird ...continue reading
  • “Green” yards can take on a whole new meaning

    Posted by Dawn Merritt      Login and comment
    Four ways to fight water and air pollution at home and in our communities First, the bad news: The “National Rivers and Streams Assessment” released in March 2013 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found that 55 percent of our nation’s river and stream miles do not support healthy populations of aquatic life, with phosphorus and nitrogen pollution and poor habitat the most widespread problems. Now the good news: We can take simple steps at home, at League chapters, and in our communities to tackle water pollution. Native plants, rain gardens, rain barrels, and other installations designed to capture — and in some cases filter — rain water can provide a variety of benefits, including: 1. Create Healthy Habitat: Decades ago, suburban homeowners bragged about front yards filled with clover. Neighbors compared clover coverage because they knew that grass alone provides little value in terms of soil quality and wildlife habitat. Today, front ...continue reading
  • League Keeps Fighting to Restore Clean Water Protections

    Posted by Dawn Merritt      Login and comment
    By Scott Kovarovics. The League continues the fight to restore Clean Water Act protections to streams, wetlands, and other important waters nationwide. This morning, I pressed the issue with more than a dozen U.S. Senators who met with sportsmen group leaders to discuss our priorities across conservation, outdoor recreation, public land management, and other issues. Our groups reinforced that hunting, angling, recreational shooting, and wildlife watching aren’t simply discretionary pastimes. These activities inject hundreds of billions of dollars into the U.S. economy and support millions of jobs. I underscored the fact that these drivers of economic success – including duck hunting, boating, and fishing – depend on clean water and healthy wetlands. And Clean Water Act protections for these resources are increasingly at risk. Last month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported that 55 percent of streams and rivers across America are in poor ...continue reading
  • The Value of Chaos in Environmental Education

    Posted by Dawn Merritt      Login and comment
    By Leah Miller, IWLA Clean Water Program Director. Have you ever planned with great care an environmental education activity for youth, only to have the lesson devolve into chaos? If so, you’re not alone. Our first reaction to the chaos of children joking around or playing in a way that doesn’t seem related to the lesson may be disappointment, defeat, or even the desire to wallow in our “failure.” However, children learn through play and often absorb our lessons best when they are having the kind of chaotic fun that can push the buttons of even the most seasoned environmental educator. One of my first experiences with environmental education was as a guest teacher at a summer camp for middle-school students from Washington, DC. The topic of the day was wetland conservation, and I was one of several instructors leading outdoor activities such as a scavenger hunt through a saltwater marsh and identification of marsh critters. I led a running game based on Project ...continue reading
  • EPA Stream Survey Shows Poor Results – and the Need for More Monitoring

    Posted by Dawn Merritt      Login and comment
    On March 26th, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the results of its first nationwide survey of stream and river health. The conclusion: 55 percent of streams are in “poor” condition – meaning they have trouble supporting biological life – and phosphorus, nitrogen, and sediment are causing widespread water problems. Although this new survey adds to the information we have about water quality, it does not come close to fully cataloging our nation’s water woes. More than 3.5 million miles of rivers and streams flow through the United States. EPA sampled fewer than 2,000 sites. Where’s the data on the rest of our waters? Every state is required by law to report on the health of its streams to Congress every two years. However, due to limited resources, states are monitoring less than 20 percent of streams nationwide, and tests are often conducted only once every five years. Americans have a right to know whether it’s safe for children ...continue reading
  • League Presses White House To Issue Clean Water Protections (1/14/13)

    Posted by Dawn Merritt      1 comment      Login and comment
    I met Friday afternoon with senior staff from the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and pressed the administration – yet again – to issue policy that begins restoring Clean Water Act protections for small streams and wetlands across the country. For more than two years, the League has been building and maintaining support for this policy – for science-based, balanced, common-sense policy that will help put the Clean Water Act back together again. Hunting, angling, conservation, and environmental groups have been working together on this issue because habitat for fish and wildlife, high-quality hunting and fishing, and drinking water for 117 million Americans are at risk. I wish I could report that CEQ staff said “the policy will be issued next week.” I really didn’t expect to hear that, but hope springs eternal. Staff listened while I joined others in doing most of the talking. But they heard us – they known how important this is to Americans ...continue reading
  • Missouri River Restrictions Concern Mississippi River States

    Posted by Dawn Merritt      Login and comment
    After this year’s drought crippled much of the Midwest, priority use of the water in the Missouri River has turned into a hotly contested issue. By Paul Lepisto, Regional Conservation Coordinator, IWLA Missouri River Initiative The Missouri River basin spans 10 states – from Montana to Missouri – and encompasses one-sixth of the country. More than 12 million people live, work, and recreate in this area, and many of them depend on the river for drinking water, crop irrigation, recreation, and other uses. The river also provides critical habitat for fish and wildlife.  However, demands for hydropower, flood control, and navigation have led to major alterations to the river. Today, one-third of the river has been channelized and another one-third impounded behind giant reservoirs. The Corps of Engineers is responsible for flood protection, hydropower, navigation, recreational opportunities, and water supply in the Missouri River basin. On November 23, the ...continue reading
  • The Clean Water Act at 40

    Posted by Dawn Merritt      1 comment      Login and comment
    By Scott Kovarovics, Acting Executive Director, Izaak Walton League In a year of anniversaries (like the Izaak Walton League’s 90th), today we mark another very important milestone. Forty years ago, spurred on by burning rivers, dead lakes, and fouled streams – and decades of piecemeal state efforts to deal with water pollution – Congress approved the Clean Water Act. They did it with overwhelming bi-partisan support and enough votes to override a presidential veto. The seeds of this landmark legislation were planted by League in the 1930s. As we look back today, we can celebrate the progress we’ve made in improving our nation’s waters. Industrial pollution that flowed directly into our streams and rivers has been cut dramatically by national standards and a permit system. Millions of Americans fish, swim, and recreate in waters that were a major public health threat 40 years ago. And the Clean Water Act has played a crucial role in slowing wetland drainage, ...continue reading
  • Ikes Explore Exelon Plant and Fish Repopulation Work

    Posted by Dawn Merritt      Login and comment
    By Olivia Dorothy, IWLA Regional Conservation Coordinator, Upper Mississippi River Exelon, a generous supporter of the Izaak Walton League’s conservation work, invited a group of Ikes to visit the Quad Cities nuclear power plant September 25th. League members from Illinois and Iowa gathered at the Exelon plant in Colona, Illiniois, where we met Bill Stoermer, Exelon Generation Communications Manager and our very knowledgeable guide, and Jeremiah Haas, lead biologist at the Exelon fish hatchery. Bill led us through security check points that put airport security to shame. Once inside the plant, we visited the reactor, which is really just a big wall that contains the fission process. From the heat of the reaction, water boils to create steam that turns turbines to generate power. The turbines were totally encased, but we could hear the rumbling – even through our earplugs. At the top of the reactor, we were allowed to peer into big pools of water that contained spent fuel ...continue reading
  • Hunter, Angler Numbers Up Nationwide

    Posted by Dawn Merritt      Login and comment
    By Scott Kovarovics, Acting Executive Director, IWLA   We have some very good nationwide news about hunting and angling. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported today that the number of hunters grew 9 percent between 2006 and 2011 and the number of anglers jumped 11 percent over the same five-year period. The increase in hunter numbers is especially encouraging because there had been a persistent downward trend in participation over many years.   This isn’t only good news for our sports and conservation, it’s good news for our economy as well. The Fish and Wildlife Service found that Americans who hunt, fish, and watch wildlife injected $145 billion into our economy in 2011. This spending benefits companies large and small and communities across the nation.   And the growth in hunting and fishing only reinforces how important it is to conserve the land, water, and other natural resources that support abundant wildlife and high ...continue reading
  • House and Senate Mount Unprecedented Attacks on Clean Water Policy (8/3/12)

    Posted by Dawn Merritt      Login and comment
    By Scott Kovarovics, IWLA Conservation Director Throughout June and July, members of Congress in both chambers proposed and voted on bills and amendments that would derail efforts to restore Clean Water Act protections for streams, wetlands, and other waters. Amendments blocking Corps of Engineers and EPA Clean Water Act guidance were added in the House to the annual budget bills for both agencies, while other members of Congress tried to add similar prohibitions to the 2012 Farm Bill. A House committee approved a separate bill in June to permanently block Clean Water Act guidance or any future rulemaking designed to better protect our streams, wetlands, and drinking water. Then, this week, that same House committee approved another bill that would make it easier to drain or fill a wetland or alter a stream without a permit from the Corps of Engineers. Since 1977, the Clean Water Act exempted a wide range of common agricultural, forestry, construction, and energy ...continue reading
  • Congress Votes to RESTORE the Gulf Coast (6/28/12)

    Posted by Dawn Merritt      1 comment      Login and comment
    By Scott Kovarovics, IWLA Conservation Director Great news for America’s anglers and waterfowl hunters as well as the residents of our Gulf Coast! The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives reached an agreement today on a transportation bill that includes the RESTORE Act. The RESTORE Act dedicates 80 percent of Clean Water Act fines from BP and other parties responsible for the 2010 Gulf oil disaster to restoring the Gulf Coast environment and economy. It’s something the Izaak Walton League has been fighting for since the disaster happened. Without Congressional action, the fines for the oil spill would be deposited into the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund (to be used for future cleanups) and the federal Treasury rather than directed toward restoration efforts that are urgently needed now – and the Gulf Coast would continue to deteriorate. More than 10 million migratory waterfowl winter or stopover on the Mississippi River Delta – that’s roughly 70 percent of ...continue reading
  • League Scores a Win with Senate Farm Bill (6/21/12)

    Posted by Dawn Merritt      Login and comment
    By Scott Kovarovics, IWLA Conservation Director It’s been a busy and somewhat chaotic week on Capitol Hill as the U.S. Senate debated and passed a 2012 Farm Bill. The League has been working for more than a year to lay the groundwork a new Farm Bill that invests in conservation and ensures taxpayers receive some basic conservation benefits for the support they provide farmers. It’s great to report we achieved a major victory with today’s Farm Bill vote. The full Senate voted to restore the connection between conservation compliance and crop insurance premium subsidies – a simple move that will in fact help conserve fish and wildlife, protect drinking water supplies, and provide flood protection across the country. As the week began, it was unclear whether the Senate would actually debate the Farm Bill. Amendments, many having nothing at all to do with agriculture (including one amendment attempting to slash Clean Water Act protections for streams and wetlands), ...continue reading
  • Paddling the Upper Mississippi and Giant Geese

    Posted by Dawn Merritt      Login and comment
    By Olivia Dorothy, IWLA Upper Mississippi River Coordinator Last week, I had the pleasure of visiting with Izaak Walton League members from the Quad Cities area and the League’s Executive Director, David Hoskins. On Wednesday, we toured the Giant Goose Conservation Education Workshop near Atkinson, Illinois, which is owned by the Illinois Division of the Izaak Walton League and operated by three local chapters: Kewanee, Blackhawk, and Geneseo. Giant Goose has a lot to offer kids and Ike. The site, a reclaimed strip mine, offers RV camping, fishing, and hiking. The trails are beautiful and well maintained, providing hikers with several miles of forest, marshes, and prairie to visit. School groups that visit also get a geology lesson about the history of the site, which is rich in fossils trapped in iron concretions (round, compact masses) that are exposed throughout the conservation area. But what I found most intriguing was the name, Giant Goose. It made me laugh when I ...continue reading
  • The Future of the Illinois River

    Posted by Dawn Merritt      Login and comment
    “Whiskey is for drinking, water is worth fighting over.” This quote, from an unknown author, speaks the truth of efforts underway to restore the Illinois River, the floodplains, and the backwaters. By Olivia Dorothy, IWLA Upper Mississippi River Coordinator Since the glaciers retreated 9,000 years ago, people have called this river home. Native people relied on the river’s seasonal pulses to provide an abundance of resources: fish, birds, water, animals, stone, wood, and the means to travel from Illinois to Canada, from the Rocky Mountains to the Gulf of Mexico, via the vast network of Mississippi River tributaries. European explorers first arrived in the valley in the 1500s, and then the French explored the Illinois and Mississippi River extensively in the 1600s. They mapped the region, using the river as a highway, and established trading posts along the Great Rivers with the Native Americans. The explorers gained notoriety and wealth from the rivers’ rich ...continue reading
  • Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the Clean Water Act

    Posted by Dawn Merritt      Login and comment
    2012 is filled with major milestones in conservation. In addition to the League’s 90th anniversary, this year marks the 40th anniversary of passage of the Clean Water Act. By Scott Kovarovics, IWLA Conservation Director Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is kicking off a campaign to celebrate how far the nation has come in tackling water pollution and look ahead to the challenges that remain. Forty years ago, the country was plagued with burning rivers, dead lakes, and industrial pollution that choked waterways large and small. Americans demanded action, and Congress responded with the Clean Water Act. Water quality has improved significantly since then. We’ve made major strides in reducing point source pollution – pollution that comes from a pipe or specific industrial source. Many rivers, lakes, and other waters that were devoid of fish and wildlife or too fouled for boating now support world-class outdoor recreation. And the devastating pace ...continue reading
  • Bringing Down Roadblocks to Clean Water Protection

    Posted by Dawn Merritt      2 comments      Login and comment
    By Scott Kovarovics, IWLA Conservation Director As the year comes to a close, we have another reason to celebrate. Through a concerted effort by sportsmen and environmental groups – including League members and leaders – we brought down Congressional roadblocks to restoring Clean Water Act protections. Over the course of the year, members of Congress introduced various “riders” that would have blocked the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers from taking any steps to clarify and restore Clean Water Act protections for streams, wetlands, and other waters. But when the House and Senate voted late last week on a final budget package for 2012, that package did NOT include these riders. This is a significant victory in and of itself and absolutely essential to moving forward next year. The League has been a leader on this issue in the sportsmen community since the first damaging Supreme Court decision in 2001. We built on that leadership over ...continue reading
  • Favorable Review of Renewable Energy Standards

    Posted by Dawn Merritt      1 comment      Login and comment
    Are renewable energy standards increasing the cost of electricity? Recent reports in Minnesota offer a positive message for the rest of the country. By Izaak Walton League Energy Program Director Nancy Lange and Energy Associate Drew Bennett Twenty-four states have passed renewable energy standards (RES) that require a certain percent of a state’s electricity to be generated by clean energy. From Texas and Montana to California and New York, state legislatures have passed these standards for a wide range of reasons: To develop local economies, reduce energy imports from out-of-state or out-of-country, reduce pollution, and reduce the environmental impact of digging up fossil fuels. These are state-wide benefits that keep money in the state economy and pollution out of citizens’ lives. Their value is obvious. But what about costs? Some policymakers are concerned that utility customers’ bills will rise to achieve these benefits. Are renewable energy standards ...continue reading
  • Stand Up for the Clean Air Act

    Posted by Dawn Merritt      1 comment      Login and comment
    By Nancy Lange, IWLA Energy Program Director More than two decades and a few careers ago, I was working with the American Lung Association of Minnesota to strengthen the Clean Air Act. This landmark law, passed with bipartisan support in 1970, is the first line of defense to protect Americans from air pollution that damages our health and costs lives. In 1990, we worked closely with Senator Dave Durenberger, a Republican from Minnesota, who had crafted bipartisan legislation to update and modernize air pollution standards. This amendment to the Clean Air Act was passed with support from 89 senators and signed into law by President George H.W. Bush. This spring, Senator Durenberger reflected back on that important victory, calling the Clean Air Act “one of the greatest public-health achievements of American history.” The law prevents deaths and illness from heart and respiratory diseases, so much so that while implementing the requirements of the Clean Air Act will ...continue reading
  • Will Dilg Chapter highlights need for a grassroots campaign to restore the Upper Mississippi River

    Posted by Dawn Merritt      1 comment      Login and comment
    By Olivia Dorothy, IWLA Upper Mississippi River Regional Conservation Coordinator After just one week on staff at the Izaak Walton League, I had the pleasure of visiting the League’s Will Dilg Chapter in Winona, Minnesota, on Wednesday. We started the day with a trip to the Will Dilg memorial on the banks of the Upper Mississippi. There we met chapter member (and 2011 convention speaker) Barry Drazkowski. Barry showed us his geospatial work on environmental monitoring and took us on a tour of the picturesque Upper Mississippi River Refuge. The Upper Mississippi National Wildlife and Fish Refuge was established in 1924 – largely through the leadership of the Izaak Walton League and its first national president, Will Dilg – and runs 261 miles from Wabasha, Minnesota, to my home in the Quad Cities. At the refuge, Jeff Janvrin (Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources) and Sharonne Baylor (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) spoke with us about the Spring Lake Islands ...continue reading
  • State Laws Not a Substitute for the Clean Water Act

    Posted by Dawn Merritt      Login and comment
    New Report Finds Many Waters at Risk By Scott Kovarovics, IWLA Conservation Director In an August 2011 report  (PDF link) that was just publicly released, the Environmental Law Institute (ELI) finds that 25 states do not have laws in place to protect streams, wetlands, and other waters if the federal Clean Water Act does not apply to those waters. This finding, based on extensive review of thousands of specific local examples, demonstrates if the Clean Water Act does not protect critical waters, those waters are by no means guaranteed protection under state law. Opponents of restoring Clean Water Act protections to streams and wetlands frequently argue there’s no need to because – they contend – states provide a parallel level of protection. Although this may be the case in a handful of states (the ELI report identifies eight states that provide very comprehensive protection for freshwater wetlands), comparable state-level protections are the ...continue reading
  • Conservation in the Budget Bullseye

    Posted by Dawn Merritt      Login and comment
    By Scott Kovarovics, IWLA Conservation Director Fall signals the start of school and opening day of hunting seasons across the country. It also means crunch time for the federal budget in Washington. And investments that conserve farmland and fish and wildlife habitat and directly benefit hunting, angling, and outdoor recreation are likely to get squeezed. Bob Marshall highlights what’s at risk in his column in the September 2011 issue of Field & Stream . In “What We Could Lose,” Marshall describes how Congress made deep cuts this spring in essential conservation programs – programs ranging from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and North American Wetlands Conservation Act to farm conservation and national wildlife refuges. These cuts total hundreds of millions of dollars and, as Marshall points out, affect programs that “directly benefit land, water, and wildlife.” What Marshall describes was round one. This summer, Congress – or, more ...continue reading
  • EPA Working to Preserve Our Waters

    Posted by Dawn Merritt      Login and comment
    By Karl Brooks, Regional Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency  Over the past decade, interpretations of court rulings have caused confusion about which waters are protected from pollution and development. As a result, many important waters now lack clear protection under the law, and businesses and regulators face uncertainty and delay. On April 27, 2011, proposed guidance by EPA and the Army Corps was released that clarifies where the Clean Water Act applies nationwide. This guidance will help restore protection of critical waters and provide clearer, less burdensome guidelines for determining which water bodies we can keep safe from pollution. EPA believes that protection of Midwest wetlands and streams is more important than ever as we experience more pronounced effects from flooding, climate change, and habitat loss. We are fortunate to have a vast network of wetlands and streams in the Midwest that support the great Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. ...continue reading
  • Déjà Vu for Clean Water Act Protections

    Posted by Dawn Merritt      Login and comment
    By Scott Kovarovics, IWLA Conservation Director Yogi Berra has to be one of the most widely quoted people of all time. If Yogi was working with the Izaak Walton League right now, he’d be saying, “It’s déjà vu all over again.” That sense of déjà vu comes from congressional efforts to derail restoration of Clean Water Act protections for small streams, wetlands, and other critical waters. Yesterday, a subcommittee in the U.S. House of Representatives approved a budget bill for the Army Corps of Engineers that would bar the Corps from finalizing new clean water guidance or revising its clean water regulations. This past February, the House of Representatives approved a budget bill with similar restrictions. However, strong opposition from the Izaak Walton League as well as other national hunting and angling groups, many Senators, and the Obama administration prevented that bill from becoming law. This latest blocking maneuver is just as misguided. Why do we oppose ...continue reading
  • Forest Service Protects BWCAW in Chain of Lakes Decision

    Posted by Dawn Merritt      Login and comment
    by Kevin Proescholdt, IWLA Wilderness and Public Lands Program Director On April 18, Superior National Forest Supervisor Jim Sanders announced a decision that protects the wilderness character of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) in Minnesota from proposed increases in motorboat traffic on the so-called Chain of Lakes. His decision brings to a close a lengthy series of efforts made by the League and other wilderness conservationists since 1993. The decision shows both the tenacity of the wilderness advocates and, finally, a good pro-wilderness decision by the agency to end the dispute. The 1.1 million-acre BWCAW, the largest Wilderness east of the Rockies and north of the Everglades, remains the nation’s most heavily-visited Wilderness. Its 1,000+ lakes have attracted anglers for decades, and its protected habitat provides home to a wide range of northern wildlife species, such as moose, black bear, and eastern timber wolf. Although the vast majority of ...continue reading
  • Clean Water Guidance: An Important First Step

    Posted by Dawn Merritt      Login and comment
    By Scott Kovarovics, IWLA Conservation Programs Director Today, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers took a critical first step to begin restoring Clean Water Act protections for streams, wetlands, and other waters. They issued a draft of what will be new instructions – known as “guidance” – to their staff in the field about how to implement the Clean Water Act. Although this might sound like a mundane bureaucratic exercise, it is anything but that – and can make a real difference in protecting waters that are essential to every American. Why is this guidance important? Over the past decade, the U.S. Supreme Court has been chipping away at the Clean Water Act, slowly but surely reducing the types of waters that are protected by this landmark law. Streams that may not flow all year, prairie potholes, and other small wetlands are most at risk. While the Supreme Court decisions are damaging, guidance issued by the last ...continue reading
  • Listen to citizens worried about sulfide mining

    Posted by Dawn Merritt      Login and comment
    By Kevin Proescholdt and Greg Seitz The push for a new type of mining in Minnesota  – sulfide or non-ferrous mining  – has become stronger and stronger recently. While new sulfide mines proposed in northeastern Minnesota may produce a few hundred jobs, they would also threaten our lakes, rivers, and streams with centuries of toxic pollution. Recent actions at the Capitol reduce the chance that this mining will be done right in our state. Last winter, PolyMet Mining's draft environmental review predicted water contamination from the mine's waste could last for up to 2,000 years, putting at risk the St. Louis River and rivers that flow into it. Similar mine proposals also threaten such iconic Minnesota treasures as the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Lake Superior. And in an area only a couple of miles from the BWCAW where a powerful foreign mining company (Antofagasta PLC) is proposing to develop a new mine, the Friends of the Boundary Waters ...continue reading
  • League Victory To Protect Americans from Hazardous Emissions

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    By Nancy Lange, IWLA Acting Energy Program Director Last Wednesday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the most important actions to clean up air pollution from dirty coal-burning power plants since the Clean Air Act was last updated in 1990. For more than a decade, it has been a goal of Izaak Walton League members and staff to reduce the most toxic air pollutants that are emitted from our nation's coal-fired power plants. EPA’s proposed mercury and air toxics standards for power plants that burn coal and oil are projected to Save as many as 17,000 American lives every year by 2015 Prevent up to 120,000 cases of childhood asthma symptoms every year Prevents 11,000 cases of acute bronchitis among children every year Prevent 12,000 emergency room and hospital visits every year Save 850,000 lost work days every year The proposed standards should reduce mercury emissions from power plants burning coal and oil by 91 ...continue reading
  • Conservation Programs at a Crossroads

    Posted by Dawn Merritt      Login and comment
    The release of a new federal report and a House-passed budget bill present stark choices. By David Hoskins, IWLA Executive Director On February 19th, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to cut tens of billions from the federal budget this fiscal year. Although many of us might agree that significant reductions in the United States budget are necessary to begin to come to terms with a ballooning federal deficit, the Continuing Resolution would sharply reduce or even zero out funding for key environmental programs. It would also prevent the Obama administration from taking actions to implement and enforce some of our most important environmental laws. These federal laws and programs play a vital role in the conservation of our nation’s natural resources – including fish and wildlife – and in protecting the water we drink and the air we breathe. In addition, many of these initiatives were enacted and sustained thanks, in part, to the hard work and support of ...continue reading
  • Choosing Clean Water

    Posted by Dawn Merritt      Login and comment
    By Leah Miller. The Choose Clean Water Coalition advocates for Chesapeake Bay restoration, and the League has been an active member of coalition since it was formed in 2009. I represented the League at the second annual Choose Clean Water Chesapeake Bay Restoration Conference in Washington, DC, January 10-12. The conference was fabulous – excellent speakers, a lot of passion about cleaning up the Bay and the streams that feed into it, and great networking opportunities. A major theme of the conference was the need to talk about Bay restoration in economic terms. People are concerned with jobs and the economy right now, and we need to let people know that saving the Bay also saves and creates jobs. For example, Diane Cameron of  the Audubon Naturalist Society determined that $1.25 billion in investments to treat rain runoff in the Anacostia watershed would help boost employment by 13,600 job years – full time jobs that last one year. Fracking Marcellus Shale: ...continue reading
  • Conservation in 2011

    Posted by Dawn Merritt      Login and comment
    By Scott Kovarovics. While most people began the new year with resolutions and college bowl games, many in Washington, DC, started by following the new Congress and preparing their game plans for the coming year. Politics, after all, is the number one sport in the nation’s capital. And there’s much to watch and plan for. When the Congress convened this week, more than 100 new Representatives and Senators – 96 new members in the House of Representatives alone – were sworn in. Control of the House flipped from Democratic to Republican and the Democratic majority in the Senate is significantly smaller than it was over the past two years. There are new committee chairs in the House and hundreds of new staff in Washington and offices across the country. How will these changes affect natural resource, conservation, and outdoor recreation issues important to the League? It’s hard to say less than a week into 2011, but a few things come to mind. The influx of new ...continue reading
  • Hoorah, our Earth may yet win

    Posted by Dawn Merritt      Login and comment
    Environmental literacy for our children just took one giant step forward! By Roger C. Sears, Chairman, Izaak Walton League Executive Board. With any luck, the future looks bright for this old Earth. Thanks to state Superintendent of Education Nancy S. Grasmick, the Maryland Board of Education has just passed a comprehensive environmental education program that will begin in pre-kindergarten and continue until the student graduates high school. This means all Maryland public school students will have environmental literacy woven into their current curriculums. No special class will be set aside on the environment and students will not be required to take a standardized test for graduation -- the study of ecosystems, natural resources, and health will be woven into their learning experiences. Students will also create and implement a local project that “protects, sustains, or enhances the natural environment.” How committed the ...continue reading
  • League Testifies at EPA Coal Ash Hearing

    Posted by Dawn Merritt      Login and comment
    From Scott Kovarovics, IWLA Conservation Director On August 30, 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) held the first of seven public hearings on proposed rules to regulate the storage and disposal of coal ash. I testified on behalf of the League in support of strong, effective, and uniform federal standards to replace spotty-to-nonexistent state rules.   We burn a lot of coal every year in this country to generate electricity, and that leaves a mountain of ash – more than 130 million tons of coal ash per year, according to EPA estimates. This ash is composed of a host of toxic chemicals and heavy metals, including chromium, arsenic, cadmium, and selenium, that are hazardous to people, fish, and wildlife. Yet in many cases, coal ash is stored in unlined ponds and on the surface at power plants nationwide. Metals and chemicals can leach from these ponds into the groundwater or nearby streams and rivers and pollute drinking water, kill fish, and damage outdoor ...continue reading
  • The Bats and the Bees

    Posted by Dawn Merritt      Login and comment
    At the end of our July convention, Ikes enjoyed workshops that offered an in-depth look at two species that play an integral role in ecosystems across the country: Bats and honey bees. These speakers were dynamic, informed, and clearly framed the issues that put these pollinators – and us – in peril. To Bee or Not To Bee “Honey bee populations are dramatically declining," says Jeremy Barnes, president of the York County Bee Keepers Association. "Over the past 50 years, the number of hives in the United States has declined by 55 percent. In the most dramatic losses, labeled Colony Collapse Disorder, almost all of the bees in a colony disappear overnight, as if they were called or pushed out of the hive and could not find their way back home.” Beekeepers see a direct correlation between what’s happening in the hives and what’s happening with pesticides on crops. "The wax that bees create to store honey and raise bee larvae acts as a filter, ...continue reading
  • America's Great Outdoors

    Posted by Dawn Merritt      Login and comment
    From Scott Kovarovics, IWLA Conservation Director Last Friday, I joined hundreds of people from across the Chesapeake Bay region in Annapolis, Maryland, an America’s Great Outdoors listening session. President Obama launched the initiative in April to spur a nationwide dialogue about the future of conservation in America. Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar kicked off the session by explaining that he sees America’s Great Outdoors as part of a broader movement – “march for conservation,” in his words. He ticked off some of the priority goals for the initiative, which include identifying key corridors connecting wildlife habitat, developing the next generation of urban parks, and creating a new agenda for conserving America’s rivers and waterways. The audience enthusiastically applauded when the Secretary said that “we cannot protect and restore lands if we don’t have the resources to get it done,” which was a direct reference to fully funding the Land and ...continue reading
  • Communities Win When Kids Connect With Nature

    Posted by Dawn Merritt      Login and comment
    This week the Izaak Walton League helped launch the Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK) , a national strategic partnership of organizations with a common interest in expanding opportunities for children, youth, and families to connect with the outdoors. The members of OAK share the belief that the well-being of our children, the health of our communities, and the future of our economy all depend on personal, life-long relationships with nature and the outdoors. Izaak Walton League chapters offer many opportunities to build those relationships, and the League is working this year to provide additional resources to our chapters to expand our youth programming. Looking for ways to connect families in your community with the great outdoors this summer? Read " 10 Ways To Attract Youth To Your Chapter " and download a few of the League’s “How To” articles to kick things off. Dawn Merritt IWLA Director of Communications ...continue reading
  • League Response to Gulf Oil Spill

    Posted by Dawn Merritt      Login and comment
    The oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico and onto our coastlines has created an an epic – and unprecedented – environmental crisis. Some of our nation's most productive wetlands are in peril, as are critical fisheries and the livelihoods of thousands of Americans. This week the Izaak Walton League joined a group of national conservation organizations in asking President Obama to improve future oversight of offshore drilling, reduce our country's dependence on oil, and enact comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation. The League is also calling on Congress to provide increased funding for federal and state fish and wildlife agencies to respond to the oil spill. As this story continues to unfold, we'll keep Izaak Walton League members up to date on the impacts on fish and wildlife, water quality, and outdoor America. Dawn Merritt IWLA Director of Communications ...continue reading
 
 
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