The very first goal in the League’s new five-year strategic plan is to “connect more young people to conservation and outdoor recreation.” With help from the IWLA Endowment and others, the Des Moines Chapter has been doing that for years.
Des Moines Chapter member Joe Gavin came up with the idea for an outdoor expo focused on kids and families. He gathered support from chapter members, sponsors, and exhibitors; entered into a partnership with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources; and made it happen. By keeping this a free event, the two-day Expo has grown from about 800 participants in its first year to more than 7,500.
With that degree of interest, the event also draws sponsors and exhibitors from a wide area, including the Weatherby Foundation, Iowa Chapter of the Safari Club International, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Sportsman’s Warehouse, Pheasants Forever, and many others.
The Expo covers a broad range of outdoor recreation and conservation activities, connecting youth and families to the opportunities available to them locally, including fishing, kayaking, canoeing, archery using both compound bows and crossbows, and trap shooting using a 20-gauge shotgun – all under the close guidance of trained and qualified instructors. Throughout the two-day event, there are exhibits and demonstrations that include hunting dog pointing and retrieving, outdoor cooking, raptor rehabilitation, and both early (buckskinners) and modern camping.
Classes are given in hunter education, nature photography, goose and duck calling, turkey calling, snowmobile and ATV safety, fly fishing and fly tying, map reading, and geocaching. In other words, an entire range of outdoor opportunities are covered during the two-day Expo, with something for everyone.
There are also many educational exhibits and demonstrations concerning the League’s conservation efforts, such as the Save Our Streams program, soil and water conservation methods, and water quality testing and monitoring. Identification of non-native, invasive plant species is another topic on which information is provided. Throughout the entire Expo, the Izaak Walton League message of responsible outdoor enjoyment is clearly portrayed.
Over the past four years, the IWLA Endowment has provided grants totaling $30,000 to support the Iowa Outdoor Expo, which goes a long way in helping the Des Moines Chapter make it happen. This is just another example of the Endowment’s support for programs that are exemplary of the philosophies of the League.