2023 National Convention

Conservation at a Crossroads: Putting Solutions into Action

The Izaak Walton League's 2023 national convention was an amazing event. Ikes from all over the country came together in Nebraska to hear about today's most important conservation topics, shape the League's path for the coming years, and, of course, enjoy time together. Read on for a summary of key takeaways.

League Takes Action on Pollution, Biodiversity and Outdoor Engagement at National Convention

In July 2023, Izaak Walton League members and friends participated in the national convention in Lincoln, Nebraska, which focused on putting solutions into action for a host of challenges.

League President Vicki Arnold urged attendees to select just one activity from the League’s Vision for a Second Century of Conservation and become a leader for that priority in their community. Read the vision statement.

Executive Director Scott Kovarovics gave an update on the state of the League. See the slides.

League Approves Resolutions on PFAS, Performance-Based Farm Conservation, Renewable Energy and Carbon Pipelines

Delegates to the convention approved four resolutions addressing vital issues.

  • Dangerous PFAS and microplastics. Amends the League’s conservation policy so as to label PFAS and PFOS as chemicals that contaminate water and land and threaten human health and wildlife. It further calls for sharing information with the public about these threats.

  • Performance-based compensation for agriculture programs. Amends the League’s policy to urge a transition from practice-based to performance-based compensation to incentivize conservation steps that enhance soil health, reduce erosion and improve water quality.

  • Equitable net metering. Urges state utility authorities to create incentives for “net metering,” where a non-utility that generates electricity from solar, wind or other renewable sources can get credit for power fed back into the electric grid.

  • Carbon dioxide pipelines and enhanced oil recovery. Directs the League to oppose the use of eminent domain to condemn private land for construction of carbon dioxide sequestration pipelines, and also to oppose use of captured carbon dioxide for enhanced oil recovery.

These resolutions are now part of the League's official policy and are listed in the policy handbook.

The Green Crew Rocks the Convention

Three young adults representing the Green Crew received a standing ovation after their compelling presentation. The Green Crew program provides an opportunity and a replicable model for engaging youth who want to tackle conservation challenges while also developing leadership experience.

In partnership with the League’s Minnesota Valley Chapter, the Green Crew has already accomplished a number of conservation projects and has sparked interest from other League chapters nationwide.

At the convention, the message from the Crew was clear: if you want youth to be involved in the future, involve them in the present. Read more about the Green Crew in Outdoor America.

"You Are Nature's Best Hope"

In a detailed discussion about the fragility of biodiversity, entomologist Doug Tallamy, Ph.D., described the essential role of insects and native plants in balancing nature and ecosystem health. Only five percent of the land and water in the lower 48 states, he said, is even close to its natural condition. And that puts many species of plants and animals – including humans – at risk because life depends on a healthy and biologically diverse environment. This is an idea he explores in his recent book, Nature’s Best Hope.

But through better stewardship of land and water, starting with our own neighborhoods and back yards, people can reduce the damage of habitat loss and climate change. Tallamy introduced the idea of “homegrown national parks” – a concept of building resilience and awareness in our local communities. Just a few key actions where we live can help transform traditional landscaping, which offers few benefits to wildlife, into a homegrown national park:

  • Reduce the lawn area (there are 44 million acres of lawn in the U.S.)
  • Plant more native shrubs, trees and ground cover
  • Remove invasive plants
  • Protect natural areas

Who Has Grit and Patience?

Women who go fishing are more likely to exhibit confidence, grit, patience, happiness and health. That’s one of the insights shared by Dave Chanda, president and CEO of the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation. RBFF seeks to attract more people to fishing and boating, and one of the Foundation’s demographic targets is women. Chanda described the group’s Take Me Fishing campaign, including the Spanish-language version, Vamos a Pescar.

There are firearms in nearly half of households in the U.S., noted Bill Dunn, vice president for marketing at the National Shooting Sports Foundation. That includes a lot of new gun owners, and training is a top priority for the new owners. He proposed a “plus one” program to include these new owners in visits to shooting ranges.

Hope for America's Outdoor Traditions

Outdoor Life Conservation Editor Andrew McKean gave convention attendees food for thought at the conservation luncheon. He described a broad trend away from the hunting and fishing traditions that shaped the League’s early popularity.

But, he noted, the League’s focus on regional and local conservation is a strength, and its work to provide accessible on-ramps to outdoor recreation and conservation advocacy could help the organization to thrive in the decades ahead.

Water Panel Looks at Big Challenges

The League invited experts from Des Moines and the Washington DC region to share their expertise about providing clean water to their respective communities. Nicole Horvath of the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission and Ted Corrigan of the Des Moines Water Works talked about the challenges of dealing with nitrate and chloride pollution, respectively. See Nicole's slides and Ted's slides.

Samantha Briggs, Heather Wilson and Abby Hileman from the League’s national staff provided insights into the progress of Salt Watch, Nitrate Watch and outreach to an expanding universe of partners and volunteers. See the slides.

Wilson explained how to use the League’s Clean Water Hub database, a powerful tool for water quality monitors and the public. Attendees learned how to navigate the Hub to view data in their communities and make the most of the maps, graphics and other resources the Hub provides. They also explored next steps to turn data in the Hub into action in their communities. See the slides about the Clean Water Hub.

Hileman presented a workshop on how to start a local Salt Watch campaign, including a deep dive into different applicator groups and how to approach them and case studies of individuals who make a difference by reducing salt pollution in their communities. See the slides about Salt Watch.

Award-Winning Chapters and Members

At the awards luncheon, the League recognized many members and chapters for their achievements in the areas of membership, communications, programs and individual leadership. See the full list of recipients.

National Officer Elections

The League members present at convention on Friday elected a slate of national officers:

  • National President - Jodi Labs (WI)
  • National Vice President - Herbert Pritchett, Sr. (VA)
  • National Secretary - Jim Storer (OH)
  • National Treasurer - Scott Meyer (TX)

In addition, Mike Fuge (WI), Richard Graham (OH), Rachel McBride (VA) and Brenda Swartz (OH) joined the Executive Board. For the next 12 months, Jim Piateski (MD) will chair the Executive Board while Dale Braun (IA) will serve as vice chair.

Youth Convention Explores Nebraska’s Natural Wonders

Young people participating in the League’s National Youth Convention completed a three-day adventure and presented a short summary at a general session on the last day of the convention. Along with memorable social events in between field trips, the youth visited the Nebraska State Capitol, the Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park and Wildlife Safari, the Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum, the Schramm Education Center and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s Eugene T. Mahoney State Park.

Izaak Walton League Endowment Grants

The Izaak Walton League of America Endowment awarded 22 grants totaling $116,610 to League chapters and the national office. The grants, selected by the Endowment board, are focused on conservation, education and outdoor recreation programs. Twenty-eight grant applications were submitted.

Endowment President Patty Nunn noted that they hope to fund every application, but the Endowment has a limited amount of funds to distribute each year.

How to Combine Art and Conservation: Indiana Waterways

A small initiative that allowed a group of Indiana artists to continue painting during the pandemic turned into a much larger project that highlighted the threats to Indiana waterways – and the work by the Izaak Walton League to improve the state’s streams and rivers.

Painter Avon Waters presented the story of this innovative program, which turned into a touring exhibit and book. Waters said League chapters could undertake similar programs. Catch up on the fascinating partnership in Outdoor America.

Please send me information on NEXT YEAR'S League Convention as it becomes available!