2016 National Conservation Scholarships

Royce Durgin
The Izaak Walton League funds two $2,500 national scholarships each year to complement scholarships awarded by League chapters and divisions. The national scholarships help educate tomorrow’s conservation leaders by supporting college students pursuing degrees in natural resources and related subjects. These scholarships are made possible with support from League members and a generous annual grant from the Izaak Walton League of America Endowment. The following students were awarded the League’s National Conservation Scholarship for the 2016-2017 school year.

Royce A. Durgin

Royce Durgin is a junior at West Virginia University, where he is studying wood science and technologies. However, his conservation ethic started long before college. Royce organizes birding competitions and annual bird checklists for children and church members in his home town. In high school, he was team captain of the school’s Envirothon team, winning the New York state title three times — and the national title in 2013!

Royce says his lifelong interest in trees, science, and nature shaped his educational and career goals. “The world that surrounds us — water, air, land, nature, wildlife, woodlands, and open space — are not our own but part of a heritage that we are allowed to briefly touch.” After completing his studies in wood science, Royce wants to find an occupation that will benefit others. “Too many foresters and commercial wood processing facilities are concerned only with increasing their profits. Fields that have a direct correlation with natural resource conservation should hold conservation and sustainability in higher regard.” Royce is president of the university’s Forest Products Society and is engaged with the university’s “ties to sustainability” campaign. He also enjoys fishing, bow hunting, birding, beekeeping, and other outdoor sports — all of which tie back to healthy forests and forest management.

He counts forest fires, energy resources, and water quality as critical conservation issues to be addressed in the next 10 years. “Constant development and growth result in more impervious surfaces [and] more runoff. Storm water runoff from urban centers and suburban sprawl often result in nutrient loading, increased salinity, or heavy metal contamination of nearby waterways.” Royce cites the buildup of “ladder fuels” and increased suburban development in forested areas as factors that increase danger associated with wildfires.

“If a natural resource is not managed and regulated, it will ultimately be depleted. Federal agencies that oversee natural resources are important, but so are groups like the Izaak Walton League, where concerned citizens work together to address threats to natural resources,” says Durgin. “I hold natural resource conservation to be of the utmost importance. It is our obligation to our forefathers, our world today, to future generations, and to God.”

James R. Green 

James GreenJames Green is an environmental science major at the University of Virginia, where he is in his third year of studies. He previously received a scholarship from League’s Arlington-Fairfax Chapter in Virginia. James’ interest in environmental issues ties to a personal interest in sustainability.

“It is imperative that natural resources are used in a sustainable manner. I think this goal can best be achieved on the local level through education,” he says. “It is local communities that often have the strongest understanding and pride for their natural resources.” James’ volunteer experience reflects that philosophy. He is a member of Sustainability Advocates, a student organization that works with the university to promote sustainability initiatives. He is also a member of Cans to Cans, a student-led organization that promotes recycling among fraternities. At home, James volunteers with Our Task, a nonprofit working to encourage young people to become engaged on climate change and other pressing environmental issues.

When asked about critical conservation issues, James’ focus is on water scarcity. “Droughts sweeping the western and southern United States are a testament to the current and growing issue of water scarcity and its effect on the economy, urban planning, and the environment…. Since waterways and aquifers often span state and national borders, I believe natural resource management must be sought out on a regional level.” He highlighted effective interstate compacts used to curb carbon emissions as a potential model to help reduce regional water use. He also emphasized that regional planning should allow for flexibility at the county and community levels because community engagement offers great potential for remediating water scarcity.

After graduation, James plans to focus his career in the government or nonprofit sectors. “Throughout my academic career, I have often struggled to grasp the divide between the great environmental solutions discussed in class and the actual policy of the institutions around me. I would like to use my dual education in environmental science and leadership and public policy to bridge the gap between ideas of environmental sustainability and the realities of effective policy."