Upper Mississippi Wildlife and Fish Refuge: Established by an Unprecedented Advocacy Push by the Izaak Walton League of America
2024 will mark the 100-year anniversary for the Upper Mississippi National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, which was a huge victory for the endangered wetlands along the river – and for the Izaak Walton League, the young conservation group that successfully pushed to establish the refuge.
Creating the refuge also established the template for modern environmental advocacy, combining the first mass membership of any environmental organization, a professional staff, lobbying in Washington and in four states, and incorporating passionate pleas for action published in the League’s monthly magazine, Outdoor America.
The League’s 100,000 members in 1924 provided unprecedented grassroots power that helped achieve buy-in and approval from Congress, the White House and from policymakers in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois.
The protection afforded by the refuge prevented private developers from converting the wetlands to agriculture and other uses. While the Upper Mississippi River is not without challenges today, the refuge still serves as an oasis for fish and wildlife and remains a critical part of the Mississippi flyway for migrating birds.