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Izaak Walton League of America

On January 14, 1922, a group of men met for lunch at the Athletic Club in Chicago.  They were avid sportsmen and concerned about the growing industrial pollution of waterways in America (aftermath of the World War I industrial/manufacturing expansion).

These 54 men founded the Izaak Walton League of America to protect fishing opportunities for future generations.  It was the first conservation organization with a mass membership and the League had over 100,000 supporters by 1924.  It was one of the earliest conservation organizations to set an aggressive course to defend wild America by changing public policy.  [Almost every major, successful conservation program that America has in place today can be traced directly to a League activity or initiative.]

They named the League after Izaak Walton (1594-1683).  Two individuals were most notable: Will Dilg, writer and publicist, who became the first President, and Dr.  Preston Bradley , a young minister who had originated the idea for the meeting (minister of the People's Church of Chicago for 48 years) and who pledged to be the missionary for the Izaak Walton League.  Preston Bradley had traveled to England and was a collector of first editions of the book "The Compleat Angler" written by Izaak Walton.  The members gave $1.00 apiece for dues and chose Dilg as President.  Dilg wanted to immediately publish a magazine for IWLA, and the 1st edition was published six months later, "Outdoor America."

They held their first National Convention in April of 1923 and 34 states were represented.

An early result of their efforts was the establishment of the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge in 1924.

Based on an article written for the Izaak Walton League in the first edition of Outdoor America, by Emerson Hough entitled "Time to Call a Halt" about the plight of elk in the National Elk Refuge, the League decided to help save elk in Jackson.  [The National Elk Refuge had been established in 1912 as the town of Jackson blocked the natural migration of elk herds out of Yellowstone National Park south.] The League raised $100,000 in 1924 and 1925 and bought 1750 acres on the southeast edge of the refuge and donated that acreage to the Refuge.

The League led unsuccessful efforts in the 1930s for clean water legislation but achieved initial success with the passage of weak federal water pollution acts in 1948 and 1956.  Its major victory came with the passage of the Clean Water Act of 1972.

The first Wyoming chapter of Izaak Walton League was established in Rock Springs in 1924.

Eventually, Wyoming established a total of 13 chapters (including one at Mammoth in the Yellowstone National Park).  The Wyoming State Chapter (soon to be called the Wyoming Division, IWLA,) was established in October 1925.  [Today, only two chapters remain in Wyoming, one in Casper and one in Laramie.}

The IWLA has 250 local Chapters and about 55,000 members, and has an established chapter at Stafford in England!