By Louise Segreto, Chapter Historian
Every Bush Lake Chapter Board Meeting begins by our reciting aloud, in unison, the Izaak Walton League of America’s Pledge Statement:
“To strive for the purity of water, the clarity of air, and the wise stewardship of the land and its resources; to know the beauty and understanding of nature and the value of wildlife, woodlands and open space; to the preservation of this heritage and to our sharing of it, I pledge myself as a member of the Izaak Walton League of America.”
Reciting our Pledge before each meeting is an excellent reminder of the ideals that we as a Board need keep in mind as we conduct Chapter business. A “pledge” is a solemn promise or undertaking according to Webster’s Dictionary. And, solemnly pledging to defend our environment can often feel to me to be overwhelming. It seems a promise only a super hero could hope to fulfill. But, in a way, I think that every one of our members is a caped super hero, each making individual contributions to our Chapter and the League. Imagine 43,000 caped crusaders dressed in tight bright Lycra from 240 Chapters nationwide fighting for the future of our planet!
The Ikes’ Pledge (Izaak Walton League members are known as “Ikes”) serves as a mission statement that is much broader than any other environmental organization in the U.S. Our Pledge is not limited to protecting a specific plant or animal species or habitat, but encompasses the earth’s triumvirate: water, air, and soil. It challenges us to consider and share the intangible benefits of nature such as beauty. And, it asks us to value both the intrinsic and economic values of wildlife, woodlands and open space. This almost overwhelmingly broad mission speaks in large part to how long the Izaak Walton League of America (IWLA) has been on the scene. The IWLA was established almost 100 years ago when idealism was high and people were boundlessly optimistic about what they might accomplish. I am not so sure that if the IWLA was being organized today, a non-profit board charged with writing our mission statement, would dare to reach so far and broad.
That being said, the IWLA has stayed true to its mission and has been very successful on so many fronts. Over the years, the IWLA has been involved in almost every major national conservation program in the U.S. Ikes have effected change and influenced public policy in five major areas.
Here are just some examples of the League’s accomplishments:
- Clean Water: IWLA has been in the forefront of almost every major clean water battle in the U.S.
- Public Lands: IWLA led the charge to form our Federal Land & Water Conservation Fund which is used to acquire public land. In Minnesota, the League was very instrumental in creating the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife & Fish Refuge, Superior National Forest, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Isle Royale National Park and Voyagers National Park.
- Farm Policy: IWLA has supported many state and federal regulatory policy changes to reduce erosion and regulate the use of toxic agricultural chemicals. It paved the way to set aside marginal farmland into “conservation reserves” and influenced federal/state subsidy programs linked to conservation practices that protect our soil and water quality.
- Clean & Renewable Energy: IWLA promotes renewable energy resources, advocates for the decrease in greenhouse gas emissions, and has been a proponent of Federal regulations on coal-fire power plants to reduce emissions.
- Community Based Conservation: IWLA through its Chapters across the U.S. has been involved in innumerable conservation projects, fish and wildlife habitat restorations, trail building, fish breeding, tree planting and outdoor skill building and youth programs.
When I reflect upon the IWLA Pledge and what it has accomplished since it was formed in 1921, I am inspired to continue the League’s legacy of environmental work and activism. Thinking back to when I was young, I loved the adventures of DC Comic’s Justice League superheroes: Superwoman, Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. And so, refusing to be resigned into thinking that I cannot make a difference, I put on my imaginary caped crusader outfit and try to fight for the purity of water, the clarity of air, and the wise stewardship of the land and its resources. Together we can make a difference. Perhaps it is time for you too to find your super power and consider becoming more active in our Chapter’s good work. Capes and Lycra are of course optional!