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Co-presidents Bill Henke, from left, and Donna Dustin and secretary/treasurer Dean Hendrickson help celebrate the Prairie Woods chapter's 50th anniversary of the Izaak Walton League.

Local Ikes celebrate 50 years

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DETROIT LAKES - Green efforts, although a seemingly recent movement, are not exclusive to today's environmental mindset.

In 1922, 54 sportsmen came together in founding the Izaak Walton League of America. Their desire was to "conserve, maintain, protect, and restore the soil, forest, water, and other natural resources of the United States and other lands; to promote means and opportunities for the education of the public with respect to such resources and their enjoyment and wholesome utilization."

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Noble goals all, these aspirations retain their relevance 87 years later, as evidenced by the expansion of their adherents to encompass 40,000 members nationwide.

Named for the 17th century author of The Compleat Angler, the Izaak Walton League is a comprehensive conservation organization, and can be linked to most every major conservation effort currently at work in the United States.

A grassroots organization, the League was formed, and continues to be run, from the bottom up, electing officers to the Minnesota division and then the national overseers.

"The broad reaching appeal of (the League) is that it reaches everyone from birdwatchers to people who want to hunt and fish, and people that just like to be outdoors in nature," Bill Henke, co-president of the organization's local branch, said. "It's all-encompassing."

In 2007, Henke joined Donna Dustin, who has been instrumental in leading the group since 2004, to head up the Prairie Woods Chapter.

This year, the local chapter is celebrating 50 years in existence.

Detroit Lakes has around 45 members in their portion of the organization. Since the membership isn't huge, the League's constituents, commonly referred to as "Ikes," often collaborate with other groups in their conservation activism.

Often, their work takes the form of letter-writing, working with presentations in support of conservation programs, and instilling the necessity of caring for the environment and wildlife into younger generations through classroom education.

Over the years, the Ikes have been notably effective in the implementation of conservation acts here in Minnesota. The League was instrumental in the formation of the Boundary Waters area, as well as Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge. The Ikes also, along with several other groups, spearheaded conservation efforts in Hamden Slough.

Members have included Sigrid Olsen, a very active conservationist in his time, and Aldo Leopold, who wrote A Sand County Almanac. A noteworthy quote from the book seems to sum up the aims of the Ikes: "A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise."

The League was also very involved with the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment approved by Minnesota's voters last November. Three-eighths of one percent of taxable sales will be used for environmentally beneficial causes, including cleaning up lakes and rivers, purifying drinking water, dealing with city sewage, and habitat restoration.

The Lessard Outdoor Heritage Council, made up of state residents, will collaborate to prioritize areas of conservation for the money to be used on. All plans will be passed by the State Legislature before being put into motion.

At the end of April, the local chapter will be hosting the Minnesota division's annual meeting at Maplelag Resort. Much of the meeting will focus on community sustainability and actions that can be taken by towns involving new environmentally friendly efforts and their economic aspects.

"We look at the important issues of the time to advance policy, largely through resolutions," Henke said. "The community is welcome to attend."

Additionally, anyone interested in becoming involved with the League is invited to drop in at the monthly meetings. The Prairie Woods Chapter congregates at the Detroit Lakes Library at 7:30 p.m. on the third Monday of every month.

"We're always looking for people that appreciate Detroit Lakes and its aesthetics, its lakes and woods, and maintaining their beauty for use by everyone," Henke said.

A valuable and timeless goal, indeed.

Johnson is a senior at Detroit Lakes High School and is an intern for Detroit Lakes Newspapers.

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