The Izaak Walton League — a century of conservation leadership

Ben Watson, Lake Keuka Chapter of the Izaak Walton League
The Izaak Walton League Clubhouse on Guyanoga Road north of Branchport. Meetings are the second Tuesday of every month (6 p.m. pot-luck, 6:30 meeting) at the club house across from Friend Hill Road.

YATES COUNTY — One hundred years ago in 1922, a group of sportsmen and like-minded outdoor enthusiasts set out to help combat the pollution that was ravaging the newly industrialized world. They would name this group after noted author and environmentalist, Izaak Walton.

Izaak Walton, 1593-1683, author of "The Compleat Angler"

Walton's famous book, The Compleat Angler, published in 1653, is an account of his life away from his business as a successful clothier, enjoying the serenity of hiking and “angling” in the streams that outlay his native London. It is filled with stories from fishing and cooking, to poetry and gentle observations that were almost meditative in nature. In the book, Walton’s alter-ego, "Piscator," befriends strangers who are dissimilar to him in many ways. According to Marjorie Swann, "As a conservationist and environmental educator, Piscator meets people where they are: he adapts his own leisure-time activities to give his new companions enjoyable outdoor experiences; he provides them with the venue, equipment and coaching they need to gain proficiency and confidence; and he welcomes them wholeheartedly into his ever-expanding circle of friends."

With the same enthusiasm for the sport, anglers of the 1920s came to a harsh realization that our once pristine lakes, rivers, and streams were becoming increasingly polluted with the expansion of the “Industrial Age,” which catapulted us into the modern world since the days of Walton.

Accompanying America's wealth, progress, and ingenuity came the unintended consequence of the widespread pollution of our environment. These early environmentalists formed what we now know as the Izaak Walton League (IWL). Our mission: “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 education of the public with respect to such resources and their enjoyment and wholesome utilization.” (Website www.iwla.org )

Through the years, the IWL has been integral in the passing of several federal and state laws, leading up, but not limited to, what we now know as, the 1972, “Clean Water Act.” We are also the largest number of recorder keepers for chloride concentrations (salt) in our waterways, which can have a negative affect of our natural flora and fauna. 

Last year, the IWL teamed with Keuka College  to perform salination tests in local tributaries of Keuka Lake.

At the local level, the Lake Keuka Chapter of the IWL takes great pride in our local area’s natural resources. We have approximately 50 acres that we maintain in the Branchport, Guyanoga, Sugar Creek, and boat launch areas. We are currently expanding our trails with help of a grant provided by the National IWL organization.  

The IWL takes conservation seriously and practically, participating in community improvement projects, such as Adopt-a-Highway road cleanups.

Coming Events

Here are some activities, functions, and services provided in the past that we would like to continue facilitating for our community.

Annual “Hunter Safety” course -- Covid had prevented us from community group activities, but are hoping to pick that up this year. We are currently looking for licensed individual to continue to provide this service to our Yates County residents.

Trail Signage -- We are teaming with Penn Yan Academy to create signage for our new trail system. We are looking to providing age appropriate Sign Language and nature hikes for elementary school age children, and introducing age appropriate (difficulty level) signing for the older kids.

Penn Yan Library Outreach -- The Penn Yan Public Library has so generously agreed to provide a space for Penn Yan, Dundee, and Marcus Whitman residents who are interested in preserving our local habitat, and can learn more about our group.

Scholarship -- The Lake Keuka Chapter IWL is offering a $1,000 scholarship to a student in pursuit of a college education in Environmental Studies, Agriculture, or Forest Ranger fields of study.

Fundraising Barbecue -- We are also organizing a chicken barbecue that will help us pay for some these activities, services, and programs.

Family Fun Day & Picnic -- This season will end with a Family Fun Day, End-of-season picnic and raffle. We will have food, door prizes, and a speaker (subject matter will depend on availability). Tickets for all events and raffles will be sold around town and at local organizations. The scholarship winner will be announced at the appropriate awards ceremony.

IWL logo

How You Can Help IWL

It is incumbent upon all of us to help preserve this treasured area for generations to come. If you would like to help in that endeavor, there are several ways.

Meetings -- First, and foremost is to attend our meetings. They are the second Tuesday of every month, (6 p.m. pot luck dinner, 6:30 meeting) at the club house on Guyanoga Road across from Friend Hill Road.

Get Involved -- We are looking for new members and volunteers for our trail expansion project and future projects.

Donate and/or Sponsor -- Lastly, your donations and sponsorships. A sponsor is someone who is interested in the group and our mission, but may not be able to participate They could pay an behalf of someone who is able to participate. We are a non-profit organization eligible for tax-deductible donations. We are accepting any and all forms of assistance, so that we can continue to provide these services and programs as well as to preserve our local natural habitat.