Conservation group holds membership drive for 100th anniversary

by Laura Bednar

What started as a group of fishers and hunters trying to preserve America’s waterways and natural areas has grown into a conservancy organization with 200 chapters nationwide. This year marks the Izaak Walton League of America’s 100th anniversary. Though home base for the Headwaters chapter of the IWLA is in Bath, chapter founder Ivan Hack said its reach is farther than township lines.

The IWLA is one of America’s oldest conservation organizations, protecting the outdoors in communities across the country, while working strategically to win critical conservation battles nationally, according to The group stands for clean water, healthy soil, climate solutions, community science and outdoor recreation.

The national organization is celebrating 100 years, but the Headwaters chapter is in year 14.

“We are a small organization, but we hook up with larger organizations,” said Hack. “That’s what makes us strong.”

There are 10 members in the chapter; some live locally, others live as far away as Pennsylvania. There are no residency requirements to join the chapter. Hack is a member of the IWLA Minnesota chapter as well as the national Great Lakes Commission. He encourages members to join other organizations in their areas to gain exposure for the IWLA.

“We’ll take on any issue the public has,” Hack said. “It is our responsibility to get an organization to fix it.”

Currently, the group is fighting with the Environmental Protection Agency over flooding and polluted water in Parma. Hack said he recently participated in a conference call with state agencies over this decades-long issue.

“I’m trying to get all the government agencies to work together,” Hack said. “It’s frustrating but we work through it.”

Aside from working with large organizations, the Headwaters chapter educates the public on conservation and introduces youth and families to outdoor recreation, according to its website. The IWLA was founded by outdoorsmen and still promotes outdoor activities like hunting, fishing and archery. Members also have access to certain IWLA campground areas.

“We are bigger than we look,” Hack said of the organization.

According to Hack, Headwaters has made presentations about conservation in schools and given out informational pamphlets within Bath Township. The group plans to distribute brochures on water-friendly stream maintenance so people can support a flood plain on their property.

Hack said the chapter supports the Friends of Yellow Creek, the University of Akron’s efforts within Bath parks, and recently drafted a letter supporting grants for the North Fork Preserve on Everett Road.

In addition, the chapter encourages residents to consider conservation easements, which are agreements between landowners and public or private entities limiting how land can be used.

Hack’s long-term vision is to include informational signage on trees and other natural elements throughout Bath trails so people “know what they’re looking at.”

Headwaters’ immediate goal is to increase membership. The national IWLA gave the chapter yard signs commemorating the 100th anniversary in an effort to increase exposure.

“If [people] want to give us a gift for the 100th birthday, join us,” Hack said.

Membership dues for the Headwaters chapter are $5 a year; a national membership includes state and local chapters. Applications to become a Headwaters member are available at For more information, contact Hack at ∞