Mike Leahy

Conservation Director, Izaak Walton League of America

I am a conservationist. I am also an outdoorsman—I hunt, hike, fish, watch birds, shoot guns, mountain bike, and, every now and again, climb on an off-road vehicle. I am concerned about the welfare of animals. As such, I am hardly unique, but instead representative of many of my generation who prefer to be outside. We fly in the face of the outdoors apathy that supposedly plagues our generation, and those younger than us. We enjoy nature in our own fashion, which is often in many different fashions. We embrace a variety of ethics and perspectives.

Strenuous efforts should be made to prevent the extinction or local extermination of any fish, wildlife, or plant species. Where practical, fish and wildlife species—including predators—should be re-established in areas from which they have been driven by human activity.

I am unique, however, in that I am fortunate enough to serve as Conservation Director for the Izaak Walton League of America, a venerable institution founded in 1922 that is a keeper of the flame, of sorts, for conservation policy. And I can speak no more eloquently to the importance of all species, and having tools to maintain them, than Izaak Walton League members have in their policies. League members—farmers, hunters and anglers, gun owners, outdoors men and women, many of whom are more conservative than not—have been pursuing and passing resolutions since the early 1900s. The resulting policy manual reads like a history of conservation in America—as if your grandparents, or perhaps Aldo Leopold himself, wrote down a blueprint for how they saved the country from ruin, and how we might, too, if we listen to the lessons of the past and improve upon, rather than ignore them.

“Since its inception, the Izaak Walton League has recognized that people are an integral part of the natural world. People are unique, however, due to the relative speed with which we can alter the biosphere and our ability to see the consequences of our actions. The League believes that people can and must play a stewardship role in conserving natural resources and systems at the local, national, and global levels.

Strenuous efforts should be made to prevent the extinction or local extermination of any fish, wildlife, or plant species. Where practical, fish and wildlife species—including predators—should be re-established in areas from which they have been driven by human activity.

The League has supported the passage and implementation of the federal Endangered Species Act, including the listing of plant and animal species, the protection of habitat, the vigorous enforcement of regulations, and the funding required to carry out the Act.

Decisions to list a species under the Endangered Species Act should be made solely on biological—rather than economic—grounds. Representative examples of the full range of natural ecosystems should be protected. The League recognizes the intrinsic value of predatory species and their important ecological roles. Habitat critical to threatened or endangered species of fish, wildlife, or plants should not be destroyed or adversely modified.

Although Izaak Walton League members are some of America’s most active outdoor recreationists, the League’s policies recognize that conflicts involving wildlife and fisheries should place the highest priority on protecting habitat and sustaining the resource and give the lowest priority to accommodating the needs of the user.

The mission of wildlife conservation is to perpetuate natural habitats that will support abundant wildlife populations, not to preside over the allocation of a vanishing resource.”