To conserve. Conscious acts of conservation-works toward conserving natural resources and cultural heritage for today and for posterity are important and brave acts conducted by the few for the many. This is not conservatism or the wish to stay in place in the flow of time, rather to conserve is to find value in this world and to seek ways of keeping places, ecosystems, art, and structures for people to use, to enjoy, and to learn from in ways books or electronic resources cannot provide. In a world with dwindling natural and cultural resources, one may fall into despair, but hope can be found in organizations that seek to conserve. Conservation groups range in size from large, international organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund and the Nature Conservancy to national organizations such as the Izaak Walton League to regional and local organizations. Some conservation groups seek funds to work in policy and politics while others empower people to volunteer and help conserve the resources nearest them. No effort is too small. In fact, some conservation groups working closest to the community within which they serve have the greatest impact.
The power of small. The Wayne Chapter of the Izaak Walton League (IKES for short) manages a small lake located just northwest of the town of Wayne, Nebraska. IKES Lake is nestled among the dense rows of corn that characterize northeastern Nebraska and northwestern Iowa. In a region of sparse natural resources, it serves as a small oasis where people can fish or picnic. The mission of the Izaak Walton League is to conserve, restore, and promote the sustainable use and enjoyment of our natural resources, including soil, air, woods, waters, and wildlife. This mission is made manifest by the Wayne Chapter through environmental education. Members of the Wayne IKES have collaborated with local and regional researchers, teachers, conservationists, natural resource managers, and astronomers to make the Lake a focal point of school programs and community outreach. In 2008, members of the A. Jewell Schock Museum of Natural HistoryA. Jewell Schock Museum of Natural History (AJSMNH) located in the nearby Wayne State College initiated a long-term and large-scale project to bring third grade students from area schools to the Lake for round robins of environmental activities.
Building partnerships. These activities complimented long running programs such as the annual Fishing Derby and Youth Mentor Hunt. Other partners such as the Nebraska Department of Education came together to reach out to the Junior High School students in the region. The Director of AJSMNH at WSC worked with teaching faculty to have in-service teachers lead the round robin environmental activities. Meanwhile, science faculty from WSC Fred G. Dale Planetarium worked with Wayne IKES to create programs such as the Star Party while members of the Biology Faculty collaborated on the IKES Family Outdoor Day, programs designed to provide exceptional experiences for the regional community while teaching college students about science and conservation. Collectively, a few dreamers and a few conservationists created a network of enthusiastic collaborators including researchers from two projects funded by the National Science Foundation: MAIS and MACRO Rivers. These dreamers worked toward creating a better world in this small part of the Great Plains of North America.
Creating a better world. This small conservation movement began with a few individuals who donated their time as members of the Wayne IKES Chapter. They meet monthly and spend considerable time caring for the lake and maintaining the surrounding land. Their work creates an oasis for those in the region to find some solace in nature. The Izaak Walton League is a membership organization with fees going towards local, regional, and national conservation efforts. But the collaborations between the Wayne Chapter and their partners has made this resource available for community members during outreach events throughout the year. Who knows, perhaps the many school students and community members who have participated in IKES events over the years will learn to be conservationists too, spreading a love for this land and these waters.
For more information and a partial list of partners
Wayne Chapter of the Izaak Walton League
A Jewell Schock Museum of Natural History
Fred G. Dale Planetarium
Nebraska Game and Parks Commission
Wild Turkey Federation
Logan Creek Pheasants Forever
Wayne Community Schools
Wakefield Community Schools
Wayne State College, School of Natural and Social Sciences
Wayne State College, School of Education
Wayne State College, Service Learning
The Nebraska Department of Education
The National Science Foundation