With the hustle and bustle of the holidays in full swing, the remainder of the year is often filled with cooking, shopping, and endless to-do lists. But it is also a time to reflect on the year that has passed and plan for the year ahead, show gratitude, and give to others. At ICL, we are celebrating the conservation wins of 2023, marking 50 years of our organization, and showing our gratitude for our conservation community—the people that make all of it possible. 

ICL started in 1973, when a group of advocates from across the state realized that Idaho needed an effective statewide voice to advance the cause of conservation and to protect the things that make Idaho special. ICL was born. Since then, our staff and work has grown much, but we still remain the same at our core: we are an independent, home-grown, Idaho-based membership organization that shares a deep love for the Gem State.

Now, 50 years later, we have a long list of accomplishments to look back on. This timeline of success shows how ICL is unique in its ability to bring long-term commitment and results to protecting Idaho’s environment. When you support ICL, you join in this legacy of success, and are a part of building the future. ICL has big, audacious goals to reach, but reflecting on the challenges we’ve already overcome gives us the confidence to tackle those that lie ahead. Tackling these challenges and reaching these goals takes continued support—so in the spirit of the giving season, here are 5 reasons to give to ICL today!

1. A Leader In Our Field, Doing Work that Benefits All Idahoans

ICL is excited to share our vision for Idaho’s future. We’re working to protect and connect large landscapes of public lands across the state, advancing plans to make Idaho carbon-neutral, addressing an urgent need to restore abundance to salmon and steelhead before they are lost forever, restoring the health of Idaho’s lakes, rivers, and streams—from the Snake River in southern Idaho to the Great Lakes of North Idaho—and ensuring that all of Idaho’s wildlife species can survive and thrive.

For 50 years and today, we have been a leader in this work. ICL’s Executive Director, Justin Hayes, recently was named to Idaho Business Review’s (IBR) “Idaho Industry Influencers” Powerlist, which highlights the top leaders that have been guiding communities to greater prosperity and success. In its piece on Hayes, IBR writes “One of the biggest hurdles Justin Hayes has had in becoming successful in the realm of environmental conservation is political divisiveness.” Although political gain has created divides across the country on a slew of issues, ICL recognizes that we all rely on a clean and healthy environment, and that when we let that political divide become a wedge, we all lose part of what makes Idaho so special—access to public lands, abundant wildlife, clean water, and clean air. Despite divisive challenges, ICL is proud to bring people together around shared values and goals, working together to protect Idaho’s environment. 

Representatives from Idaho Conservation League (ICL), Youth Salmon Protectors (YSP), the Confederated Tribes of Umatilla (CTUIR) Youth Council, and Washington Youth Ocean and River Conservation Alliance (WYORCA) took to Washington D.C. in April 2023 to advocate for salmon, orcas, and Tribal justice.
2. Ensuring Youth Voices are a Part of Building Our Future

ICL does this work on behalf of all Idahoans. And much of our work is work that never ends—it will be needed in perpetuity. Luckily, ICL is in this for the long run. That’s one of the many reasons why we work to develop, guide, and support youth advocacy efforts. ICL believes that youth are not only the leaders of tomorrow, but the leaders of today. When young people have space to organize on their own, their collection actions can carry us to real solutions. ICL supports two programs focused on young people advocating on behalf of Idaho’s environment: Youth Salmon Protectors and Emerging Leaders for Idaho’s Environment.

Youth Salmon Protectors (YSP) is a program of ICL working to build a coalition of young people across the Northwest dedicated to honoring Tribal treaties, breaching the four lower Snake River dams, saving wild salmon and steelhead and restoring orca. Created in 2021, YSP has grown to a coalition of over 2,000 people across the Northwest. From painting banners to planning rallies, writing and calling elected officials to urging those in power to remove the four lower Snake River dams, YSP makes a real difference. Their inspiring work even landed them as subjects of a Patagonia documentary.

ICL’s Emerging Leaders for Idaho’s Environment (ELIE) is a leadership program that builds Idaho’s conservation community through collaboration between ICL and young leaders. Through professional development and partnership building, this cohort-based professional development program makes meaningful contributions to ICL’s work for conservation in Idaho. ELIE members are young professionals who work with ICL to develop advocacy tools, learn more about conservation in Idaho, and foster community with other young professionals. 

When you support ICL, you support not only the current leaders of conservation advocacy in Idaho, but the future leaders.

ICL Wilderness Steward Joyce Fabre on patrol next to Alpine Lake in the Sawtooths.
3. Boots On the Ground, Paddles in the Water

ICL is more than Your Voice for Conservation in the Idaho Statehouse, and a voice for conservation at the tables where decisions are being made about Idaho’s air, water, lands, and wildlife. We are also boots on the ground and paddles in the water for Idaho’s special places.

ICL’s Wilderness Stewards are a group of dedicated, wilderness-loving volunteers doing their part to preserve and protect wilderness characteristics throughout central Idaho Wilderness Areas. Under the motto “recreate with purpose,” these volunteers embark on independent patrols in central Idaho’s iconic areas, helping educate the public about rules and regulations, dismantling backcountry fire rings, picking up litter, and collecting valuable data for the U.S. Forest Service.

This year’s 60 Wilderness Stewards

  • Covered over 1,058 miles of wilderness trails.
  • Conducted 138 patrols and dedicated 975 hours of their personal time (equating to approximately 1.3 months of continuous effort)
  • Encountered 2,831 other trail users, engaging with and influencing a significant portion of the public.
  • Packed out 755 ounces (47 pounds) of litter
  • Cleared 114 illegal fire rings, mitigating existing human impact and discouraging future use.
  • Cleaned 15 human waste issues.

From boots on the ground to paddles in the water, ICL’s Water Quality Stewards hit the water for their love of North Idaho’s iconic Lake Pend Oreille. These environmental stewards volunteer through ICL’s Water Quality Monitoring Program, a citizen-science initiative. Each spring, stewards receive training on properly collecting water quality data and samples. Monthly from May through September, they collect data and water samples from 15 stations across Lake Pend Oreille and the Pend Oreille River.

Citizen scientists Don and Sue Helander with ICL’s Water Quality Monitoring Program.

This year, ICL’s Water Quality Stewards earned two prestigious awards—the Timeless Adult Volunteer Award and as honorees for the Governor Cecil D. Andrus Volunteer of the Year Award. These stewards are a crucial part of ICL’s broader North Idaho Lakes Advocacy program, which focuses on protecting the waters of Idaho’s panhandle from degradation, pollution, and poor land use management. By supporting ICL, you help support these important programs that immediately result in on-the-ground, in-the-water positive impacts for Idaho.

4. ICL is a financially sound and responsible organization… making sure your donations go toward protecting what you love about Idaho. 

ICL earned a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator…. again!

ICL’s strong financial health and commitment to accountability and transparency recently earned the environmental nonprofit a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent charity evaluator.

A 4-star rating is Charity Navigator’s highest possible rating and indicates ICL adheres to sector best practices and executes its mission in a financially efficient way. This rating verifies that ICL continues to exceed industry standards, demonstrating ICL’s trustworthiness to the public.

Since 2022, using objective analysis, Charity Navigator has awarded only the most fiscally responsible organizations a 4-star rating. Charity Navigator accepts no advertising or donations from the organizations it evaluates, ensuring unbiased evaluations, nor does it charge the public for this trusted data. To read Charity Navigator’s full report on ICL, click here

5. Because you LOVE Idaho!

At the core of ICL is love—a shared love among people for Idaho’s clean air, clean water, vast public lands, abundant fish and wildlife, and healthy, happy communities. This love for Idaho’s natural heritage is the lifeblood of ICL. Our devoted members and supporters? They are our heartbeat. 

When you support ICL, you don’t just support the conservation work and outcomes—you also join a truly special community. A community that doesn’t just say they love a wild Idaho, but they show their love for it. A community that speaks up for the things they love. A community that knows they are a part of something bigger than themselves. This is what makes ICL, ICL—the people behind it, the places that inspire, and a vision for the future. 

Please join us as we take the next step toward a future where our air and waters remain clean, our public lands are well managed and remain public, our fish and wildlife are thriving, and all of Idaho’s communities have opportunities to enjoy our national heritage. Your support of ICL makes this work possible—please make a gift today!