For Immediate Release: Wednesday, May 24, 2023


Abby Urbanek, Communications Manager, Idaho Conservation League, (208) 345-6933 x 214

The Idaho Conservation League celebrates 50 years, honors community leaders at annual Wild Idaho! conference

STANLEY, ID – The Idaho Conservation League (ICL) wrapped up its annual Wild Idaho! conference at Redfish Lake Lodge over the weekend. The conference celebrated 50 years of ICL and a legacy of conservation achievements in Idaho. The event included an auction fundraiser, guest speakers, and ICL’s Annual Awards ceremony.

The conference attracted 200 attendees and raised critical funds to support ongoing conservation efforts across the state. Conservation experts and ICL staff spoke on topics including climate change, public lands, water quality, salmon & steelhead restoration, wildlife, and more. Speakers included award-winning journalist Rocky Barker, the Frank Church Institute Executive Director Monica Church, and retired ICL Executive Directors Pat Ford and Rick Johnson.

ICL, an Idaho-based non-profit organization, also recognized leaders in environmental activism, public service, journalism, youth engagement, and lifetime achievement.

The 2023 Pat Ford Award for Lifetime Leadership and Contributions to Conservation was awarded to Rick Johnson, who served as ICL’s Executive Director for 24 years, as well as two years as Public Lands Director. Under his leadership from 1995-2019, the organization established an endowment to fund conservation efforts into the future, secured the designation of 800,000 acres of congressionally-designated Wilderness (ending a drought of 29 years), grew the professional staff of the organization, along with many other successes.

Named after former ICL Executive Director Pat Ford, the award honors those who have made a sustained commitment to the non-profit organization and the cause of conservation over decades. 

The 2023 Cecil D. Andrus Award for Conservation in Public Service Award recognizes the leadership and commitment of Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee (NPTEC) Chairman Shannon Wheeler. The award will be presented at a Lewiston screening of Covenant of the Salmon on People on May 25. The film sheds light on the relationship between the Nez Perce and salmon.

First elected in 2016, NPTEC Chairman Shannon Wheeler has served as a voice for the Nimiipuu people as they promote efforts to restore salmon, including through removal of the four lower Snake Snake River dams and through promotion of renewable energy. Chairman Wheeler has also worked closely with federal and state agencies on resource and land management throughout the Nez Perce Tribe’s aboriginal territory.  

Named after four-time Idaho governor and former U.S. Secretary of the Interior Cecil D. Andrus, the award recognizes public servants who help protect Idaho’s air, water, lands, and wildlife.  

Fred Coriell and Save the South Fork Salmon River were recognized with the 2023 Keith and Pat Axline Award for Environmental Activism at Wild Idaho! and will be presented with the award at an ICL 50th Anniversary event in McCall on July 21.

Named after Keith and Pat Axline, long-time members, board representatives, and volunteers from Challis who were deeply dedicated to conservation and the work of the ICL, the Axline Award honors citizen activists who provide leadership and demonstrate an outstanding commitment to conservation in Idaho.

The McCall-based grassroots non-profit, Save the South Fork Salmon, and their Director Fred Coriell are dedicated to protecting the health of the South Fork Salmon River watershed. The group represents a wide range of interests who share a commitment to ensuring that future generations experience a healthy South Fork Salmon River. The group has worked closely with the Nez Perce Tribe, Idaho Rivers United, ICL and other partners in opposition to the Stibnite Gold Project, a massive gold mine proposed in the headwaters of the East Fork South Fork Salmon River. 

The 2023 J. Robb Brady Award for Environmental Journalism recognizes Keith Ridler, former reporter for the Associated Press (AP). The award will be presented at an ICL 50th anniversary celebration in Boise on September 22.

For over 17 years, Keith Ridler worked with the AP until his retirement in early 2023. He spent the last 5 years covering Idaho environmental and political issues in the statehouse with fair, consistent, and comprehensive reporting.

First awarded in 1999, the Brady Award is named after the longtime publisher and editorial page editor of the Idaho Falls Post Register, who is remembered for his passionate coverage of many environmental issues, including bringing attention to ASARCO’s mine proposed for the flanks of Castle Peak in what is now the Boulder-White Clouds Wilderness. The award recognizes excellence and integrity in environmental journalism.

The Alex Frizzell Award for Youth Activism was awarded to Scout Alford, a junior at Lewiston High School. Scout has been an active leader in ICL’s Youth Salmon Protectors (YSP) program and is the organizer of the Lewiston chapter. Last year, Scout helped organize a YSP trip to the Ice Harbor dam, and recently returned from a trip with other YSP members and members of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation – Youth Council to Washington, DC, where the group met with elected officials, federal agencies, and conservation partners to advocate for salmon restoration and lower Snake River dam removal.

The award honors the legacy and memory of Alex Frizzell, a brilliant young woman who grew up in Boise and cared deeply about addressing the threats of climate change. Alex interned with ICL in 2012, contributing key insights into an economic analysis of energy that ICL still uses today. ICL is honored to recognize her legacy and the importance of youth activism with this award.