The Idaho Wildlife Federation operates as its own separate entity to the National Wildlife Federation. Just as the voice of Idaho sportsmen is made strong under a single Federation of diverse interests, the National Wildlife Federation is made strong by the diversity of its state affiliates. What follows is the unique story of the founding of IWF and NWF, and how American sportsmen and wildlife enthusiasts changed wildlife management forever.
The first organizational meeting was held in 1936.
The first wildlife related organizational session was held in the House of Representatives chamber in the Idaho Statehouse and had a busy schedule. Members approved changing the name from the Idaho Conservation Council to the Idaho Wildlife Federation; selected permanent officers; provided for more equitable representation; ratified the constitution of the General Wildlife Federation (soon to be the National Wildlife Federation) and voted to join that association with a state representative and regional director. The group heard a report from George W. Grebe of Kuna who had attended the general wildlife conference in Washington, D.C., February 7, 1936 as a representative of the Idaho Conservation Council.
George Grebe reported on the national meeting also held in 1936.
“At this time there are about 36,000 organizations in the United States interested in the conservation and perpetuation of wildlife … Sportsmen spend approximately $12 million a year for fish and game licenses … The scattered groups are accomplishing very little and this proposed national federation is our chance to join in a concerted effort.”
The American Wildlife Institute also organized in 1935.
To further this effort, Mr. Grebe reported on the efforts of Jay N. Darling, at that time, Chief of the U.S. Biological Survey, to organize sportsmen nationally. J.N. “Ding” Darling began his career as a political cartoonist whose talents won him a Pulitzer Prize. His love of wildlife and passion for conserving resources influenced his work which appeared in 130 newspapers in the country. Soon his cartoons and organizational skills were uniting Americans concerned about conservation. In April, 1935, Mr. Darling had called a meeting in New York of a diverse group which shared common interests in wildlife. A second meeting in July led by Darling and Senator Walcott, organized the American Wildlife Institute. This group was composed of industry representatives interested in wildlife. They also established a foundation to assure a constant and continuous wildlife conservation program.
President Roosevelt calls for national conference.
Realizing that any plan of wildlife conservation and restoration would be doomed to failure without the active cooperation of sportsmen and other interested groups throughout North America, Mr. Darling and Senator Walcott asked President Franklin Roosevelt to call the first American Wildlife Conference. The conference was held in Washington, D.C. February 3 – 7, 1936; the result was the General Wildlife Federation.
There was a fear that the federal government could exercise control over the newly-formed Federation. Mr. Grebe emphasized that this would not be the case. The national group would be a people’s organization with the purpose of expressing the people’s will and carrying out their wishes. Mr. Grebe closed his report by urging the Idaho delegates to “join together to protect your interests … this must be a wildlife organization. This is your opportunity to have say in your own destiny … and for the future of wildlife conservation in Idaho!”