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History of the Illinois Chapter of The Wildlife Society

by Larry David

Interest among Illinois wildlifers in establishment of a state chapter began in 1961 and was stimulated by the efforts of J. Henry Sather, Western Illinois University professor and 1961 TWS Illinois Membership Chairman, and Thomas R. Evans. Evans, Supervisor of the Game Division of the Illinois Department of Conservation (DOC) and 1961 TWS Illinois Representative had been a charter member of the old Minnesota Section in 1948 before moving to Illinois. A committee was organized in June 1961 to pursue establishment of a state chapter. The members were Harold C. Hanson (INHS), W.D. Klimstra (SIUC), James H. Moak, William D. Carter (FWS), and Sather, chairman.

TWS members residing in Illinois were polled by mail in August 1961 and considerable interest was indicated. An organizational meeting was set for Wheaton College in April 1962 in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Illinois State Academy of Science. In advance of the April meeting a petition was submitted to TWS Council to approve the formation of the Illinois Chapter. It was approved by Council on 11 March 1962. The petition was signed by George Arthur (DOC), Udell Meyers, Moak, John D. Parsons (SIUC), John Piazza (DOC),  Evans,   Klimstra, Edward L. Kozicky (Olin Corp.), James Lockart (DOC) and Sather.

At Wheaton about 20 TWS members met, but they concluded that there not enough interest within the state to justify establishment of a chapter. So an Illinois Chapter had been approved by Council, but rejected by Illinois TWS members.

However, Evans and Sather persevered. Formation of a chapter was discussed informally around the state and on 29 February 1964 a second organizational meeting was held at Western Illinois University at Macomb. After some lively discussion a majority of those in attendance voted to establish the Illinois Chapter. Chapter Bylaws were formulated and officers were elected for 1964. L.A. Mehroff (USFWS) was elected the first Chapter President. The first Annual Meeting was held in Springfield on 19-20 February 1965. The Illinois Chapter had 34 members in 1964 and 73 members in 1965. Membership numbers remained around 75 in the late 60’s and early 70’s. The Chapter has had 100-130 members since 1978.

The Illinois Chapter had held two-day programs and annual meetings each year since 1965. The programs at these meetings have covered a wide variety of topics of interest to Illinois wildlife professionals. The Chapter has reviewed and commented on numerous environmental issues and legislative proposals related to wildlife and the environment in Illinois.