The Sierra Club:
Volunteering to Make a Better World
Vice-President, Sierra Club
Remarks at the LeConte Memorial Lodge Rededication Ceremony,
July 3, 2004
Thank you all for coming to this Centennial Celebration
of this beautiful building, the LeConte Memorial Lodge. It is such a real honor
to be here in Yosemite Valley on this very special occasion.
As I continue to journey through my 47th year, I find myself reflecting
more and more on my past and what experiences in my life have led me to my
life-long involvement in efforts to promote environmental protection and
preserve wild places. I know that I had very formative experiences right
here in this valley as a small child when my parents would bring me here to
camp in the 60s. I know that it was here that my love for wild nature
began. Then there was all the rock climbing I did here in the mid-70s.
And as I think about how grateful I am for those experiences, I think
increasingly about how grateful I am to those who have given of themselves
to teach others about the importance of this valley to ourselves and future
generations, and who teach of the more general importance of a clean and
healthy environment with beautiful and wild places like Yosemite to
enjoy. I think of how grateful I am for the work of Sierra Club volunteers
at this place, working in cooperation with the Park Service to help to
preserve Yosemite by sharing their enthusiastic love of this place with the
countless visitors who pass through here.
I'd like to illustrate how important this kind of volunteer work is with a
personal story. This past October, I was attending a Sierra Club event in
the Chicago area that included an option for a day_long field trip to the
Midewin (me_DAY_win) National Tall Grass Prairie one hour south of
Chicago. Having never seen a tall grass prairie and having always wanted
to, I elected to go a day early so I could participate. Early on a Friday
morning, we loaded onto a bus and, after for an hour_long ride through
rural Illinois, we arrived that at the Midewin headquarters, a site is
administered by the U.S. Forest Service (seeing we don't have a U.S. Tall
Grass Prairie Service). However, instead of tall grasses waving gently in
the wind that I had imagined in my mind's eye, I found instead a 20,000
acre area which until the mid_1990s had been a Army ammunition plant.
had a brief introductory presentation about restoration efforts at the
site, and then it was back on the bus to begin our tour. Our first stop
was a large field where native grasses and plants were being grown as a
source of seeds. That morning a group of about 30 members from the local
Sierra Club group were volunteering their time to help the Forest Service
harvest seeds from these cultivated plots of native tall grass prairie
plants. The Sierra Club has a long history of helping with various
projects all over the country and it always warms my heart to witness
volunteers in action. But the true significance of what I was witnessing
was not yet clear to me.
The tour continued and, as the day wore on, we saw areas for proposed for
hiking trails, the abandoned munitions plants, remnant wetland areas, and
areas still in agricultural use. The day was coming to an end, and I was
beginning to wonder when I was going to see the tall grass prairie. I
still had it in my mind that somewhere on this 20,000 site was some small
but intact remnant of this once vast ecosystem. As if reading my
mind, our Forest Service tour guide just then said "At about this point
the tour, someone usually asks, when do we get to see the tall grass
prairie. Well, I can't show it to you, because it doesn't exist yet. What
we're doing here at Midewin is engaging in a multi_decade effort to put
back something that isn't here anymore. As it says on our logo, we're
making a gift to future generations." That's when I realized the true
significance of all those Sierra Club volunteers harvesting seeds I had
seen earlier in the day. They were volunteering and giving of themselves
in an effort, the results of which they would probably never live to
see. The actual benefit would be realized by future generations.
That's what I love about the Sierra Club. Its people like yourself, coming
and giving of your time and efforts to make a better world, not just for
ourselves but for those who come after us. It is truly the finest display
of what it means to be citizens, people who so love their country that they
come out and work together to make it better.
So, with Joseph LeConte, let us raise our arms in exuberant joy. [Audience
joins Bernie in raising their arms]. Thank you so much coming to this
special event, and for all the work you do for Yosemite and the
planet. Thanks again.
Return to Rededication Ceremony
Re-Dedication of LeConte Memorial
Michael Reynolds, National Park Service, Yosemite National
Bernie Zaleha, Vice-President, Sierra Club
Bruce Hamilton, Conservation Director, Sierra Club
Bonnie Gisel, Curator, LeConte Memorial Lodge
Harold Wood, Chair, Sierra Club LeConte Memorial Lodge Committee
Centennial Day Photo Album
Rededication Photo Album
Learn more about the LeConte Lodge Centennial.
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Information and Donations
For more information, during the summer contact Sierra Club LeConte Memorial Lodge
Curator, P.O. Box 755, Yosemite, CA 95389, 1-209-372-4542; e-mail:
During the winter, contact LeConte Lodge Committee Chair, Harold Wood, P.O. Box 3543,
Visalia, CA 93278; phone: (559) 697-3525; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tax deductible donations to support the new exhibits and renovation efforts of the
LeConte Memorial can be made to "Sierra Club Foundation," marked for the "LeConte Lodge Fund."
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