- Former Sierra Club President (1980-1982), Educator and volunteer conservationist campaigning for protection of Giant Sequoias and California wilderness.
Joe Fontaine was camping in California's Sequoia National Forest with a group of Boy Scouts in 1962 when he saw a clearcut that looked like "a war zone." First he got angry, then he got involved. And he's never let up the pressure to protect his beloved forest.
- Fontaine was awarded the Sierra Club's "John Muir Award" in 1995 for his long career working to protect the southern Sierra Nevada, Mojave desert lands, the giant Sequoia, and other California wilderness areas.
Fontaine says, "I have spent the last 40 years working on the goals Muir set for the Sierra Club when he played the key role in founding the organization in 1892. His writing and ideas have been an inspiration to me during that time. He has truly been an inspiration to me personally and to all of the members of the Sierra Club which has grown to over 750,000 strong. Furthermore John Muir was one of the primary founders of the environmental movement in the United States which has become quite effective here as well as in the rest of the world. In short John Muir is regarded as one of the greatest men in American history."
After President Clinton's designation of the 328,000 acre Giant Sequoia National Monument on April 15, 2000, Fontaine believed (mistakenly, it turns out) that he had achieved not only a victory for wild forests and future generations, but a personal one as well. With Carla Cloer and other activists, he had spent years writing letters, lobbying, organizing rallies, filing lawsuits, testifying at public hearings and challenging timber sales. After the Monument Proclamation, Fontaine said, "John Muir was pushing for the protection of these groves a century ago," said Fontaine. "I like to think we've scratched something off his to-do list." Alas, four years later we've learned that Muir's axiom is still true: "The battle we have fought, and are still fighting for the forests is a part of the eternal conflict between right and wrong, and we cannot expect to see the end of it. So we must count on watching and striving for these trees." The latest proposal (2004) from the Forest Service calls for more logging in this beleagured area.
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