by Carl Pope
Some five months into the War on the Environment -- a period in
which the Sierra Club has been tirelessly mobilizing the counter-offensive
-- the opposition's juggernaut is beginning to sputter. The Sierra
Club, and the environmental movement in general, won two significant
battles in May.
First, we persuaded 34 moderate House Republicans to break with
their party over the "Dirty Water Bill," which would
roll back Clean Water Act protections for wetlands, rivers and
lakes. Although not large enough to defeat the bill, this mini-revolt
still represents a breakthrough for the forces of reason, and
a crack in the armor of the anti-environmental extremists.
Second, we persuaded President Clinton to exercise his veto power
for the first time on the so-called rescissions bill, which includes
the egregious "logging without laws" provision. More
than 22,000 activists, many of them alerted by the Sierra Club,
urged the White House to veto the measure. Clinton got the message.
Announcing his intention to veto the de-funding package, he declared
the provision would "essentially throw out all of our environmental
laws and the protections that we have" governing timber sales
in national forests.
In other words, it's working. Our efforts are starting to pay
That success is especially important to bear in mind right now.
Our War on the Environment campaign comprises so many events and
individual efforts that it's hard to keep track of our progress.
Here, then, is a brief recap of the obstacles we face, the reasoning
behind our strategy and our plans to win the long-term struggle
over the environment.
- The polluters are in power. While a strong majority of the
public supports us, we're still a clear minority in Congress and
many state legislatures. The other side has taken the offensive,
and we are not yet in a position to take it back.
- The public's mood. Voters rejected the record of the last
Congress, and remain skeptical toward government. "Change"
and "reform" are words that resonate strongly with the
American people, who have a sense that almost anything government
does is wrong.
- Republican unity/Democratic disarray. While moderate Republicans
with environmental sympathies hold the balance of power in the
104th Congress, they've been largely silenced thus far by the
crack of the party's whips. Meanwhile, too many Democrats listen
to the blandishments of the polluters and campaign contributors.
Lost are accountability to the public and even members' own consciences.
- Volume, volume, volume. On environmental matters and across
the policy spectrum, this Congress is pushing on so many fronts
that neither the media nor the public can keep up. This breakneck
pace has kept opponents of the assault on the environment off-balance,
and the public confused and distracted.
- Clinton's resolve. The president seems reluctant to use his
veto power, and we can't rely on him as our stopper -- though
he has recently seemed far feistier and more willing to take on
the Gingrich-Dole onslaught.
- Imbalance of resources. While they have a small public constituency,
it's backed by essentially unlimited financial resources. California
agribusiness, for example, reportedly spent hundreds of thousands
of dollars organizing farmers for three Endangered Species Act
hearings held in the state.
- Maintaining morale. We are engaged in a series of strategic
retreats. Even as we begin to win, it's hard to keep our spirits
up. Playing defense is no fun, even when it starts to work.
- Since our opponents are in power, we must change the politics
of environmentalism at the community level. That, not prevailing
in short-term legislative skirmishes, is our overwhelming priority.
- We must deliver our message consistently, focusing our communications
on broad themes and values -- places people love and threats they
fear -- rather than the fine points of legislation.
- We must remember that legislative battles are not isolated
events but part of a broad tapestry, and organize around each
one with a clear sense of battles to come.
- While some legislation will pass, our job is to oppose every
effort to weaken America's environmental safety net. In the 104th
Congress, this will most often require threats of, or delivery
on, filibusters and vetoes.
- Their strategic weakness is their extremism. We need to focus
our message, our resources and our organizing on their most extreme
proposals in order to exploit that weakness.
In Phase 1 of our campaign, the goal was threefold: (a) sound
the alarm, (b) awaken the environmental movement, the media and
the American people, and (c) prevent final passage of the Polluter's
Bill of Rights.
We succeeded on all three counts. An unfunded-mandates bill was
signed into law, but we managed to soften or eliminate some of
its more egregious provisions. Issues like takings and risk assessment
-- which were not controversial as the year began -- are now widely
covered and hotly debated. The Senate rejected efforts to close
off environmentalists' access to the federal courts. And most
state legislatures said "no" to the key elements of
the Polluter's Bill of Rights.
Now, in Phase 2, the goal is to organize around the Environmental
Bill of Rights, the centerpiece that enables us to deliver a consistent
message over time. Its importance is less that it gathers 1 or
2 million signatures than that it provides a way to have conversations
with millions of Americans around a common theme, to focus public
anger on Washington and the statehouses, and to defeat the Polluter's
Bill of Rights.
Now is also the time to stop the rollback of such laws as the
Clean Water and Endangered Species acts, and to block back-door
efforts to use the budget process to advance the assault on the
environment -- a maneuver being employed to enact "logging
without laws" and to open the Arctic Refuge and critical
coastal areas to oil-and-gas drilling.
And that's where we are right now. Once we succeed in blocking
the War on the Environment, we can move from defending existing
protections to putting forward positive ideas.
The final phase is the 1996 elections. We need to take back Congress,
regain our strength in the states and prevent the election of
an anti-environmental president.
We can't succeed in the elections unless we first carry out our
core strategy of changing the politics of environmental issues
at the community level. Only by effectively reaching out and organizing
in these grim, early days of the War on the Environment can we
create a 1996 political climate in which candidates will be held
accountable for their environmental stands.
The good news is: We can do that. We are doing it. Keep it up.
Taking its cue from the Contract With America, the 104th Congress
continues its sidelong assault on the environment, hoping to divert
public attention by striking indirectly through the budget process.
A case in point: In 1991, the Sierra Club led a successful campaign
to keep Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge off-limits to
oil and gas drilling. Unable to prevail on the merits, the oil
industry's friends in Congress hit on a simple solution -- build
projected revenues from leasing the Refuge into the balanced-budget
resolution, which has now passed both houses of Congress. Opportunities
to delete the arctic-drilling provision will arise as the 1996
budget moves toward final approval this summer. For updates call
the Sierra Club Legislative Hotline at (202) 675-2394.
The "logging without laws" measure -- which would effectively
repeal environmental laws in national forests for the benefit
of the timber industry -- was likewise masked as a bean-counter
bill. This time, the camouflage was the so-called rescissions
bill, which would rescind some $16 billion in previously appropriated
funds for the 1995 fiscal year. The bill was passed and sent to
President Clinton, who made good on his vow to veto it.
Here's how other elements of the War on the Environment are faring
on their march through Washington:
The Polluter's Bill of Rights
Bill: Takings (Bad-Neighbor Bills)
White House: Veto promised
Action needed: Media, community outreach, and pressure
on senators to oppose S. 605.
Bill: Risk Assessment (Rolls Back Environmental Laws)
White House: Veto promised
Action needed: Media, community outreach, and pressure
on senators to oppose S. 343.
Bill: Legal Reforms (Right to Sue)
White House: Veto promised
Action needed: House and Senate bills to go to conference;
not an action priority.
Bill: Unfunded Mandates
White House: Signed
Action needed: No action needed; final bill fairly moderate.
Gutting Environmental Laws
Bill: Clean Water Act Reauthorization
Senate: No action
White House: Veto promised
Action Needed: Media, community outreach, and pressure
on senators to fight the H.R. 961.
Bill: Endangered Species Act Reauthorization
White House: --
Action Needed: Media and community outreach on the importance
of opposing the Gorton bill in the Senate.
Budget and Appropriations Attacks on the Environment
Bill: "Logging Without Laws" (Budget Rescissions
White House: Vetoed
Action Needed: Thank you calls to Clinton
for veto. Calls to Congress to sustain veto.
Bill: Arctic Refuge Oil Drilling (Budget Resolution)
White House: --
Action Needed: Media, community outreach, and pressure
on Senate and President to protect the Arctic as budget process
Bill: Repeal of OCS Offshore Oil Drilling Ban (Appropriations
White House: --
Action Needed: Media, congressional pressure to extend
the 14-year ban.
A nationwide coalition of green groups, including the Sierra Club,
chose Memorial Day weekend -- the unofficial start of summer --
to officially launch the "Save Our Summer" campaign,
a season-long effort to turn up the heat on anti-environmentalists
in Congress and state legislatures. Over the next several months,
Club activists will be reaching out to summer recreationists to
enlist their help in turning back the War on the Environment.
Scheduled events include the release of the Natural Resources
Defense Council's annual report on beach closings, "Testing
the Waters," and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group's
report on industries that violate water laws, "Permit to
Pollute," and a series of press conferences on beach cleanup
with the Center for Marine Conservation. "We have a right
to a safe and healthy summer season," declared Bruce Hamilton,
the Club's conservation director, at the campaign kickoff in Washington,
D.C. "Don't let them take it away."
by Brian Andreja
Environmental Justice Chair, Rocky Mountain Chapter
Quite often, activists give me suggestions, tips, comments and
ideas about how the Sierra Club could improve its press work by
simply making better use of our resources "on the ground."
And they are right: It is at the grassroots level that we discover
best how to give journalists what they need.
A memo I recently received from Brian Andreja is a case in point.
Based on his own experience, Brian offers strategies and ideas
to quickly and effectively deliver the Sierra Club's message to
the public. The following "action guide" excerpted from
his memo is an example of the grassroots advice that is helping
shape our media strategy at the national level.
Director of Communications
During the last decade, the "wise use" movement, the
far right and polluters have perfected the use of think tanks,
public policy institutes and professional public relations firms
to promote their point of view.
As a mainstream grassroots environmental organization, the Sierra
Club doesn't have the luxury of sitting on our rhetorical laurels
while corporate America runs over us. But to take on big money
we need to be smart, efficient and effective. We do have the tactical
advantage of numbers, speed and flexibility (even though we may
have to work on those last two). We need to utilize those strengths
in the same way our opponents do, to take the lead, get the word
out and make our voices heard.
To do so, we must begin to develop and utilize new strategies
that deliver our message to a much wider public.
I have learned that the only way to get Sierra Club issues into
print or on the air is to do it myself, by the seat of my pants.
With the help of an IBM 386 clone, Windows and a 14.4 fax/modem,
I can quickly produce high-quality faxes with graphics that can
be broadcast to either a wide-range or narrowly defined group
of media organizations.
I don't limit myself to Sierra Club news. I grab everything I
can from Internet newsgroups and mailing lists and provide local
reporters with news they are unlikely to get anywhere else.
I always include the original source, often Greenpeace, Rachel's
Health and Environmental Weekly or various citizens groups. The
reporters appreciate that I seem to be interested in helping them
do their jobs, as opposed to just promoting the Sierra Club. They
especially appreciate getting the information quickly.
Although this doesn't go as far as our opposition, it does help
counteract their influence and get our views out to the public
much more often than we can by relying on our information alone.
- Make our own news stories. For years, Greenpeace has been
writing its own stories and getting them on the Internet and other
alternative sources of information, rather than being at the mercy
of publishers and editors. If a local newspaper doesn't cover
a Sierra Club event, then we can write our own news and get it
to the public through other media outlets and alternative information
- Develop an in-house news service. A Sierra Club news service
could provide stories for reprint in group and chapter newsletters
and distribution to local media. Ready-to-go, pre-packaged reports
of a Sierra Club news conference, protest or statement could get
more coverage if they were distributed quickly to staff and volunteers
who could get them out to a wider audience. In essence, we could
become our own combination think tank, PR firm and news publisher.
- Use new techniques. Important information often goes to a
staff member or volunteer...and sits there. To close the loop,
we need a network of techno-enviros who are motivated to download,
reformat, add graphics, upload, fax and follow up on environmental
news and viewpoints.
To help activists turn back the War on the Environment, the Sierra
Club and other groups have published an array of reports that
offer solid research, statistics and analysis on pressing environmental
issues. A sampling:
Breach of Faith: How the Contract's Fine Print Undermines
America's Environmental Success. Natural Resources Defense Council,
February 1995. For a copy, send a check or money order for $7.50
plus $1.45 shipping to: NRDC Publications Department, 40 W. 20th
St., New York, NY 10011. California residents add 7.25 percent
In the Green: A Guide to Paying for Environmental Programs.
Sierra Club, January 1995. For a free copy, call Patricia Glick
in the Sierra Club's legislative office at (202) 675-6272.
League of Conservation Voters 100-Day Scorecard. National
Environmental Scorecard for the House of Representatives. April
1995. For a copy, call the League of Conservation Voters at (202)
Sierra Club Message Book. Communications guidelines for
maximizing our impact in the effort to turn back the War on the
Environment. For a copy, call Alita Paine in the Sierra Club's
San Francisco office at (415) 923-5597.
Moneyed Waters: Political Contributions and the Attack
on the Clean Water Act. Environmental Working Group and U.S. Public
Interest Research Group, 1995. For a copy, send a check or money
order for $10 to: U.S. PIRG, 218 D St. S.E., Washington, DC 20003.
by John Andrews
Chair, Thoreau Group, Massachusetts
A letter in a major metropolitan newspaper may be read by tens
of thousands of people. Writing letters to the editor is, therefore,
a good investment of your energy, even if only a few of your letters
are published. What's more, elected officials and reporters pay
attention to letters about issues that involve them.
Tips for success:
Be brief. If you go much over 200 words, the editor might have
to cut material, and the letter is less likely to be published.
Use a key fact when appropriate, but don't overuse facts; a letter
can't include everything. Finally, it's better to make one strong
point than three weak ones.
Speak to the undecided and confused. Get them off the fence. Remind
the non-environmentalists why they benefit from environmental
protection. Remind people why weakening environmental protection
is bad. Example: Instead of saying, "This would weaken our
wetlands protections," say, "This would weaken our ability
to protect homeowners from flooding."
Use specific and high-impact language. After your first draft,
reread the letter to weed out weak prose. Substitute "polluted
lakes and rivers" for "environment." Substitute
"cancer and birth defects" for "health problems."
Avoid bland emphasis words such as "very," "many"
and "extremely." Be wary of the adjectives "all,"
"never," and "always" -- they require just
one counter-example to be discredited.
Express a definite opinion. Make your values and your conclusions
known. Be strong-willed but not emotional.
Be truthful and honest. And check your facts. Honesty is the best
policy, so don't lower your standards even when you think your
adversaries are lying with every breath. Remember, though, that
honesty and balance are not the same. You aren't obligated to
give equal time to opposing points of view.
Before mailing your letter, have someone else read it and make
suggestions. Use your own judgment about whether to take their
Know what you're recruiting for. It's much easier for an individual
to agree to a task that's clearly spelled out.
Listen to what the potential volunteer wants to do; try to match
him or her with an appropriate and rewarding role.
Have someone in charge of recruiting for each job.
Use all available means of contact with potential volunteers:
- New-member orientations.
- Announcements at meetings.
- Networking time during or after membership meetings.
- Telephone calls to new members.
Remain flexible; be open to designing a job to fit an individual's
Let your own enthusiasm shine through - the excitement of involvement
The following sample letter can be used to alert the public to
the danger of
Sen. Slade Gorton's
(R-Wash.) "extinction bill," S. 768, which would gut
the landmark 1972 Endangered Species Act.
Congress should reject the bill Sen. Slade Gorton has filed to
disable the Endangered Species Act. The interests of people, as
well as wildlife and the habitats they live in, would be seriously
injured if a bill as extreme as Gorton's S. 768 were to pass.
The Endangered Species Act (ESA) protects a priceless resource
for the American people: biological diversity. Over half of the
prescription drugs in use today are derived from natural sources
such as taxol, which is produced from the Pacific yew and used
to fight breast and ovarian cancer. But only 5 percent of the
world's plant species have been studied for their medicinal value.
The ESA protects our children's stake in discovering what might
be the drug that cures other cancers, or even AIDS.
How shortsighted it is that the law that helped save the bald
eagle, the gray whale and the alligator is now faced with extinction
itself. The bill Sen. Gorton has filed to "reform" the
ESA wouldn't fine-tune this law; it would cripple it. Gorton admits
that his bill was drafted by lobbyists for the logging, mining
and utility interests who want the ESA repealed. That in itself
ought to make lawmakers in Washington reject it as no way to conduct
the public's business.
The Gorton bill would reverse the entire purpose that has guided
the ESA since Richard Nixon signed it into law 22 years ago. Rather
than bringing about the recovery of endangered species, this bill
would give the secretary of Interior the option of sentencing
species to extinction by failing to protect the habitat in which
This sort of extremism doesn't serve the public. The ESA needs
strengthening, not gutting. Congress should reject S. 768 and
recognize that the Endangered Species Act is a law that protects
all of us.
by Robbie Cox
Sierra Club President
The Sierra Club's conservation program has evolved in the fire
of many battles -- changing, adapting, while always building on
the traits that have made the Club, in David Brower's words, "the
most effective conservation force on the planet."
In this spirit, the Club's Board of Directors began a review last
year of our volunteer governance, aiming "to simplify the
Sierra Club while maintaining its democratic character and financial
health, enabling us to achieve our conservation purposes better."
The results of that review were approved last fall, and nowhere
were the changes so far-reaching as in our volunteer conservation
These pages provide a "road map" of the new conservation
governance and activist structure that resulted from the Board's
review, highlighting the Club's core conservation mission and
What's happening? What committees exist? Who's in charge?
The former Conservation Coordinating Committee has been expanded
and given real resources to guide the Club's campaigns and issue
committees. Charged with the planning and coordination of the
Sierra Club's overall conservation program, this new Conservation
Governance Committee is headed by the Club's Vice President Kathy
Directors instructed the committee to focus the Club's work and
assign resources around our core conservation mission to protect
wildlands and environmental quality and continue our campaigns
on sustainability and protection of the Earth's commons. Following
this mandate, the committee moved quickly to create the three
strategy teams -- Wild Planet, Environmental Quality and Sustainable
Planet -- that are described on these pages.
Each team prioritizes work in its area; creates (and sunsets)
committees, task forces and other projects to advance our conservation
objectives; and shifts resources among these front-line entities.
Each has moved deliberately and carefully in the last six months
to create a powerful line-up of core committees and "rapid
response" task forces.
What do we hope to achieve with this new structure, and why
is it better than what we had before?
Focus: The new structure more clearly focuses us on and assigns
resources and authority for the Club's core conservation mission.
Nowhere has this been more evident than in coordinating the Club's
campaign to stop Congress' "War on the Environment."
Flexibility and Nimbleness: Our effectiveness hinges on our ability
to work in nimble ways and to target activists' efforts. Each
strategy team has the authority to create rapid response task
forces as threats emerge, like the Utah Wilderness Task Force
that will help Club activists beat back a bogus "wilderness"
bill in that state.
Accountability: Under our old system, multiple committees often
believed they each had jurisdiction over the same issue, yet no
one had final authority or the resources to act. Under our new
structure, the Conservation Governance Committee can assign responsibility
and resources to the appropriate strategy team or campaign steering
Empowered Activists: The leadership of this new structure is committed
to a greatly expanded, inclusive cadre of leaders and activists.
Our challenge now is to expand our communication capacity to link
this new pool of activists to our campaigns and to each other.
What happens next?
Using on-line networks such as cc:Mail and the Club's "home page"
on the World Wide Web, the Strategy Teams are creating forums
that invite Club members to join discussions of conservation issues
and become activists in our campaigns. For example, the Sustainable
Planet Strategy Team launched a "Green Business/Living"
And, as I write, Volunteer and Activist Services Director Alita
Paine is leading an effort to rebuild and expand our aging conservation
activist network. The new network will take advantage of technologies
such as fax, e-mail and the Internet -- as well as direct mail
-- to identify members and activists who are willing to respond
to conservation alerts and participate in campaigns.
Our goal is to integrate not only multiple issues but various
levels throughout the Club -- chapters and groups, Regional Conservation
Committees and the Sierra Student Coalition -- in one user-friendly
and highly effective network.
Finally, we must still clarify the authority and role of RCCs
and their relationship with our ecoregion task forces.
Reorganizing and improving our conservation activist structure
is never easy. But thanks to the vision, hard work, faith and
patience of so many Club volunteers and staff, the spirit and
the power of our conservation activism is holding strong.
How can I get involved?
To get more involved in our national priority campaigns and issues,
please contact the chairs of the entities listed in these pages
for more information. We need your ideas and energy too!
Any Club member or entity can propose new conservation policy
to the Conservation Governance Committee, which determines if
the proposal should be sent on to a relevant strategy team for
study and dissemination to issue committees, regional conservation
committees, chapters and groups. With the resulting input, the
strategy team then prepares a final policy draft for the governance
committee. The governance committee decides when a proposal is
"ripe" for action by the Board of Directors and arbitrates
any disputes over interpretation of policy -- but the Board remains
the ultimate policy authority.
Kathy Fletcher, Chair
1916 7th Ave. W.
Seattle, WA 98119
Nick Aumen (Fla.)
Phil Berry (Calif.)
Ken Cline (Maine)
Dave Foreman (N.M.)
Joni Bosh, Chair
3708 E. Cholla St.
Phoenix, AZ 85028
*Mark Bettinger (N.Y.)
*Bob Bingaman (Washington, D.C.)
*Sheila Holbrook-White (Ala.)
Lowell Krasner (Vt.)
Steve Jones (Wyo.)
*Debbie Sease (Washington, D.C.)
Marvin Roberson, Chair
RR 1, Box 262 J
Lake Linden, MI 49945
Judy Anderson (Calif.)
Barry Beasley (S.C.)
Todd Herried (Minn.)
Mark Lawler (Wash.)
Laurie MacDonald (Fla.)
Helen Tjader (R.I.)
Edgar Wayburn (Calif.)
"We coordinate the Sierra Club's wildlands activities across
all management boundaries. I see our primary task as putting together
a long-term strategic vision for wildlands protection with an
emphasis on restoration of degraded ecosystems."
Don Waller, Chair (Madison, Wis.)
Randall Clark (Mo.)
Alan Journet (Mo.)
Joanne Lesher (Washington, D.C.)
Maxine McCloskey (Md.)
Meredith Taylor (Wyo.)
Paul Wilson (W. Va.)
Ann Woiwode (Mich.)
Tom McKinney, Chair (West Fork, Ark.)
Jim Catlin (Calif.)
Tim Flynn (Mich.)
Judy Hancock (Fla.)
Melinda Harm (Idaho)
Bob Schneider (Calif.)
jonathan stoke (Idaho)
Rose Strickland (Nev.)
Marianne Thaeler (N.M.)
Rene Voss (Ga.)
Ben Zerbey (N.M.)
Jonathan Ela, Chair (Madison, Wis.)
Colleen O'Sullivan (Fla.)
Teresa Schilling (Calif.)
Mike Martin, Chair (Derby, Kan.)
Harvard Ayers (N.C.)
Jim Catlin (Calif.)
Rick Johnson (Idaho)
Stephanie Jowers (La.)
Vicki Lee (Calif.)
Dick Watkins (S.C.)
Laurie MacDonald, Chair (St. Petersburg, Fla.)
Ed Engle (N.C.)
Kevin Finney (Calif.)
*Melinda Pierce (Washington, D.C.)
Meredith Taylor (Wyo.)
*Joan Willey (Md.)
Ross Vincent, Chair
P.O. Box 4375
Pueblo, CO 81003
Linda Bremer (Fla.)
Doris Cellarius (Wash.)
Michael Gregory (Ariz.)
Totton Heffelfinger (Calif.)
John Moreland (Iowa)
Nancy Parks (Pa.)
Mark Woodall (Ga.)
"Our team's charge is to work on reducing and correcting
damage from pollution and other harmful effects of toxic chemicals.
To do so, we're linking together longtime leaders and new activists."
Nancy Parks, Chair (Aaronsburg, Pa.)
Glen Besa (Md.)
Judith Lamare (Calif.)
Robert Palzer (Ore.)
Vivian Newman, Chair (Marriottsville, Md.)
Carol Bason (Wash.)
Margaret Gilleo (Mo.)
Shirley Taylor (Fla.)
Bob Slaughter, Chair (Wilmington, N.C.)
Margaret Gilleo, Chair (St. Louis, Mo.)
Doris Cellarius, Chair (Olympia, Wash.)
Jennie Alvernaz (Ga.)
Les Reid (Calif.)
Mary Ross (Ill.)
Terry Shistar (Kan.)
Rachel Zamore (R.I.)
Debbie Neustadt, Chair (Des Moines, Iowa)
Dwight Adams (Fla.)
Jeanne Davies (Calif.)
Jerry Speir (La.)
Bill Sheehan (Ga.)
Jay Sorenson (N.M.)
Mark Woodall, Chair (Woodland, Ga.)
Bill Sheehan, Chair (Winterville, Ga.)
Jay Sorenson, Chair (Albuquerque, N.M.)
Roger Diedrich, Chair (Fairfax, Va.)
Robin Mann, Chair (Bryn Mawr, Pa.)
Mark Derichsweiler (Okla.)
Robert Hastings (La.)
*Kathryn Hohmann (Washington, D.C.)
*Brett Hulsey (Wisc.)
Jim Mays (N.Y.)
*Jackie McCort (Calif.)
Liz Merry (Calif.)
"Our team oversees the Sierra Club's national and international
activities on issues related to sustainable human life on the
planet. We want to create a process that allows for more involvement
at the grassroots level."
-- John Lamb
The 1995 Leader List, the most comprehensive listing of Sierra
Club leaders at the national, regional, chapter and group levels,
is now available.
For more information: Call Eric Wilson at (415)
by Ken Midkiff
Program Director, Ozark Chapter
The clear streams of the Ozark Plateau are a canoeist's and smallmouth
bass angler's dream. Missouri alone boasts more than 10,000 miles
of canoeable waters and thousands more miles of smaller streams
with diverse aquatic habitat. Neighboring Arkansas offers similar
attractions for recreationists.
But where there's a valuable natural resource, sadly, there are
those who find ways to exploit and degrade. In these clear-flowing
streams, gravel is plentiful. And it's in great demand for roads
and aggregrate fill in asphalt and cement.
To sand-and-gravel companies, stream gravel is like money from
home: It's readily accessible and requires neither quarries nor
crushing. The most valuable gravel, pea-to-marble-size, is found
throughout the Ozarks.
Consequently, hundreds of in-stream gravel miners can also be
found in Ozark streams, using backhoes and frontloaders to reap
The federal Clean Water Act requires sand-and-gravel operators
to obtain a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Until
recently, the Corps gave out permits --issued under sections 401
to 404, relating to water quality and impacts from in-stream activities
-- without much oversight or restriction. But a court case alleging
damages from in-stream operations changed that, and the Corps
has asked each state to advise it on what restrictions and conditions
should be placed on gravel-mining permits.
In Arkansas, landowners, canoe outfitters and sport fishing clubs
joined with environmental organizations, including the Club's
Arkansas Chapter, to protest the widespread destruction of their
streams. A study by the state Game and Fish Commission on the
impacts of gravel mining on aquatic habitat -- particularly that
of game fish species -- concluded that conditions were so intolerable
that gravel operations should cease on all the major streams of
The result: A ban on in-stream gravel mining in 24 Arkansas streams
passed the legislature and was just signed into law by the governor.
In-stream operations can continue in other streams, but it is
certain that sand-and-gravel companies will try to mine in a way
that does not place those streams in the "degraded"
Missouri took a different route, chiefly because its operations
-- which have caused extensive damage to streams and water quality
-- are more diffuse than in Arkansas. While siltation and sedimentation
have been activists' primary concerns here, adverse impacts include
bank erosion, stream-bed instability and destruction of the riparian
Rather than prohibitions, the Ozark Chapter sought both legislative
and regulatory restrictions. The chapter drafted and obtained
a sponsor for a bill placing restrictions on in-stream gravel
mining. It also participated in a committee pulled together by
the resource agencies to recommend conditions to be placed on
401-404 permits issued by the Corps. The goals were the same for
both legislation and regulation:
- No excavations within the stream flow or below the waterline.
- A "buffer" of 25 feet between the area of excavation
and the normal water channel, and between the area of excavation
and the vegetated bank.
- No excavations during the spawning season (March 1 to June
- Smooth out the area of excavation when the operation is complete.
- Leave the riparian zone intact.
- Access the gravel bar from the adjacent bank, not by crossing
- No dumping of trash or petroleum products in the stream.
- Other minor or technical restrictions to lessen impacts.
Thanks to the legislation, which made violation of the rules a
misdemeanor, the gravel operators chose to support the regulations.
Also, hoping to avoid the "Arkansas solution," they
opted for restrictions rather than prohibitions. For now, in-stream
gravel mining will continue in Missouri, but environmental groups
will be watching closely to determine if other steps are needed.
And the gravel companies know they are being monitored.
Other states in the Midwest, the South and even the arid West
are having the same problems. Where there are streams flowing
through rocky hillsides, there are gravel bars. Where there's
gravel, there are people eager to mine it, thereby sacrificing
recreation and habitat on the altar of roads and construction
What environmentalists must decide is whether, in order to save
the bass, the backhoes should be merely regulated or banned outright.
For copies of the Missouri regulations, write: Ozark Chapter,
Sierra Club, P.O. Box 364, Jefferson City, MO 65102.
Review by Michael McCloskey
Sierra Club Chairman
When the 25th Earth Day was celebrated this spring, much of the
media welcomed a note of optimism being sounded by journalist
Gregg Easterbrook. In promoting his new book A Moment on the Earth,
he attacked what he called "fashionable defeatism,"
claiming that environmentalists all too often are unwilling to
admit we are winning the struggle.
To some extent, Easterbrook labors to prove the obvious in his
book: When we work hard to solve problems, we often make progress.
However, his theory stretches thin when he papers over problems
that persist in order to look only at the positive side of the
ledger. While he fashions himself an "ecorealist," in
his 700-plus page tome he comes across more a Pollyanna than
For instance, in his first chapter he asserts that "most
of the acreage of the Earth remains wild or semi-wild."
But the evidence points to the contrary. My world wilderness inventory
found that only 11 percent of the biologically active portion
of the world's land remains wild. Most has been converted to agriculture,
pastures, managed forests and urban areas.
He asserts that "the portion of the Earth taken over by humanity
is fantastically exaggerated in the popular imagination,"
observing that only 2 percent of U.S. land has been built upon.
In truth, less than 5 percent of our land and less than l percent
of our rivers remain wild. The rest is under human dominion.
Similarly, Easterbrook implies that human activity has had hardly
any impact on sea life that is not being fished. But marine habitat
is under real pressures from land-based sources of pollution,
changes we have made in the food chain and increases in ultraviolet
light due to the thinning ozone layer.
He suggests that only one-half of 1 percent of America's woodland
has been damaged through alteration. By alteration, he seems to
mean deforestation. Yet quite the opposite is true. Less than
one-half of 1 percent of America's "virgin" woodland
remains, and even that is not all protected. Easterbrook takes
satisfaction in figures showing that growth in our forests has
exceeded cutting for some time. But he fails to acknowledge that
this is not true on land owned by timber companies, where cutting
In a popular New Yorker article, Easterbrook again fails the "eco-reality
test," claiming that virtually all of the environmental indicators
in this country have been positive since l970. While we are happy
that many of them have been - often because of what our movement
has insisted upon - some have not been positive at all.
Over the past 25 years, our ancient forests have shrunk; wetlands
have continued to be lost; and populations of many ducks and neo-tropical
migrating birds have sagged. Most salmon stocks on the Pacific
Coast have become endangered, and the New England fishery has
While substantial progress has been made in reducing air pollution,
some 60 million Americans still live in areas that don't meet
federal air quality standards. Production of herbicides and fertilizers
is up, along with all of the environmental problems that accompany
their use. Progress has been made in cleaning up our waterways,
but 40 percent of them still aren't fishable and swimmable.
In fact, pollution trends are up in some places; shellfish beds
have been closed in New England and along the Gulf Coast due to
contamination. Phosphorus levels in some of the Great Lakes have
been rising. In a recent five-year period, there were more than
100 disease outbreaks ascribed to contaminated drinking water
in this country.
Periodically Easterbrook admits he may have overstated his case.
He says he is not arguing that past development has been wise
or that much remains pristine; he is merely arguing against "instant
doomsday" thinking. Yet then he claims that "most of
the natural world has not been affected by human tampering."
This assertion is simply wrong; most habitat has been altered
by our species, and as a consequence many other species are extinct.
However, even Easterbrook's determination to 'look on the sunny
side' has finally been checked by the reality of what the 104th
Congress is doing to U.S. environmental safeguards. Recently he
appeared with Sierra Club leaders on a C-SPAN broadcast, arguing
that we should not throw away all the environmental programs that
have brought us progress.
Perhaps he is truly becoming an eco-realist at last - maybe even
an alarmist. What kind of a note will he sound in his next book?
A Moment on the Earth, Gregg Easterbrook, Viking, 1995, 745 pp.
- Seeing Is Believing
- Get Thee to a Mall!
- Death of a River
- North Platte Victory
- Sail Chesapeake Bay
As The Planet went to press, the Utah congressional delegation
had just unveiled a "wilderness" bill for the state
that would open millions of acres of Utah wildlands to development.
Though Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt has lived in Utah all his life,
he admits that he has little familiarity with its wild areas.
To remedy that, the governor recently took to the air to get a
first-hand glimpse of the boundaries of several Utah wilderness
"The purpose of the trip was to let him see for himself exactly
what's at stake," said Sierra Club activist Jim Catlin, who
accompanied the governor as a representative of the Utah Wilderness
Coalition. Also along for the ride in the two military-owned Blackhawk
helicopters were Bureau of Land Management representatives and
staff of Utah's congressional representatives.
At stake are the wind-and-water sculpted rocks, canyons, mesas
and mountains of southern Utah. Members of the Utah Wilderness
Coalition spent years exploring and photographing these lands
to come up with their own proposal to grant 5.7 million acres
protection as federal wilderness.
The group flew over the boundaries of the Coalition's proposal,
the BLM's 1.9 million-acre proposal and Utah counties' less than
1 million-acre proposal.
Soaring low over vast tracts of wildlands, they used headphones
and microphones to discuss Utah counties' use of an antiquated
"right of way" statute, RS 2477, to conjure roads where
none exist in order to justify development. They also discussed
the counties' claims -- which are strongly disputed by the Utah
Wilderness Coalition -- that development has rendered many areas
unacceptable for wilderness designation. As if to prove the Coalition's
charge that those claims are bogus, said Catlin, the following
scenes took place aboard the helicopters:
"Flying over Price River in the Desolation Canyon wilderness
study area, the county commissioner pointed at what he said was
an example of an RS 2477 right of way. The governor, looking
out the window, could see no sign of a road, just the river winding
its way through the canyon," recalled Catlin. "Finally
he said, 'I can't see anything.' After several minutes of looking,
the county commissioner admitted he couldn't see a right-of-way
In another moment of truth, the helicopters flew over a wilderness
area called Behind the Rocks that straddles Grand and San Juan
counties. Grand County, where the town of Moab is located, supports
designating Behind the Rocks as wilderness, but San Juan County
"When we came to the border between the counties, the governor
asked the San Juan County Commissioner why he opposed wilderness
there," Catlin said.
"The commissioner said the area was heavily impacted by roads,
active oil and gas operation and a housing subdivision. The governor
said he couldn't see any of this and asked where the development
areas were. We flew and flew and flew. Finally the commissioner
pointed to an area outside the boundaries of the wilderness proposal
and said, 'There!'
"We made some headway on key issues," Catlin noted,
"but the Utah delegation's rush to pass its own 'wilderness
bill' may cut off discussion before any real progress is made.
As a result, some of the most spectacular lands in the country
are likely to be designated for industrial use."
A report from Boone, N.C., activist Harvard Ayers:
Here in Boone, we've been collecting signatures on the Environmental
Bill of Rights petition in a number of ways. At Appalachian State
University we passed them around classes and had contact tables
on campus; we gathered signatures at Sierra Club meetings and
at an Earth Day rock concert; and we had a contact table at the
We got by far the best results at the Boone Mall. We averaged
about 20 signatures per hour at the ASU table; we got 100 per
hour at the mall. And the diversity of people who signed it was
incredible: all ages, socioeconomic classes and races.
We learned quickly that you have to engage the people passing
by. They will not come to your table on their own. And don't rule
out anyone based on their appearance. I'd say we succeeded with
half or better of the folks that walked by the booth. We had four
to five petitions being signed simultaneously -- success breeds
The key is to engage people by asking, "Would you like to
sign a petition to keep Congress from weakening environmental
laws?" Simple and to the point. If they are unsure and hesitate,
you probably have them. Next, tell them that the Sierra Club is
working for a million signatures nationally and that we have to
protect the Clean Air and Clean Water acts. This really works!
The first day at the mall we got 600 signatures. The second day
we got another 400-500 names. Adding the weekend's tally to the
previous four weeks' efforts, we collected a total of 2,000 signatures.
We learned that the broad spectrum of classes are concerned about
the War on the Environment. We also learned that many people were
surprised to hear that anything is wrong -- they were not aware
of the threats to our environmental safeguards in Congress. And
finally, as little as we may like what they do to the countryside,
malls are great sources of potential signatures.
Sierra Club Foundation Trustee Peter Mennen wrote the following
account after he witnessed dioxin's devastating legacy along the
Pigeon River in Tennessee's Smokey Mountains:
Driving east on our way to the Sierra Club meeting with Bruce
Babbitt, Carol Browner and our legislators this spring, we were
on I-40 climbing up through the Great Smokeys. We were almost
out of Tennessee when we looked down and saw a beautiful river
in a gorge to our right.
We found a turnoff and worked our way down into the canyon. We
came upon a little town slowly fading back to the soil, and just
beyond it was a riverbank where we noticed a handsome bronze plaque.
Assuming it to be a historical marker or a tribute to the beauty
of the place, we walked over to read the inscription with real
anticipation. As we spoke the words aloud, we were literally knocked
back in shock and horror.
"In memory of those who have lost their lives...in memory
of a river which was once living but is now dead, we, students
against pollution...hereby dedicate this memorial October 27,
1990," read the inscription. Hidden away in this almost inaccessible
place was one of the ugly secrets so many people in corporate
America hope to keep buried. I am sure we are among the very few
who have shown the curiosity and determination to find their way
to this tragic spot. Yet it should be thrust before the eyes of
all those who fail to understand how important it is that powerful
laws be on the books and enforced to protect us from this kind
As we walked along the bank, we came upon a series of signs nailed
to trees warning of dioxin contamination.
No wonder the town is dying. From what we could tell, it used
to be a popular put-in place for rafting companies that took paddlers
on what was once a fabulous trip down the gorge. But it didn't
look like anyone was rafting around there much any more.
When members of the North Platte Group embarked on a canoe trip
on the river that is their namesake, they launched a two-year
legal battle that recently resulted in a significant victory for
the Sierra Club.
Canoeing on the North Platte River past a defunct Texaco refinery
in Evansville, Wyo., Club members noticed petroleum bubbling to
the surface. Tainted groundwater from the heavily contaminated
refinery was flowing unchecked into the river.
The Sierra Club filed a citizen suit under the Clean Water Act,
claiming that Texaco was violating the statute by discharging
pollutants into the river without a permit. The lawsuit ended
successfully earlier this year when Texaco signed a consent decree
requiring the company to stop the discharges and pay for the Club's
attorneys' fees and litigation expenses.
"If other polluters take heed, the North Platte will again
be safe for drinking, fishing and swimming," says Tom Davis,
chair of the North Platte Group. "This victory would not
have been possible without the citizen suit provision of the Clean
Water Act. We need to protect the law in its current form from
the powerful interests working in Washington to destroy it."
There's still space on a national activist outing to explore Chesapeake
Bay. Starting in historic Annapolis, the trip, from Sept. 10-15,
features a full day's sail on one of the few remaining "skipjack"
oyster boats; three fascinating days on Port Isobel Island, Va.;
and varied land explorations on Maryland's eastern shore.
The ecological balance of the nation's once-rich "seafood
basket" is threatened by the pollution, sedimentation and
habitat loss that have accompanied the area's tremendous population
Trip number: 95-104; price: $575. For more information call the
Sierra Club Outing Department at (415) 923-5604.
Is there an accomplishment, a grassroots victory or a tidbit of
local Club news you want to put up in lights? Shout it from the
rooftops, put it in your chapter newsletter -- and send it to
The Planet! The ClubBeat section is dedicated to your stories,
triumphs, lessons learned, issue updates and grassroots tips.
Send items to The Planet, 730 Polk St., San Francisco, CA 94109,
or via e-mail at
|July 8|| Outing Administration Committee. San Francisco,
Calif. Contact: Susan Heitman (310) 836-9329
|July 22-24|| Organizational Effectiveness Committee. Indianapolis,
Ind. Contact: Ed Paynter (317) 259-4417
|July 28-30|| Finance Committee. San Francisco, Calif. Contact:
Jim Dodson (805) 942-3662
|Aug. 2-6|| National Inner City Outings (ICO) Annual Conference.
Peninsula, Ohio. Contact: Debra Asher (415) 923-5628
|Sept. 14-17|| Meetings of Board of Directors, Council of
Club Leaders, Governance Committees. Sierra Club Annual Meeting,
banquet. San Francisco, Calif. Contact: Gene Coan (415) 923-5681
|Oct. 13-15|| Mini-circus. New Orleans, La. Regional workshops/training
and conservation meetings. For more information, call Susan Patton
|Oct. 20-22|| Southwest Regional Conservation meeting and
mini-circus. Salt Lake City, Utah. Regional workshops/ training
and conservation meetings. Contact: (SWRCC meeting) Sierra Club
Southwest Office, (602) 254-9330; (Mini-circus) Susan Patton (606)
- Northern Wilds Threatened
- Coastline Under Attack
In Minnesota's remote northeast, a premier wilderness area and
a national park may be among the first national treasures stripped
of their protected status by the 104th Congress. Jill Walker of
the Club's North Star Chapter said both Voyageurs National Park
and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) Wilderness face their
greatest threat in decades in legislation that "betrays the
public trust and could be a test case for congressional dismantling
of the national park system."
The first bill in this regressive equation is Rep. Joel Hefley's
(R-Colo.) H.R. 260. It calls for shifting National Park Service
lands to "direct management by states, local governments
or the private sector." Proponents
like Minnesota state Sens. Bob Lessard and Doug Johnson maintain
that despite any biological significance, ecological importance
and scenic beauty, Voyageurs is not worthy of national park status
because its remote location limits visitorship.
But Walker said the park contributes significantly to the regional
economy. "For a relatively small annual investment of $2.3
million from the federal government," she noted, "Voyageurs
injects over $20 million into the local economy each year."
Furthermore, Rep. James Oberstar's (D-Minn.) H.R. 1310 would open
the entire park to motorized use and forbid the Park Service from
pursuing any wilderness recommendations or from enforcing the
Endangered Species Act. With nearly a third of its area open to
snowmobiling, Voyageurs is already one of the nation's most intensively
"Such increases are insupportable," said Ginny Yingling,
Public Lands Committee chair for the North Star Chapter. "Minnesota
has over 15,000 miles of snowmobile trails, over 100 of them in
Voyageurs. Adding trails may attract visitors initially, but overuse
and economic exploitation will more likely result in driving people
A national park since 1975, Voyageurs incorporates a continental
transition zone between old-growth boreal and northern hardwood
forests, making it a key research area in monitoring climate change.
Voyageurs also has the highest density of timber wolves of any
national park and is home to bald eagles, moose and other wildlife.
Immediately east of Voyageurs, the BWCA Wilderness includes 1.1
million acres of national forest, much of it old-growth, and is
the only large lakeland wilderness in the country. Oberstar has
indicated that he plans to introduce a separate bill increasing
motorized use of this unique wilderness area.
"If H.R. 260 were to become law," said Walker, "Voyageurs
and other remote national parks, such as those in Alaska and Isle
Royale in Michigan, would be subject to attack and possible elimination.
Furthermore, H.R. 1310 would do away with important protections
in Voyageurs by forbidding any wilderness designations and increasing
motorized access to highly disruptive and damaging levels."
To take action:
Call or write your representative, President Clinton,
and Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt immediately and urge them
to oppose efforts to weaken or downgrade protections for the BWCA
Wilderness and Voyageurs National Park. Also write a letter to
the editor of your local newspaper with the same message.
For more information: Contact Jill Walker at (612) 722-2391.
A 14-year moratorium on offshore drilling may soon become history
if the latest round of congressional maneuvering on the House
Appropriations Committee annual natural resources spending bill
escapes public attention, say Sierra Club activists. "The
ban will not be renewed this year unless we act now," emphasized
Mark Massara, director of the Club's Pacific Coast Ecoregion coastal
The long-standing bipartisan moratorium forbids the use of funds
by the Minerals Management Service to administer lease sales for
oil and gas drilling on North America's Outer Continental Shelf
(OCS). In some cases -- in Bristol Bay, Alaska and off North Carolina
-- the lease sales have already occurred, which means that drilling
can begin as soon as the moratorium is lifted. In other cases,
the moratorium has prevented the agency from preparing for the
lease sale process.
Coastal and marine activists say the government's "rig around
America" lease plan would constitute a noose of oil platforms
encircling the continent, affecting the entire Pacific and Atlantic
coasts, Alaskan waters and the eastern Gulf of Mexico.
"Up to 1 million pounds of poisonous mud laced with asbestos,
formaldehyde, mercury, arsenic and lead are required to drill
just one well, and each offshore platform could have 24 wells,"
said Sierra Club Coastal Conservation Committee member Flo Ann
Norvelle. "These oil leases are to be sold at bargain basement
prices to profit the few at the expense of the many -- it's the
biggest sell-off scandal since Teapot Dome."
At press time, oil industry allies crafting the bill in the House
had flatly refused to include language to extend the ban. In the
unlikely event of a Senate attempt to reinstate the moratorium,
it could be traded away during the joint conference when other
contentious issues will be up for negotiation. Should this be
the case, all congressional protections contained in the moratorium
will expire in October.
Activists concur that the window of opportunity to preserve our
ocean sanctuary is now. "Offshore oil development presents
extreme dangers to oceans and coastal resources and unacceptable
risks to multibillion-dollar coastal tourism economies,"
said Mendocino Group volunteer Judith Vidaver. "And taxpayers
no longer want to subsidize such destruction for the benefit of
oil companies. If we don't get a moratorium, we'll soon be cleaning
oil off birds and beaches."
Massara said the National OCS Coalition has no Washington, D.C.,
lobbying staff for the first time since the moratorium was established,
putting the entire burden for maintaining the ban on the public,
local officials and grassroots coastal advocates such as surfers
To take action:
Alert the media and urge your congressional representatives
to retain the OCS protections contained in the 1995 Appropriations
For more information: Contact the Sierra Club's Coastal Conservation
Committee office at (707) 964-1530 or call the following Sierra
California: Mark Massara (415) 665-7008
Pacific Northwest: Vivian Newman (410) 442-5639
Atlantic Coast: Bob Slaughter (910) 395-2183
Eastern Gulf of Mexico: Shirley Taylor (904) 385-7862
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