Working for Wetlands -- Locally and Globally
by Shepherd Bliss
Sonoma Group Wetlands Chair
Wetland conservation requires a coalition of grassroots and legislative
activists, scientists and governmental officials working together to
educate people about the local, regional and global importance of these
habitats. In Northern California, activists from the Sierra Club and
other environmental groups are taking this approach a step further and
organizing to get San Francisco Bay declared a "wetland of
international importance" by Gov. Pete Wilson. Though 15 such sites
exist in the United States (most along the East Coast), there are none
Wetlands gain international status through the Ramsar Convention, the
Earth's oldest inter- governmental nature conservation treaty. It
protects over 500,000 square kilometers of marsh, swamp, estuary and
mangrove habitats, includes 90 signatory countries and has designated
more than 750 sites as wetlands of international importance. The 25th
anniversary of the signing of the convention will be celebrated at a
"Working Together for Wetlands" gathering in Washington, D.C., April
25-26. The event will launch May as "Wetlands Month" and is sponsored
by the U.S. State Department and various environmental organizations,
including the Sierra Club.
In February, Club activists pressed the case for San Francisco Bay's
Ramsar designation at the California Duck Days in Davis, Calif., in the
state's Central Valley. A wetland-focused festival in the heart of the
Pacific Flyway, the event occurred during the valley's peak migration
period for hundreds of thousands of birds. Environmental, agricultural
and sporting organizations united to celebrate wetlands and wildlife
with more than 70 workshops, field trips and performances.
Among the workshops were "How to Save California's Wetlands," with Club
Wetlands Co-Chair Totten Heffelfinger and Associate Representative
Jackie McCort. "Designating San Francisco Bay would have great symbolic
importance and set a precedent for other sites," said Heffelfinger.
To take action: Write to Gov. Pete Wilson, State Capitol, Sacramento,
CA 95814, and urge him to nominate the San Francisco Bay wetlands
system and the Southern California coastal estuary complex as wetlands
of international importance. Obtain petitions for San Francisco Bay
from Florence LaRiviere at (415) 493-5540, or for the Southern
California coastal estuary from Bruce Monroe at (310) 430-8495.
For more information: Contact Shepherd Bliss at Kokopelli Farm, P.O.
Box 1040, Sebastopol, CA 95473; (707) 829-8185.
Sierra Cubs® -- New Environmental Education Program for Kids
by Linda Cataldo Modica State of Franklin Group Chair
With 400 groups nationwide, it's time for the Sierra Club to expand its
environmental education activities and reach out to children and their
Our small group in upper east Tennessee embraced this big idea last
spring and organized and ran a junior naturalist camp for young
children. My then-five-year-old daughter, Loretta, coined the Sierra
CubsĒ program name (now a registered trademark of the national Sierra
Club) for what we hope will soon become a Board-approved nationwide
model for a grassroots "Sierra Club for Kids."
With the assistance of a park director who had worked with the Cherokee
Group in Chattanooga on a children's hiking program, we developed a
nature program for our local park. I asked experienced volunteers Jane
Ensign, Lori Klinger, Donna Cooper, Karen Miller and Joe Franklin to
help draw up a plan for a week-long, 9 a.m. to noon program of
interpretive hikes and nature-related crafts and games for three
separate age groups: 5-7, 8-10 and 11-13-year-olds.
We then developed a list of experienced educators who could conduct
interpretive hikes on wetland ecology -- this camp's particular focus,
given the park's natural features -- and distributed public service
announcements and brochures throughout the community.
With a cadre of natural scientists, park naturalists and ecology
teachers on board, and with arts and craft supplies purchased, first
aid training certified and nature games learned, we successfully hosted
29 kids for two weeks.
The kids had fun spotting wildlife, identifying insects, getting closer
looks through microscopes and playing games. Because we had invited
parents to participate, positive feedback was immediate.
Now's the time for your group to start planning your own Sierra Cubs
Tremendous goodwill can be generated by a group that provides an
educational opportunity for the children of current Club members and
the community at large. In our case, we gained at least 26 new members.
And by inserting the Sierra Cubs camp in our SuperFRIP II proposal, we
will also receive a 50 percent rebate on these membership dues.
Group-driven, the Sierra Cubs is grassroots born and will be grassroots
raised and nurtured. It can complement Inner City Outings as a service
that groups outside urban centers can offer. Most importantly, children
in your community will learn about their natural environment through a
hands-on course in ecology sponsored by the Sierra Club.
For more information: Contact the State of Franklin Group at (423)
Culture With Conscience
With the support of the Sierra Club and several other national
environmental organizations, Stonyfield Farm Yoghurt is launching its
"Flip Your Lid for the Earth" campaign this spring. The campaign
entreats consumers to mail pro-environment, message-laden lids to
Congress to urge support for environmental protection programs.
Stonyfield, a small New Hampshire-based company that gives 10 percent
of its profits to fund environmental initiatives, wants to help
consumers and business and environmental organizations send a clear
message that Congress' proposed cuts to Environmental Protection Agency
funding threaten public health and safety.
The pre-printed tops query: "Congress, have you flipped your lids?" and
include the statement: "government should be more efficient, but not at
the cost of a polluted planet." There's also toll-free number to call
for the name of your congressional representative. "We are thrilled to
have the Sierra Club's prompt and enthusiastic response," said Nancy
Hirshberg, Stonyfield's project coordinator. "It will provide crucial
momentum to our campaign."
Casting Into Uncharted Waters
by Kathie Dixon
Clean Water Outreach Coordinator and State Issues Chair, North Carolina
In North Carolina, 1995 was the "year of swimming dangerously." Spills
totaling 35 million gallons from hog and poultry waste lagoon
overflows, and fish kills approximating 10 million last summer, have
brought water quality to a crisis stage in the eastern portion of the
In response, our chapter is working together with hunting and fishing
groups to initiate a clean water campaign to increase public awareness
of the myriad threats -- physical and political -- that plague state
streams, rivers and estuaries.
In February, Club volunteers and North Carolina Bass Anglers Sportsman
Society members created an informational display for the annual Bass
Angler's Expo. This was the first time the Sierra Club (or any
environmental group) had set up a table at the weekend Expo, which
serves primarily as a trade show with casting seminars and aisles of
booths showcasing the latest in boat technology. And it proved a great
opportunity for local groups. Volunteers from the Piedmont-Plateau and
Foothills groups brought their enthusiasm and advocacy skills to bear
as they encouraged anglers to sign postcards to the governor calling
for strong action to expand clean-up of state waters.
Our materials were well-received -- and by young anglers and their
parents in particular. Volunteer and artist extraordinaire Mischi
Binkely transformed kids into large-mouth bass through her
face-painting skills. This was a big hit, as was Karen Wilson's simple
fishing game for small children, which involved picking up "fish" from
a green cloth pool with the aid of Velcro-tabbed rods.
Following up on the success of this public education campaign,
volunteers advocated for clean water in the halls of the state
legislature, where chapter lobbyist Bill Holman reports that state
officials are finally beginning to take water quality protections
seriously. One wonders then why North Carolina's congressional
representatives are working so diligently to remove them!
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