Sierra Club: The Planet-- 1996
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The Planet

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 in California.

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 families.

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 nature camp.

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) 753-9697; e-mail:

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 Chapter

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 state.

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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