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The Planet
January/February 1999 Volume 6, Number 1

EPEC highlights

In Arizona we took members of the public and media out to sprawl-threatened habitat in the Phoenix area. We also developed an Arizona sprawl report that documents the problems associated with urban sprawl and makes policy recommendations.

In Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia, we're leading the charge against sprawl, promoting that public transit and "smart growth" saves taxes, prevents pollution and protects open space. We got Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening and the state to purchase Chapman's Forest and blocked the construction of the Inter-County Connector, an outer beltway around Washington, D.C., in Maryland. The Maryland legislature adopted "smart growth" legislation to help check sprawling development. College freshman Marc Redmond was so excited about helping the Sierra Club that he started a Sierra Student Coalition group.

We're rallying homeowners, conservationists and others in Georgia to rein in uncontrolled growth and highway construction by pushing for environment-friendly transit alternatives. We successfully changed priorities for new transportation projects in the Atlanta region from road construction to alternatives such as commuter rail transit and pedestrian facilities.

In Florida we're organizing residents of the Tampa Bay region and beyond to save Clam Bayou - a haven for bald eagles and otters - from being turned into condos. We secured a $60 million bond referendum for next year's ballot to buy environmentally sensitive land near the Mykka River. This progress can be attributed to the many terrific activists like Lee Chanblis, who in two short hours got 130 postcards signed by concerned citizens.

In Hawaii our paid Sunday newspaper ads and volunteer phone-banking brought over 400 allies to a huge hearing in June to comment on plans for Ma`alaea Harbor. A survey that activists conducted confirmed that people travel to Maui to experience the natural wonders of the island, not to visit overdeveloped resorts.

Idaho volunteers and staff are mobilizing Northwesterners to help the region's endangered steelhead survive and to keep the U.S. Air Force from expanding a bombing range that would devastate some of the West's most rugged canyonlands. Through our organizing and visibility efforts -like placing over 900 yard signs around Boise and other Southern Idaho towns - we pushed the environment to the top among issues considered by Idaho voters.

We're raising public awareness in Illinois about cancer-causing chemicals in drinking water and threats to the state's rivers, lakes and streams. Because of our work, in the recent gubernatorial election both candidates promised a more aggressive approach to water-pollution control. On the grassroots level, the Valley of the Fox Group implemented their Map, Monitor and Guard water-quality proposal.

We're holding state agencies accountable and forcing them to move more quickly to halt mercury pollution in Louisiana. We helped draft and distribute a mercury brochure, stopped a planned road bypass that would have destroyed hundreds of acres of wetlands and recently launched a new citizens' water-monitoring program. We launched the "Bayoukeepers" program in October and trained volunteers how to test water for pH, nitrate, phosphate and coliform bacteria.

In Maine we're drumming up public support for a 3.2-million-acre Maine Woods National Park. We unveiled our proposal at the annual chapter lobster bake, and, along with our coalition allies, engaged in Maine Needs Public Lands, a campaign to expand and protect as wilderness all available open space that meets the criteria. Volunteers Louis Sigel, Pam Lovley and Elizabeth Kaplan, along with many others, devoted countless hours to this year's endeavors.

We're working in Montana with schools, churches and zoos to spread the word about endangered wildlife and habitat, with a special focus on protecting Yellowstone's wolves. Successes include protecting roadless areas through the roadless moratorium and building a new Sierra Club group, the Yellowstone Basin Group, in Billings.

In New Hampshire, we unveiled our White Mountain National Park proposal. But before we can make it a park, we have to save it from logging. Sierra Club activists attended a Forest Service hearing on the roadless area initiative wearing T-shirts that say, "Our White Mountains - Love 'em, Don't Log 'em."

State and federal officials in North Dakota are feeling our pressure to protect the city of Grand Forks - as well as wildlife habitat - from future flood disasters by restoring the city's wetlands and expanding riverside greenbelts. Because of our Wetlands Awareness campaign, our suggestions for water management have been included in the International Joint Commission's 12 Strategies for Red River Valley Flood Management.

With our allies in Oklahoma, we were successful in convincing Gov. Frank Keating (R) to issue a temporary moratorium on the construction of new factory farms in the state, and the Oklahoma state legislature passed "model" state legislation regulating these facilities.

In Rhode Island we alerted the public -and mobilized opposition - to the state's backroom plans to dredge a deepwater channel and build a megaport on Narragansett Bay. In December it was revealed that Quonset is no longer in the running for the East Coast megaport - a clear victory for our activists. This is due in part to Environmental Law Professor Caroline Carp who is so involved with this issue that she even dedicated her Graduate Student Seminar to studying the complex Narragansett Bay issue.

We're forming alliances with sportsmen's groups and other concerned citizens in South Dakota to clean up the state's rivers, streams and wetlands, and to improve the safety of its drinking-water supply. This year, we were able to upgrade the Big Sioux River watershed's classification to become a Priority 1 site. South Dakota activists also showed their commitment to the environment by sending 11 volunteers to the Sierra Club Training Academy in Fargo, N.D.

We're sounding the alarm in Texas that twice as many people die from air pollution in Houston as are killed in area auto accidents, and demanding a crackdown on industrial polluters. Because of our clean-air campaign, Houston Mayor Lee Brown convened the Clean Air Summit, bringing in EPA Administrator Carol Browner and other experts to address air-pollution problems.

In Utah we're linking urban sprawl, air pollution and wetlands destruction by organizing and energizing local opposition to the proposed Legacy Highway. We've been successful at halting construction of the highway, a project strongly supported by Gov. Michael Leavitt (R).

In West Virginia we're fighting to protect Blackwater Canyon and the Monongahela National Forest from logging. This year, we stopped the Forest Service from destructive acts in the proposed Dolly Sods North Wilderness area. Local activist Jim Zulkoski received the "Rookie of the Year" award from the local chapter for his work on behalf of West Virginia's wildlands.

Thanks to Cecily Vix, Jenny Coyle, and Sarah Clusen for their contributions.

Go on to the next article, "Curbing Global Warming"
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