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The Planet

By Jenny Coyle

Do We Have to Spell It Out for You?

Stop SprawlThe Florida Department of Transportation got more than it bargained for at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the first leg of the Suncoast Parkway in early February. "It was 40 degrees and raining, but we still had more than 100 people show up to spell the word STOP," says Beth Conner, the Club's organizer in the area. That would be "Stop the Porkway" - a play on parkway - which is sure to be a "sprawl monster," Conner says. Transportation officials were presented with "Stop the Porkway" t-shirts shrink-wrapped in the shape of a pig.

You Scratch My Backstreet Boys...

So President Bush isn't a member of the Sierra Club, but Kevin Richardson of the popular Backstreet Boys band is - and proud of it.

Kevin RichardsonRichardson recently started an environmental foundation called Just Within Reach and has written songs with a green theme. When it came time to put together a background video to use in concert for one of these songs, his foundation contacted the Club. The Club supplied footage of factory pollution and scenic wild places, and in exchange the band let the Club table at Backstreet Boys concerts while they toured the country for the past three months.

Which is how 53-year-old Richard Whiteford of the Pennsylvania Chapter came to be in a Philadelphia concert hall filled with screaming girls ages 10 through 18. The band is a hit teen sensation best loved by girls - Whiteford couldn't convince his 9- and 11-year-old sons to go with him. But fellow activists Pat Beudet and Adam Diamond were game. They hung a Sierra Club banner behind the table and propped up a life-sized cutout of Richardson. The star mentioned the Club's table during the concert, so afterward scores of fans stopped to sign Protect-the-Arctic postcards, pick up brochures on sprawl and global warming and take membership forms.

"We told them Kevin was under our table," said Whiteford. "The kids kept trying to steal the life-sized cut-out, so we had to play tug-of-war with it a few times."

Whiteford, who for 15 years was a music agent for artists like Fleetwood Mac and Linda Ronstadt, got television coverage of the table and signed up at least one new volunteer activist.

You Wouldn't Hear This in Nebraska

Peggy Pierce of the Sierra Club's Toiyabe (Nevada) Chapter couldn't have said it better (regionally speaking) when she talked about Las Vegas sprawl on the CBS Sunday morning show in February: "Our county commissioners give in to the developers every time they ask. As I said to someone recently, 'You know, the hookers in this town say no more often than our county commissioners.' And that needs to stop."

Another Quote, This One Faux

When President Clinton left the White House, apparently he left some of his mail behind. At least that's the story in the satirical on-line magazine The Onion. Under the headline "Bush Still Getting Clinton's Mail," the new president waves a copy of Rolling Stone with Clinton's name on it as he complains that his predecessor neglected to fill out a change-of-address form at the post office.

The "article" ends with Bush saying, "If one more Sierra Club newsletter arrives for Clinton, it is going straight into the trash."

This Assignment - Not So Glamorous

There weren't any screaming teenaged girls around when Sierra Club activists in Montana, inspired by the example of explorers Lewis and Clark, forged ahead through fierce winter conditions to testify on behalf of wild places.

A hostile state legislative committee was taking public input on a bill to overturn the U.S. Forest Service's wild forest plan. Dedicated Montana Chapter activists traveled through blizzard conditions from Billings and Bozeman to the hearing in Helena.

"We traveled as far as Wheat, Mont.," writes Kathryn Hohmann, the Club's senior regional representative, in her account of the journey. "There we took sustenance and found another group of environmentalists who had doubled back a few miles farther. They warned us of 'white-out conditions' and 'no visibility, not even to turn around.' But these others, while well meaning, do not represent the Sierra Club. We do. We persevered."

Slowly, cautiously they picked their way through the storm and arrived in time to speak.

"Our state legislators attempted to close off debate once it became apparent that the crowd that had made it through the weather was greatly in favor of wild forest protection," says Hohmann. But the speakers kept coming.

The hardy activists did convince some swing Democrats to vote against the bill, says Hohmann, but it still passed in the House; it had not yet been signed when The Planet went to press.

Serious Monkey Business

The man with the yellow hat obviously has a soft spot for animals. And not just because he shows a lot of patience with a mischievous monkey.

The estate of Hans Agusto and Margaret Rey, creators of the Curious George series, gave The Sierra Club Foundation a generous donation two years ago, and followed up with another gift of $150,000 in 2000.

The money will help ensure that wild creatures, curious and otherwise, will have the land and resources vital to their survival.

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