Who We Are
Jill Workman—Portland, Oregon
Oregon Chapter Chair
" A lot of people toil in obscurity," says Oregon Chapter Chair Jill Workman.
But she’s doing her best to change that. The Oregon Chapter starts every
meeting by giving everyone a chance to—as Workman says—"toot
their own horn."
" I say, ‘we’ve accomplished a lot since the last meeting; what are
the successes you want to share?’ And if someone doesn’t
share, but I know they’ve made some progress, I bring it up."
One of the chapter’s big victories was the protection of Steens Mountain
in southeastern Oregon’s high desert in 2000. "We had a big party,
and I was one of the speakers," says Workman. "I emphasized about
how it wasn’t me or any one person who accomplished this. It was
us collectively. Everyone played a part."
A self-described "desert rat," Workman, who works for Wells Fargo
in Portland, devoted many years to protecting Steens Mountain, which is a long
way from where most Oregonians live. She got involved in the Sierra Club through
her mother, who is a member. "Someone from the chapter called my mother
to ask her to get involved in protecting the high desert, and she said, ‘oh,
you should talk to my daughter.’"
Before long, Workman was leading trips to the Steens area. "People would
show up for a hike and end up becoming volunteers," she said.
Of course, that doesn’t happen by accident. "Once someone is there
sitting around the campfire, once they’ve seen a beautiful area
and seen cattle overgrazing on it, then you can ask them to write the
letter. Pretty soon, they feel ownership."
— John Byrne Barry
Hurlon Ray—Lonsdale, Arkansas
Clean Water Activist
Hurlon Ray, one of the principal architects of the Clean Water Act, has
not let retirement slow him down. At 82, he is deeply involved in what
he calls "the
most important fight of my life"—cleaning up the Middle Fork
of the Saline River, the central Arkansas waterway beside which he and
generations of his family grew up.
A longtime EPA water specialist, Ray returned in 1980 to what he calls
remembered," only to find it ravaged by the effects of upstream development.
But he says recent attention by the Sierra Club and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife
Service has "shined a hopeful light into the murky waters of the
Ray cites the Club as a motivator and an inspiration throughout his career
and his life. "It would be hard to overstate the impact the Sierra Club
had in galvanizing public opinion and getting the Clean Water Act passed," says
Ray, who calls the Act, "the greatest piece of legislation ever
to come about."
Ray was the Department of Interior spokesperson in Portland, Ore., on
the first Earth Day in 1970, and later with the EPA he fought in some
environmental battles during the early years of water pollution awareness
in the United States. "One of my proudest life testaments is to have helped
create the first federal water quality standards," he says. Ray
was honored with the Arkansas Sierran award in 2002.
In June 2002, the people of Saline County honored Ray and his wife Tyjuana,
who died in 2000, by dedicating a granite marker inscribed with the couple’s
names. The monument sits at a scenic pullout named after them on Arkansas
Route 5, overlooking one of the most picturesque vistas in the state.
— Tom Valtin
Karen Rock—Omaha, Nebraska
Missouri Valley Group Membership Chair
Karen Rock moved to Omaha from her native Iowa 21 years ago, and for
all of those years she worked for a large insurance company—until
this August, when she quit her job to go back to school in the environmental
" It was tough to lose the job security," she says, "but through the
Missouri Valley Group I’ve been exposed to some interesting ventures.
There’s an area of virgin prairie owned by the Audubon Society in north
Omaha where I’ve been working lately, and I’m a Habitat Ambassador
for the National Wildlife Federation—I have a table at a local
Home Depot and I talk with people about making their backyards more wildlife-friendly,
using native plants, conserving water."
The move to shake up her professional life followed a national Sierra
Club outing she went on in Maui last January to do whale observation. "That
really piqued my interest in conservation," she says. "After that
trip, I found it hard to concentrate at my office job—I wanted
to do something more for conservation causes. I recently found out about
position doing prairie restoration work through a local university that
involves working outdoors and doing work I feel committed about."
Rock hopes to be a naturalist in a state or private park where she can
promote native plantings and sustainable landscaping. "As for going back to school
and giving up a secure income, I remind myself of Thoreau’s words from
Walden: ‘If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be
lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.’"
— Tom Valtin
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