Laura Hepler - Brandt
Mannchen - Kelly Moran
New York, New York
Environmental Justice Co-Chair, New York City Group
"One of the best things about the Sierra Club is that it allows
you to get involved in such a variety of issues," says Laura
Hepler, who co-founded the New York City Group’s Environmental
Justice Committee when she moved to the city from Detroit in the
"My husband and I lived in a converted beer warehouse in Detroit.
We only moved because Trent got into law school in New York, but
now I love it here, walking around the city, taking in the different
cultures. We’re expecting our first child in August, which
makes New York seem even more like home."
Hepler, who administers a philanthropic giving program, formerly
worked for ACORN in Detroit. "We went door-to-door in low-
and moderate-income neighborhoods to build community groups that
fought for appropriate city services, so it was natural that I’d
gravitate to EJ work in New York."
One of the committee’s recent successes was helping get the
city to enact tougher lead paint removal laws. "We were very
active in getting that legislation passed, and we’re continuing
our work to open up the waterfront and secure open space in low-income
The EJ Committee also works on international rights issues. "We
were part of a broad effort to push the Mexican government to release
Rodolfo Montiel and Teodoro Cabrera, environmental activists who
were imprisoned on false charges," Hepler explains. "After
their release, Montiel came on a thank-you tour, and several Club
volunteers helped arrange for him to meet with the City Council,
where he was honored. The Club’s EJ work opens the door to
some extraordinary partnerships that make all of our work stronger."
Forestry, Parks, and Air Quality Chair, Houston Group
"If you really want to make a change," says Brandt Mannchen
of the Lone Star (Texas) Chapter, "come to Houston. Because
this is the belly of the beast: the home of oil and gas, a hotbed
of unfettered capitalism."
But look past the offices Exxon and Shell, the pipelines and pumping
stations that mark the Gulf Coast, and you’ll see that east
Texas has got its finer points, too. Protecting them is what got
Mannchen involved in the Club.
In 1976, he spoke at a public hearing where the future of Texas
water was being debated, along with the flooding of thousands of
acres of forest and other ecologically important lands by scores
of dams. After seeing Mannchen in action, a local Sierra Club leader
immediately decided to recruit the young conservationist, and shortly
thereafter Mannchen began his nearly 30 year association with the
Lone Star Chapter.
The mid-1970s also saw the Park Service establish the country’s
first preserve: Big Thicket, a series of lowland areas in east Texas.
Mannchen has long enjoyed Big Thicket’s hardwood forests and
riverbeds, and as the Forestry Chair of the Houston Group, maintaining
and enjoying the preserve is still among his top priorities. "I
particularly like the reptiles there," says Mannchen, "all
kinds of salamanders, toads, snakes, and alligators." April
and May are prime months to visit the preserve, when "the wildflowers
and huge southern magnolia blossoms and are in full bloom."
He recently retired from the City of Houston’s Bureau of Air
Quality Control, but has been corralled back into ongoing part-time
work at the agency. Houston’s air quality, he acknowledges,
has a long way to go: high levels of ozone, air toxics, and volatile
organic compounds from the chemical and petroleum industries. "But
when we make progress here," says Mannchen, "that’s
San Mateo, California
Vice-Chair, California Legislative Committee
Kelly Moran was a grad student in chemistry in the 1980s when a friend
said, "Let’s go to a Sierra Club meeting."
As it turned out, the Toxics Committee of the S.F. Bay Chapter was
hosting a presentation from a company that wanted to locate a hazardous
waste incinerator on the bay shoreline.
"As I listened," recalls Moran, "I was blown away by
the fact that they didn’t understand their own data. They told
us they’d be able to screen out certain toxic chemicals from
entering the incinerator, but I knew they couldn’t. I thought,
‘That’s all wrong; they don’t know what they’re
talking about.’ That’s when I realized I could do something
useful with the Club."
Moran says that meeting was the catalyst for her career as an environmental
consultant working on water quality in San Francisco Bay. She was
honored by the U.S. EPA this April as one of 36 Western Environmental
Heroes for her work on pollution prevention. "One of my passions
is trying to prevent pollution at the source, instead of dealing with
pollution only after it’s become a problem," she says.
For the last 14 years Moran has served on the Club’s California
Legislative Committee, which oversees lobbying activities in Sacramento:
"I’ve been vice-chair forever," she laughs. When she’s
not wearing her Sierra Club or consulting hats, she enjoys hiking,
kayaking, and gardening. "But most of all," she says, "I
like to eat. My husband and I will go on long walks or bike rides
and then, with equal enthusiasm, seek out places where we can enjoy
great food. To me, that’s the ideal vacation."
— profiles by Tom Valtin and brian vanneman
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