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The Planet
Who We Are

Laura Hepler - Brandt Mannchen - Kelly Moran

Laura Hepler
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 mid-1990s.

"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 communities."

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."

Brandt Mannchen
Houston, Texas
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 really something."

Kelly Moran
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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