In 65 chapters and hundreds of local groups spanning 21
ecoregions and two nations, Sierra Club members are hard at work protecting our natural
by Jennifer Hattam
Pacific Coast: One Highway's Toll
On monthly nature walks through the rolling hills of Orange County, California, Karl
Warkomski teaches visitors how to identify native plants. He also recruits them to battle
the proposed Foothill South Toll Road. "This area is a microcosm of all that's
endangered here--coastal sage scrub, native oaks, perennial bunchgrasses--and the toll
road is going to completely isolate it from the rest of the ecosystem," says
Warkomski, an Angeles Chapter volunteer.
The Sierra Club has formed the Friends of the Foothills coalition to oppose the
four-lane highway, which would threaten bobcats, gray foxes, and California red-legged
frogs, and pollute San Mateo Creek, where endangered steelhead trout were recently found.
"It's an out-of-sight, out-of-mind area," Warkomski says. "But once people
see it, they become passionate about saving it."
Across Canada: The Waste of Four Years
When Sierra Youth Coalition member Yuill Herbert enrolled at Mount Allison University,
a small liberal-arts school in Sackville, New Brunswick, he was dismayed by the styrofoam
products used at his freshman-orientation barbecue. Herbert linked up with like-minded
campus activists and spent the next two years convincing the school's board of regents to
An environmental audit conducted by the students found that the university uses 1.22
sheets of paper every second and sends 219 pounds of waste per student to landfill sites
each year. As Mt. Allison works toward reducing waste by 80 percent by the year 2020, as
well as switching to renewable energy sources, strengthening environmental curriculum, and
adopting socially responsible investing policies, Herbert will be helping the Sierra Youth
Coalition introduce similar policies at schools across Canada. For advice on greening your
school, contact Sustainable Campuses project coordinator Regina Flores at (888) 790-7393
Great Lakes: Luxury Homes? Humbug!
To Bob Duda, the impact of sprawl isn't just a theoretical problem. "I live by the
Rouge River, which is synonymous with pollution, thanks to damage by industry and
sprawl," says Duda, a volunteer with the Sierra Club's Southeast Michigan Group.
So Duda didn't think twice before joining the fight against a proposed luxury-home and
golf-course development at Humbug Marsh, a 400-acre upland woods and wetlands area that
provides habitat for eagles and osprey, a migration stop for songbirds, and a spawning
ground for walleye and other game fish. Members of the Sierra Club helped pack hearings
and inundate local officials with 2,000 public comments. The Michigan Department of
Environmental Quality barely budged from its support of the development, suggesting that a
six-foot-high fence between the homes and the marsh would provide adequate protection for
nature. But in September, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denied the developer's permit
application in response to the outcry.
Atlantic Coast: Nightmare on Frederick Street
When community activist Clotilda Yakimchuk visited Frederick Street in Sydney, Cape
Breton Island, she was appalled by what she saw. "There was a black, tarlike ooze
coming up out of the soil in the residents' basements," says Yakimchuk, a member of
the Club's Environmental Quality Strategy Team. The culprit? A now-defunct
coal-processing facility that produced coke for steel manufacturing and released arsenic,
tar, and benzene. The neighborhood is also dangerously close to the Sydney Tar Ponds, a
tidal estuary that holds 770,000 tons of toxic sludge-35 times the amount in New York's
Although the Sydney area has the highest rates of lung, breast, and stomach cancer in
the country, Frederick Street remains polluted because Canada has no laws mandating the
cleanup of toxic sites. But the Sierra Club of Canada is connecting residents with legal
and health services and lobbying for national cleanup and relocation guidelines. Thanks in
part to its efforts, Nova Scotia gave funds to ten families to move out of the
neighborhood in May, the first relocations in the history of this ecodisaster.
American Southeast: Happy as Clams
Five years ago, the city of St. Petersburg dumped 5.5 million gallons of raw sewage
into Clam Bayou, one of the last undisturbed mangrove stands in Pinellas County.
"When that happened, I knew it was time for me to get off my sofa," says
Suncoast Group Chair Pat Kiesylis. "Ours is the most densely populated county in
Florida, so large green spaces like Clam Bayou are to die for." Kiesylis and her
group spoke at city hearings and got local residents to send 5,000 postcards to city
officials, demanding that the land be purchased as parkland. In August, their hard work
paid off. The Southwest Florida Water Management District bought an 86-acre parcel on the
east shore of Clam Bayou, preserving the area for its bald eagles, manatees, river otters,
roseate spoonbills, and wood storks. Bolstered by their victory, activists are now working
to protect adjacent parcels along the serene shoreline.
Great Basin/High Desert: Guardians of the Wilderness
Mark Clemens' idea of a good weekend is searching for illegal roads and soil
disturbances in Utah's redrock wildlands. "Surveying these spectacular canyons and
buttes doesn't feel like a chore to me," says Clemens, an activist with the Utah
Valley Group and a member of the Club's Adopt-a-Wilderness Program. "It's such
expansive, solitary, colorful country that I love to go there every chance I can."
But Clemens' adopted unit in the San Rafael Swell area is threatened by off-road vehicles,
which tear up vegetation and delicate cryptobiotic soils.
Documenting and reporting such
activity to the Bureau of Land Management is a key task for "adopters," along
with conducting service projects and researching their area's ecology and history.
"Being an adopter gives you a sense of accomplishment and a strong connection with
the land," Clemens says. To adopt an area of proposed Utah wilderness, contact
organizer Marc Heileson at (801) 467-9294 or email@example.com.
To spotlight Sierra Club activism in your area, contact Jennifer Hattam at Sierra,
85 Second St., 2nd Floor, San Francisco, CA 94105-3441; e-mail jennifer.hattam@sierra club.org; or fax