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  Sierra Magazine
  November/December 2008
Table of Contents
Ice Manliness Cometh
A Six-Dog-Power Engine
I (Heart) Snowshoeing
Skiing Yellowstone
Welcome Back to the World
Rotten Fish Tales
Big Fun in the Green Zone
Hey Mr. Green
Comfort Zone
Mixed Media
Last Words
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Sierra Magazine

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In 65 chapters and hundreds of local groups spanning two nations, Sierra Club members are hard at work protecting our natural heritage.

Michigan Trees | Nebraska Zoning | Michigan CAFOs | California Coast | Los Angeles Wetlands | Bulletin

By Reed McManus

Seeing the Forest for the Trees
To one Michigan lumberyard owner, some of the most beautiful wood is the kind left standing. Head of the business his father and uncle started in 1946, Tim Flynn became active in Michigan's Mackinac Chapter when he noted the declining quality of lumber, a sign that the woods weren't being managed sustainably. "We need to put the forest back the way we found it," Flynn says. And that's just what the U.S. Forest Service isn't doing, according to a lawsuit recently filed by the chapter to stop aspen clearcuts in national forests in Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin until the agency conducts an analysis of its aspen policy. By allowing clearcutting, the Forest Service is impeding restoration of native white pines lost during the lumber-baron era a century ago. Pine seedlings thrive beneath aspens, but are wiped out along with them. "Timber isn't the renewable resource, the forest is," says Flynn, who grew up hiking among the stumps of white pines 40 inches across. "They've never let the land heal."

Block That Swine
Joanie Gronenthal knows that a family farmer has to be a jack-of-all-trades, but she never thought that included bodyguard service. When Platte County, Nebraska, supervisors threatened to prevent Sierra Club organizer Laura Krebsbach from testifying about the county's lack of zoning laws, Gronenthal and a dozen other farmers circled around Krebsbach and protectively herded her into the hearing room. There the group took on the lawmakers who have allowed two of the largest concentrated animal feeding operations in Nebraska to set up shop nearby. In their effort to enact zoning laws in one of only four Nebraska counties without them, the group has run headlong into an old-boy network: Their pro-zoning ads were rejected by the local radio station and newspaper. Undaunted, the activists found a receptive radio station 80 miles away, and their message wafted across the plains.

Counting Cows
When Mackinac Chapter activists take drives in the Michigan countryside, they carry a peculiar checklist. Sure, they may spot native plants or migrating birds, but their goal is to document "overwhelming stench," "animal-waste lagoons," and "dead livestock." That's because the state has been allowing factory farms to operate without oversight, and data on the facilities are woefully inadequate. So a fleet of Sierra Club members followed their noses. Culminating two years of sleuthing, the Club notified nearly a hundred feeding operations that they could be violating the Clean Water Act. The polluters squealed like stuck pigs, which finally prompted the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to order large hog, cow, and chicken farms to seek a permit if they dump pollution into waterways.

Coast Guard
Anyone who thinks the Southern California coast is all about bumper-to-bumper traffic and wall-to-wall beach umbrellas need only hop aboard Amtrak's Coast Starlight and head north from Santa Barbara. For some 75 miles you'll encounter a California time warp: Thanks to the rugged Santa Ynez Mountains, Vandenberg Air Force Base, large private ranches, a handful of public parks, and a minimum of roads, the Gaviota Coast is one of the last remnants of undeveloped coastline in that part of the state. Acknowledging the enormous development pressure looming over the coastline, in January the National Park Service outlined four scenarios for preserving the area. Options range from declaring it a national seashore to relying on land trusts to buy individual properties piecemeal. The Los Padres Chapter has teamed up with the Gaviota Coast Conservancy to ensure the best possible protection, and will launch a media campaign when the Park Service's draft feasibility report is released for public comment this summer. For more information, go to, or contact Ariana Katovich, the Sierra Club's Gaviota Coast Campaign coordinator, at or (805) 564-7892.

Beautification Is More Than Skin Deep
Can "environmental restoration" harm the environment? The city of Los Angeles wants to remove trash, improve public access, and plant wetland vegetation at the Grand Canal in Ballona Wetlands, the last remaining wetlands in Los Angeles County. But the "restoration" plan also includes dredging the canal and installing concrete retaining walls on its banks. Never before disturbed so drastically, the canal supports fiddler crabs and the California horned snail, and its dirt banks host egrets, herons, kingfishers, and the endangered brown pelican and least tern. Hoping to secure a cleanup plan that benefits wildlife and picnickers alike, the Angeles Chapter and local environmental groups sued the city in January, temporarily halting the project.

Spotlight Sierra Club Activism in your area by contacting Reed McManus at Sierra, 85 Second St., 2nd Floor, San Francisco, CA 94105-3441; e-mail; fax (415) 977-5794.

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