From the heights of the Ireteba Peaks to the depths of Arrow Canyon, from the Joshua trees of Wee Thump to the ponderosa pines of the LaMadre Mountains, some 450,000 acres of southern Nevada wilderness are now permanently protected under legislation that was signed into law in November."Theres a real diversity of desert landscapes in this bill," says Carrie Sandstedt, A Sierra Club conservation organizer and self-described "huge fan" of Nevadas wild places. An avid hiker and camper, Sandstedt moved from Reno to Las Vegas to help the Club and its partners in the Nevada Wilderness Coalition fight for strong wildlands protection in the Clark County Conservation of Public Land and Natural Resources Act of 2002. Introduced by Nevada senators Harry Reid (D) and John Ensign (R) and representative Jim Gibbons (R), the bill designates 17 new wilderness areas and creates the 48,000-acre Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area, a petroglyph-filled expanse that a Bureau of Land Management spokesperson called "the Sistine Chapel of Native American art."
The campaign gained momentum after December 2000, when Congress set aside 757,000 acres of wilderness in the Black Rock Desert and High Rock Canyon in the northwest corner of the state (see "The Sierra Club Bulletin," May/June 2001, page 70). Emboldened by this victorywhich doubled the amount of wilderness in Nevadaactivists began mapping potential protected areas in the south. They wrote letters, published brochures, and gave slide-show presentations throughout the state, introducing their fellow residents to the disappearing wild beauty in their own backyards. And they met with other stakeholders to ensure that conservation was strongly represented in the public-lands bill, which also addressed recreation and development concerns in the nations fastest-growing county. "This bill was going to happen with or without wilderness," says Sandstedt. "But the conservation community organized, and our leaders listened."
Nevada may still be best known for its slot machines, but with two big wilderness victories in under two years, gambling might have to start taking a backseat to the great outdoors.
Last year, Hawaii passed a major recycling bill, earmarked hotel taxes for state-park funding, and saved agricultural land from development. Readers of the Honolulu Weekly knew just whom to thank: "With a high profile like never before, the Sierra Club Hawaii Chapter garnered the votes as best environmental group," the newspapers editors wrote in their wrap-up of the years "Best of Honolulu" poll. "The chapters volunteer board and executive director, Jeff Mikulina . . . have done a bang-up job launching lawsuits, lobbying legislators, riding herd on the mind-numbing details of environmentally important billsand then talking crisply and intelligently to the press about it all."
Thousands of miles away, Club activists on the Atlantic coast were also taking a bow. "It would be difficult to name a single environmental issue in North Carolina that Molly Diggins and the staff of the state chapter of the Sierra Club have not been involved in," opined the Charlotte Observer in October. Specifically praising the Clubs role in passing legislation to clean up coal-fired power plants, the paper named state director Diggins and her colleagues a "Guardian of the Environment," one of nine individuals or groups "who are working, in ways large and small, to preserve our precious natural heritage."
Best known for his high-profile defection from the Republican Party in 2001, Senator Jim Jeffords (I-Vt.) is also a long-time environmental advocate. In September, the Sierra Club gave Jeffords its highest honor, the John Muir Award, for his efforts to clean up power plants and encourage renewable-energy production.
At the Clubs annual banquet in San Francisco, Maryland governor Parris Glendening received the Edgar Wayburn Award for his leadership on smart growth. Maryland now preserves more land than it develops each year, and other states are beginning to follow suit. Seattle Post-Intelligencer writer Joel Connelly netted the David R. Brower Environmental Journalism Award for his column, In the Northwest. Other winners of the 2002 Club awards include:
Jack Jeffrey (Ansel Adams Award for conservation photography); Jack Tuholske (William O. Douglas Award for environmental law); Dr. Marvin W. Baker Jr. (William E. Colby Award for leadership); Elizabeth May (EarthCare Award for international work); Amy McCormick (the $2,000 Joseph Barbosa Earth Fund Award for young activists); Lucienne de Naie (Environmental Alliance Award, which includes a $1,000 prize from the Barbosa Fund); Andy Johnson and Jim Maas (Oliver Kehrlein Award for service to the Outings program); Richard Colby (Susan E. Miller Award for service to Club chapters); Allison Chin (One Club Award for combining conservation and outings); Sanford Tepfer (Raymond J. Sherwin International Award); Don Richardson (Special Achievement Award for a single initiative); Rita Beving, Robin Mann, and Mark Rorick (Special Service Award for longtime commitment to conservation); Richard Fiddler (Walter A. Starr Award for continuing support by a former director); and the Napa Group (Ida and Denny Wilcher Award for fundraising and membership development).
More information To nominate someone for the 2003 awards, contact Ellen Mayou at (817) 283-5489 or go to www.sierraclub.org/awards for complete details.
"Despite having made a host of enduring films in his five-decade career, from Carrie to Dressed to Kill to The Untouchables, [Brian] De Palma has gotten the kind of critical reception that a wildcat oil driller gets at a Sierra Club convention." Los Angeles Times,
September 17, 2002
"Other environmental activism groups may make more noise, but the Sierra Clubs message definitely speaks loudly thanks to its solutions-driven focus, which places people before protests." PRWeek, October 7, 2002
To join the Sierra Club activist network, write to the Office of Volunteer and Activist Services, 85 Second St., San Francisco, CA 94105-3441; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Members receive a free subscription to the Planet bimonthly newsletter and Sierra Club Currents, a twice-weekly e-mail update.
Rio Not So Grande
Choked by weeds, depleted by drought, and overdrawn by farms and cities, the once-mighty Rio Grande turns into a trickle before reaching the Gulf of Mexico. But Sierra Club activists in south Texas arent about to give up on the nations second-longest river. Since 1986, theyve been fighting an $80 million proposal to build a gated dam a few miles from the mouth of the river. Though its being promoted as a way to meet local water needs, opponents of the dam charge that the reservoir will mainly support industrial expansion at the Port of Brownsville. They applaud a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decision in November to require a 90-foot-wide wildlife corridor along the river, but were disappointed that the agency reversed an earlier determination that the dam project would damage sabal palm habitat in the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge.
The refuges fan-shaped palms harbor migrating warblers, green jays, and long-billed thrashers, and are part of a wildlife corridor for two endangered wild cats, the ocelot and jaguarundi. Every year, more than 200,000 people come to the Rio Grande valley to watch birds and wildlife, spending $100 million. "The refuge and the ecotourism industry that relies on it are too sensitive for a construction project of this magnitude," says Mary Lou Campbell of the Clubs Lower Rio Grande Valley Group.
Attuned to the fact that the area is suffering through a decade-long drought and expecting its population to double by 2020, environmentalists support local efforts to conserve, including reuse of treated wastewater for parks and golf courses. Reed McManus
Roughrider for Wilderness
Its not the first time a wealthy New Yorker has arrived in North Dakota and been swept away by the "immensity and mystery" of the Dakota grasslands. But investment banker Teddy Roosevelt IV is happy to keep his famous great-grandfathers legacy alive, promoting legislation to protect wilderness areas near where TR first learned about conservation. In September, TR IV toured the Little Missouri National Grasslands spectacularly chaotic pinnacles, spires, and buttes. His goal: to urge the states congressional delegation to support efforts of the Dacotah Chapter, the Badlands Conservation Alliance, and other groups to preserve more than 200,000 acres of the grassland as wilderness.
Roosevelt was dismayed that the U.S. Forest Services Dakota Prairie Grasslands management plan, released in August, sets aside no wilderness areas and keeps 95 percent of the region open to oil and gas leasing. (See "Beauty and the Badlands," March/April 2002.) "Oil and gas development is eating away at it relentlessly," Roosevelt says. "Thats what we need to stop." R.M.
Dont Have a Cow, Man
Perhaps when Idahos KOOL Oldies 96.5 FM accepted a Sierra Club radio spot, it expected an advertisement for backpack trips in the Sawtooth Mountains. Instead, it and two sister stations in Twin Falls owned by Clear Channel Communications found themselves running hard-hitting ads denouncing CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations). "Magic Valleys industrial dairies try to butter us up with sweet talk and promises," the ad begins, "but the reality is as different as milk and molasses. Truth is, these livestock factories create industrial-strength odors, an overwhelming stench that lowers property values and destroys the quality of life in rural neighborhoods. It doesnt smell like money; it just stinks." Such talk was apparently too frank for some folks. Though the ads were scheduled to run for two weeks, the station owner pulled them after one. They were "causing too many problems," station manager Terry Tario told Ken Midkiff, coordinator of the Sierra Clubs Clean Water/CAFO Campaign. "Management had to weigh the threat of losing business with the importance of honoring the Sierra Clubs right to freedom of speech," Midkiff says.
"Its disappointing when you cant get the word out to folks, even when you are willing to pay for it," says Duane Reynolds, chair of the Clubs Sawtooth Group. At least Idahos radio stations are equal-opportunity muzzlers: At another Twin Falls stationone that hadnt run the Club adsa disc jockey opposed to the Clubs CAFO stance was suspended for labeling Club members "fairies" on air and telling them to "go home." R.M.
A Chip on Their Shoulder
Louisiana gardeners who spread rich-looking orange-red cypress mulch in their yards may not realize theyre helping to liquidate their natural heritage. Now, the Sierra Clubs Delta Chapter is out to tell them there are other ways to retain moisture, prevent weeds, and protect their plants. "The cypress is a part of our culture," says Caryn Schoeffler, chair of the Honey Island Group. "Were trying to raise awareness about a disappearing ecosystem." Slow-growing trees that thrive in fresh-water swamps, bald cypresses are disappearing all over the Southeast. While older trees were generally cut for lumber, with their tops used for mulch, increasing demand by landscapers has led to the chipping of entire trees, as well as the harvesting of younger ones for timber. The market is driven by an outdated assumption that cypress mulch is exceptionally durable. That may have been true before the last sizeable and unprotected old-growth stands, whose heartwood contained a preservative-like chemical, were cut years ago. But it is not the case today.
Spurred by a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decision last year to allow a landowner with 7,000 acres of cypress swamp to cut down his trees, the Delta Chapter took its cause directly to consumers. "Weve talked to towns and parishes to ask them not to use cypress mulch, and weve convinced five so far," says Schoeffler. "Were going to gardening clubs to tell them there are alternatives. Next were going to Home Depot." "Pine can be just as good a mulch," adds chapter chair Maurice Coman, "and you can buy it colored with an environmentally safe red dye," so it has the prized look of cypress. "People think cypress is superior, but its really just aesthetics." Elisa Freeling
Spotlight Sierra Club activism in your area by writing to Reed McManus at Sierra, 85 Second St., 2nd Floor, San Francisco, CA 94105-3441; e-mail email@example.com; fax (415) 977-5794.