The wild northeast slope of Mt. Hood, Oregons tallest peak, is a favorite spot for hiking and backcountry skiing. The valley below provides critical winter habitat for deer and elk. But ski resort developer Mt. Hood Meadows is hoping to attract less-hardy visitors as well. The companys proposed year-round destination resort in the valley could include up to 450 housing and lodging units, an 18-hole golf course, and an upscale shopping villageall to be built on private land right in the middle of a watershed that quenches the thirst of a quarter of rural Hood River County.
Outraged residents drew up a ballot measure requiring voter approval for any large development within a designated forest zone. In November, the initiative won, garnering 61 percent of the vote. If the new law survives legal challenges, the development wont be able to slip through without public scrutiny.
"The Mt. Hood Meadows proposal showed people how vulnerable our water supply is," says Brent Foster, the Sierra Clubs state conservation chair and an environmental attorney who helped with the ballot measure. "If they can build this massive resort there, then none of our watersheds will be safe."
Explore When famed adventurer William Clark first spied Mt. Hood in 1805, he noted that the distant, snow-covered peak was "of a Conical form but rugid." You can see it up close and in bloom on a Sierra Club trip in July. Search for trip 04151A at www.sierraclub.org/outings, or call (415) 977-5522.
The Sierra Clubs strength as an organization comes from our democratic, grassroots character. One of the most important opportunities Club members have is to elect our 15-person board of directors, which oversees staff and volunteer activities, sets conservation priorities, and approves the annual budget. But as the Club has grown, the percentage of members who vote in board elections has declined.
Our next board will lead us through some of the most serious environmental challenges we have ever faced. We need a board that understands the Club and its goals, a board that represents our members and their priorities, a board that can guide us carefully and strategically through the upcoming years.
With so much at stake, we hope youll take the time to vote when your ballot arrives in the mail in mid-March. Peruse the candidate statements, then choose up to five representatives to serve three-year terms on the board. Return your completed ballot by noon eastern daylight time on April 21or follow the instructions to vote online. Sierra will report the election results in the July/August issue.
More information Check your local chapter or group newsletters, or visit the Clubs Web site at www.sierraclub.org/bod.
The Sierra Student Coalition trains tomorrows activists today
Vacationing students will find more than games, hikes, and campfire chats at the Sierra Student Coalitions weeklong summer camps. Theyll also get a crash course in environmental organizing, from planning a campaign and recruiting volunteers to public speaking and working with the media.
This year, college students will converge in Oregon and Pennsylvania for seven days and six nights of activist education, while high schoolers can participate in programs in California, Minnesota, Arkansas, and Virginia. "[The training] made me realize that young people my age are making a difference," says CeCe Seiter, a freshman at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, and a participant in the 2002 Summer Environmental Leadership Training Program. "Now I have the tools to do the same."
More Information The application deadline for all training programs is May 31; tuition is $75 for college and $160 for high school students (plus a $19 Sierra Club membership fee for nonmembers). To apply for a summer training, inquire about scholarship opportunities, or learn how to bring the SSCs year-round training academy to your school or community, visit www.ssc.org or call (888) JOIN-SSC.
"Now hes older, and with age comes wisdom. Hes changed his stance on abortion and joined the Sierra Club." Comedian Janeane Garofalo on her father, in Utne, September/October 2003
"The wind-whipped town of Choteau, Montana, isnt much to look at: a few paint-chipped cafes, an old cinema, a boarded up Laundromat. But whats behind it is Sierra Club calendar material, and what may be underneath it, says Stan Dempsey of the Colorado Petroleum Association, is his industrys next big hope." Morning Edition, National Public Radio, report on the debate over oil and gas exploration in the Rocky Mountain Front, September19, 2003
"For folks who think that groups like the Sierra Club have too much influence over environmental policy and that President George W. Bush is getting a bad rap on his environmental record, a new organization has emerged to set the record straight." TomPaine.com, referring to the new industry-backed lobbying group Partnership for the West, November 3, 2003
Visit the Sierra Clubs Web site at www.sierraclub.org/takeaction, where you can sign up for the Take Action Network to send messages to your elected officials.
For the inside story about Club conservation campaigns and how you can help, ask for a free subscription to the bimonthly print newsletter the Planet. Send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to the Office of Volunteer and Activist Services, 85 Second St., San Francisco, CA 94105-3441.
Not-So-Special Delivery "The government went from doing nothing to doing the wrong thing," says Roger Diedrich, chair of the Virginia Chapter. For some 15 years, activists have been trying to get the feds to clean up 70 rusting Navy "ghost ships," laden with PCBs and asbestos, that have been decaying in the James River for decades. But when the U.S. Maritime Administration announced its plans last year to send 13 of the contaminated hulks across the Atlantic to a British scrapyard, the Sierra Club sued.
Virginia environmentalists didnt want to dump their problem on anyone else. A court hearing in April will decide whether the salvage contract violates the National Environmental Policy Act and federal toxics laws. Four ships had already set sail for England before an injunction was granted, but the other nine will remain tethered to a dock near Newport News, Virginia, until a verdict is issued.
Critics maintain that U.S. shipyards can recycle the vessels, which contain an estimated 1,900 tons of asbestos and 769 tons of material contaminated with PCBs, along with unknown quantities of mercury, lead, chromium, and cadmium. And while the UK has admirable environmental laws, there is fear that U.S. officials will next turn to minimally regulated recyclers in China and India.
Though the four ships are already in England, a British court decided that the salvager, Able UK, had inadequate permits. So the ships will sit out the winter before either any work can begin or they are sent back to Virginia. Observers on both sides of the pond will keep the pressure on their respective governments. "The biggest navy in the world should be able to disassemble its own ships," says Virginia Chapter director Mike Town.
Plucking Big Chicken
Cumberland Chapter activists have helped bring Tyson Foods to its knees. Thanks to a lawsuit filed by the chapter and western Kentucky residents, in November a federal judge ruled that the corporate giant must report pollution from chicken facilities owned by growers who contract with it.
Until the ruling, Tyson claimed it didnt directly supervise the chicken houses and couldnt be held responsible for their ammonia emissions. (According to Club documents, the manure from a typical complex of 24 chicken houses emits some 235 pounds of ammonia into the air each day.) Local homeowners were previously struggling against Tysons contractors on their own.
"Finding someone who believed I had a right to live where I live was the most important thing," says Leesa Webster, whose family has worked its 200-acre farm for nearly 200 years. "The chicken-house owner told me to move. The Sierra Club believed in my rights."
A Road Wont Run Through It
Alaska activists stomped their Vibram soles in victory when their state dropped a proposal to push a road through the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge and a wild section of Chugach National Forest. The Department of Transportations unabashedly named "wilderness variant" of the Sterling Highway bypass project had aroused a clamor of protest from Alaska Chapter members and hikers statewide who love to walk the regions popular Resurrection Pass Trail.
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.