AMERICA'S WILDERNESS IS STILL DISAPPEARING faster than we can save it. More than 90 percent of eastern and West Coast old-growth forests, for example, have been logged. But more than a century of defending the country's natural treasures has taught the Sierra Club smart ways to resist the special interests that threaten them.
Club members are drawing on those lessons as they intensify the fight to protect the Arctic, the Southwest's redrock wilderness, Everglades National Park, and similarly incomparable places. As part of these efforts, the Sierra Club has launched a ten-year campaign to save one outstanding landscape in each state, plus Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. A new Club report, "America's Wild Legacy," highlights these 52 special locations and the steps our volunteers are taking to conserve them.
In Alaska's Teshekpuk Lake region, we're uniting to safeguard migrating geese and caribou herds from oil and gas drilling. We're also organizing in Oregon to protect Mt. Hood National Forest from commercial logging and development, and in Michigan to keep the Salmon Trout River's sparkling water safe from an underground sulfide ore mine.
In Missouri, Sierra Club activists are challenging a proposed coal-fired power plant that threatens to pollute the Mingo National Wildlife Refuge, where ducks, geese, and other migrating birds find respite on their yearly treks. And in Louisiana, we're working to prevent coastal cypress forests from being logged and turned into garden mulch.
"When you look closely at a map of the United States, you can see that the majority of our public lands are open for development," says Jill Workman, chair of the Club's America's Wild Legacy Conservation Initiative Committee. "The 52 places we've identified are some of the last remaining wildlands. All of them face enormous threats. All of them need to be saved."
ON THE WEBYou can visit each of these wild and special areas without leaving your chair by clicking on the Google Earth link atsierraclub.org/52places.
Many young people have taken on global warming as the challenge of their generation. Now they have a new resource: The Sierra Student Coalition and the Campus Climate Challenge have published a guide for high school activists who want to make their communities truly cool. Students in Maryland, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Texas have already convinced their local governments to invest in alternative energy, pushed for green building standards for new schools and renovations, and promoted the Sierra Club's Cool Cities Campaign to fight global warming locally. Download the guide at ssc.org.
Earful of Good News
Iowa has been beset by rural flight, but two recent Sierra Club reports highlight how the "Tall Corn State" can enjoy economic prosperity while protecting its environment. Coproduced with the Worldwatch Institute, "Destination Iowa: Getting to a Sustainable Biofuels Future" explains how the state can revamp its corn-based ethanol production; it also recommends redirecting subsidies to promote cellulosic crops and funding conservation programs.
"Iowa's Road to Energy Independence"--released by the Blue-Green Alliance, the Club's partnership with the United Steelworkers--focuses on how the state can create thousands of new jobs in renewable energy. According to the report, more than 450 Iowa firms could help manufacture equipment like wind turbines and solar panels. Read the full publications at sierraclub.org/iowabiofuels.
Want your money to work for green innovation--and the Sierra Club? Firsthand Funds has launched a mutual fund specializing in clean-technology companies, especially those working on solar, wind, and energy efficiency. The firm will donate a percentage of its management fees to several environmental nonprofits including the Club; investors can choose which organization will receive their portion. Go to firsthandfunds.com/sierra.
Last November, activists nationwide gathered at hundreds of rallies for Step It Up 2 to galvanize politicians to take action on global warming. In addition to attracting such U.S. presidential candidates as John Edwards, the event featured the launch of 1Sky, a coalition of environmental, social justice, and business groups including the Sierra Club. Learn more at 1sky.org.
Join the Sierra Club's Take Action Network at sierraclub.org/takeaction, where you can send e-mails and faxes to your elected officials.
For the latest on Club campaigns, go to sierraclub.org/email, where you can sign up for our biweekly e-newsletter, the Sierra Club Insider, and other Club e-mail communications.
To make your voice count on environmental issues, the Sierra Club recommends that you write or call (rather than e-mail) your national elected officials at:
Washington, DC 20510
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
U.S. Capitol Switchboard
Puerto Rico: Viva la Tortuga!
Every year hundreds of endangered leatherback sea turtles (above) converge on the beaches of Puerto Rico's Northeast Ecological Corridor to lay their eggs. This area--one of the most popular nesting grounds in the Caribbean--was in danger of being transformed into a concrete jungle of luxury homes, hotels, and golf courses. Then the Sierra Club's Puerto Rico Chapter stepped in (see "Between Two Worlds," May/June 2006). Joined by 20 local organizations, Club members campaigned for three years to protect the corridor. Last October, Governor Aníbal Acevedo Vilá rewarded their efforts by establishing a 3,240-acre natural preserve that includes tropical forests, a coral reef, and a rare bioluminescent lagoon. Hoteliers might still build two small eco-lodges, but the leatherback turtles and 40 critical plant species will be shielded from major development. "This was our first campaign, and we won," says chapter conservation chair Francisco Perez-Abiolo. "Now developers will think twice before they propose projects in Puerto Rico that aren't environmentally sound." —Lea Hartog
California: Meaner Pastures
Residents of Potrero, California, share their backyards with golden eagles, deer, and the occasional mountain lion. Soon the town near San Diego may have a new neighbor. Blackwater USA, which deploys private armed guards to Iraq and elsewhere and has been under political siege following gunfights that killed Iraqi civilians, has proposed an 824-acre training base on a nearby agricultural preserve. Blackwater plans to build shooting ranges and other facilities on a site that encompasses critical wildlife habitat. The Sierra Club's San Diego Chapter and others are also concerned that the project could contaminate the local aquifer and are gearing up to respond to the environmental impact report. Says the Club's Jeanette Hartman, "This area is a tremendous agricultural resource." —Katie Mathis
Texas: Nix VX in TX
Port Arthur, long an oil-refining hub on Texas's Gulf Coast, remains one of the nation's most polluted cities. Now residents face another hazard: incineration of waste from chemical weapons. The U.S. Army is destroying its stores of VX, a lethal nerve agent. After Ohio and New Jersey rejected the chemical waste, the Army started shipping it to an incinerator in Port Arthur's low-income west side. The Army claims the waste has been "neutralized," but the emissions aren't monitored for VX. A coalition including the Sierra Club has sued to block the shipments. "The Army must spend the money for the safer disposal options that are currently available," says Club clean-air specialist Neil Carman, "and not incinerate [VX] right next to a low-income community of color." —Tom Valtin
Illustration by Debbie Drechsler; used with permission.
Photo by Scott R. Benson/NOAA-NMFS-SWFSC; used with permission.