Emulating the wildlife it works to protect, the Sierra Club is evolving to succeed in a changing world. In May the Club adopted an updated Diversity Plan and an initiative called Project Renewal that will make it easier for volunteers to pitch in at the national level.
In the Club's old structure--last revamped in 1995--governance committees advised the board. Charged with both planning and execution, they oversaw the work of 100-plus committees. They often became mired in day-to-day operations, and the mix of responsibilities led to confusion.
"Project Renewal was needed to carve out space for the directors to think strategically," says board president Allison Chin. The new system separates planning and implementation. Now the board will be advised by "upstream" volunteer-driven "think tanks." When the board approves a plan, separate "downstream" teams, designed by pairs of volunteers and staffers, will do the work.
To help isolated pockets of activists find more resources, and make it easier for them to connect with other volunteers nationwide, the Club will expand its Activist Network, online and off. By 2009, "the online social-networking aspect will be a major leap forward," predicts board member Robbie Cox, who helped design the old and new structures.
The invigorated Diversity Plan seeks to attract employees, members, and volunteers who reflect the country's varied population. To do so, the Club will expand its Environmental Apprenticeship Program, provide diversity training to leaders, offer more-varied outings, reach out to more youth groups, and emphasize its public-health and environmental-justice initiatives.
Just as evolution is an iterative process, so is the Club's renewal. "We're asking members and leaders to test the new system as it unfolds and see what it can do for them," says Cox. "We hope to empower more people to do more work with fewer obstacles."
For military families struggling with the stress of deployment, spending time in nature can offer a welcome respite. Building on the Sierra Club's funding for Operation Purple, which provides free summer camps for children whose parents serve overseas, The Sierra Club Foundation announced in May a three-year, $23 million grant to support the Military Family Outdoor Initiative. In addition to helping expand the Operation Purple program, the Club is working with the Armed Forces YMCA to create additional family camps near military facilities and with Outward Bound to provide free wilderness adventure courses for active-duty members and returning veterans. The effort, says Club executive director Carl Pope, will help "ensure that those protecting our country get to enjoy its natural wonders." For more information, visit sierraclub.org/military. —Karina Kinik
At the Crossroads
Want to connect with folks who are working to cool global warming? This fall the Sierra Club will introduce Climate Crossroads--an online community where people can share climate-change information and help create solutions. The social-networking Web site will offer global-warming expertise and opportunities to make friends and take action online or in neighborhoods across the country. As the site grows, visitors will be able to contribute recipes for organic meals, discuss healthy child-rearing tips, find green job listings, share planet-protecting videos, learn about ecofriendly home remodeling, describe their favorite canoe and hiking trails, and more. —D.J.
SKY-HIGH WIN Washington just got greener: In May the Sierra Club and its allies celebrated passage of the Wild Sky Wilderness Act. The legislation protects more than 106,000 acres in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest--including old-growth areas and previously logged land--creating the state's first new designated wilderness since 1988.
FASHION FORWARD Who says you have to choose between style and substance? Kayla Bonczek, a graduate of North Haven High School in Connecticut, combined the two when she held an ecofriendly fashion show and silent auction on Earth Day for her senior-year final project. Her "Green Awakening" raised more than $1,500, which Bonczek donated to the Sierra Club. The budding eco-entrepreneur will study fashion merchandising this fall at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York.
HUNTING FOR COMMUNITY One out of five Sierra Club members hunts or fishes, and they have their own Web site to learn about sporting-related conservation issues and gab about the one that got away. The Sierra Sportsmen Network (sierrasportsmen.org) features environmental news, a blog for "greennecks," readers' stories, and more.
GREEN EARNS GREEN Transitioning to a clean-energy future could provide greater job security while fighting global warming, says a June study released by the Sierra Club and others. Focusing on employment conditions in 12 states, "Job Opportunities for the Green Economy" reports that millions of workers could apply their current skills to jobs that help the environment, such as retrofitting buildings. Read the full report at bluegreenalliance.org/gjfa. —K.K.
California: Treasure of Tejon
Call it a golden opportunity for the Golden State. The Sierra Club and other groups negotiated for almost two years with the Tejon Ranch Company, until it agreed in May to preserve 90 percent of its 270,000 acres north of Los Angeles. The largest contiguous parcel of privately held land in California, the ranch sits at the confluence of four ecosystems (the Sierra Nevada, Mojave Desert, Coastal Range, and San Joaquin Valley) and provides vital habitat for the endangered California condor. The company agreed to permanently protect 178,000 acres, set aside another 62,000 for public purchase, and contribute $800,000 annually for seven years to fund conservation. In exchange, the Club and its allies won't oppose planned resort and residential projects on 30,000 acres. Bill Corcoran, senior regional representative for the Club, hailed the agreement as "a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to protect the keystone of Southern California's natural legacy." —Josh Stephens
Hawaii: Sunny Outlook
Some residents of the Aloha State will soon be sunbathing every day--that is, washing in sun-warmed water. Thanks to a bill championed by the Sierra Club's Hawaii Chapter and passed by the state legislature in May, all single-family homes built after 2009 must be equipped with solar water heaters. The measure promises reductions in both household electricity bills and statewide greenhouse-gas emissions. According to Hawaii Chapter director Jeff Mikulina, passing the bill "was the single biggest step the legislature took this year to increase Hawaii's energy security." With Governor Linda Lingle (R) signing the measure into law in June and promising to introduce legislation that will expand solar tax credits, the state is setting a shining example for the rest of the country. —Leigh Barkley
Michigan: Clearing the Air
Detroit environmental-justice activists like the Sierra Club's Rhonda Anderson cut short their revelry this summer. After 20 years' work to close the city's trash incinerator--one of the nation's largest, emitting some 1,800 tons of pollutants annually--locals rejoiced in May when the mayor agreed not to renew its contract. But Detroit is a cancer hot spot (according to a 2007 study withheld by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention but leaked online), so the fight against toxic emissions continues. Now Anderson and her allies are responding to Marathon Oil's newly approved refinery expansion by publicizing its emissions and distributing a health survey. "Any discussion about energy," she says, "must include communities living in the shadows of these polluting industries." —L.B.
Illustrations, from top: Josef Gast, iStock/appleuzr; used with permission.
Photo by Dean Hueber; used with permission.