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Sierra magazine
Bulletin | News for Members

By Della Watson

Grilled | Living on a Prayer | Your In-box | DIY: Rain Barrels | Legal Eagle | And the Winners Are . . .

Invading the Privacy of the Volunteers Who Make the Club Tick

Name: John Klein
Location: Hudson, Michigan
Sierra Club Award: Special Achievement
Contribution: Aerial photography documenting illegal factory farming
Web site:

What's your photography style? Originally, we'd take the door off the plane, and I'd strap into the back. Recently, we found that we can shoot through the Plexiglas windows and still get pretty good results. It gives me a lot more mobility, and I don't have to worry about lenses falling out of the plane.

Cracked any cases lately? We'll find waste lagoons or facilities that are up next to creeks or buried in the woods. We'll find things that aren't on any maps. We saw one building down there with a lagoon, but it didn't look like a hog farm; it didn't look like a dairy. Nothing fit. The DEQ [Department of Environmental Quality] eventually investigated, and it was a mink farm. Nobody knew about it.

Can you smell the farms from the air? Yeah. From a thousand feet on a still day you don't even have to look down. You can smell it from that far. I live within a mile of one of these facilities, and between the middle of June and the middle of July I had to close the windows in my house.

Ever get airsick? Oh yeah. You just have your little bag, and you take care of what you do, and you go on shooting. That's all you can do.

What's your inspiration? Every time I get on the plane, I think, well, I've got a grandson now, and I don't expect a lot of things to change in my lifetime, but let's hope that when he gets old enough to have kids, that some of the work we're doing cleans up these rural areas.

Are you planning a photography book? My brother's a photographer, and he takes pictures of nice birds and bees and baseball players. And I tell him I take pictures of shit. I've thought about putting a book together, but in addition to what I've got now, I would have to have other types of pollution. It's not gonna be a best seller. --interview by Della Watson

Go here to see a slide show of Klein's photos of the waste created by factory farms.

Do you know a Sierra Club volunteer who deserves recognition? Send nominations to

Living on a Prayer:
Tribal Activists Fight for Sacred Sites

"It's where we say we were born from," Havasupai tribal vice chairman Matthew Putesoy says of Red Butte.

As the July sun lit Red Butte, a group of activists prepared for a "prayer run," part of a four-day gathering organized by the Havasupai tribe to protest a uranium mine that would threaten such geological treasures as Red Butte and the Grand Canyon's South Rim.

The Arizona gathering drew more than 400 people, reviving a historic tradition of meeting at the mountain, a sacred site just miles from the proposed mine. Mining there, says tribal vice chairman Matthew Putesoy, would be like desecrating a synagogue, mosque, or church.

This sort of threat to sacred lands is not unusual, says Robert Tohe, a Sierra Club environmental justice organizer who helps tribes protect their natural and cultural legacies. This summer, he aided a coalition of southwestern tribes in protecting New Mexico's Mt. Taylor--an area they consider sacred--from uranium mining.

Activists are building support for a recently introduced House resolution to permanently protect the public lands of the Grand Canyon watershed.

"This gathering was a historic event," says Havasupai organizer Carletta Tilousi. "We feel that through prayers, and with the help of many organizations, we will win this fight against uranium on the rim of the Grand Canyon." --Jamie Hansen

Your In-box

Bridging the Gap
The Sierra Club's Building Bridges to the Outdoors program teamed up with the Department of the Interior on initiatives to get young people outside. BBTTO participants even spent a day working alongside Interior secretary Ken Salazar in Virginia's Shenandoah National Park to remove invasive weeds.

Waiting to Exhale
Americans can breathe easier, thanks to a July federal appeals court ruling upholding the EPA's 2005 designations of areas that violated standards for fine-particle pollution. The court rejected nearly all the challenges to the EPA's soot standards. The Sierra Club, represented by Earthjustice, intervened in the lawsuit in support of the EPA.

Fault Lines
In July, environmental inspectors owned up to some serious mistakes. First, the Tennessee Valley Authority inspector general said his agency could have prevented last December's devastating coal-ash spill that destroyed or damaged 26 homes in Roane County. Then the Federal Emergency Management Agency inspector general found that FEMA dragged its feet after testing showed high levels of formaldehyde in trailers issued to those displaced by Hurricane Katrina. The inspector general also applauded the Sierra Club's work in testing the contaminated trailers, which originally brought the issue to light. --Heather Moyer

DIY: Rain Barrels
Catch It If You Can

Mary Mastin, chair of the Sierra Club's Upper Cumberland Group, thought the prosaic act of water conservation deserved a splash of color, even if it meant hauling 85 giant rain barrels to the exhibit site at the group's first Water Barrel Festival in Cookeville, Tennessee. Students and professional artists applied their talents (and their paint) to the 55-gallon drums, which were auctioned off at a local park. Proceeds went to the artists and to the city to create a permanent water-conservation display in the park.

The barrels are simple devices, with a hole in the top to collect rainwater from a gutter's downspout and a spigot at the bottom to release water for lawns and gardens. They're also a great way to conserve water and prevent polluted stormwater runoff from entering sewers. The water-conservation project helped the community weather a recent drought, and, Mastin says, "it just seemed like a good, fun community-building effort." --Sarah F. Kessler

Quick Tips
When building a rain barrel, make sure you're not also creating a mosquito habitat. The Upper Cumberland Group replaced the bottoms of plastic flowerpots with screens and put them over the hole at the top of the barrels to keep mosquitoes out and create a nice funnel for the gutter.

Keep in mind that rain barrels aren't celebrated everywhere; Nevada and Utah ban "water harvesting," considering it a theft of a water right. But nine states do offer incentives for rain collection.

ON THE WEB For a step-by-step guide to building a rain barrel, go to To read more about the problems associated with excess stormwater runoff, go to

Legal Eagle

Santa Cruz Sierra Club member Ron Pomerantz was a winner in California state senator Joe Simitian's "There Oughta Be a Law" contest. Pomerantz suggested a program for safely disposing of home smoke alarms, which contain americium, a radioactive byproduct of plutonium. The Smoke Detector Collection Act is currently before the state legislature. --S.F.K.

And the Winners Are...

The Sierra Club honored its all-star directors, producers, photographers, writers, and real-life action heroes during a September 26 awards ceremony at San Francisco's Cathedral Hill Hotel. Club deputy executive director Greg Haegele received the top prize, the John Muir Award, for his six years of distinguished, dedicated, and inspirational environmental leadership. The orchestra is cuing that our space is up, so without further ado, a big, heartfelt thanks to the following award winners.

Ansel Adams Award conservation photography Joshua Wolfe
Communication Award excellence in use of print or electronic communications Inner City Outings Steering Committee Cumberland Chapter
David R. Brower Award environmental reporting David Brancaccio
Distinguished Service Award superior commitment to conservation John P. Debo Jr., Ward B. Stone
Edgar Wayburn Award outstanding service by a government official Raul Grijalva
Environmental Alliance Award forging partnerships to achieve environmental goals Tejon Ranch Task force
John Muir Award distinguished record of achievement in conservation Greg Haegele
Joseph Barbosa Earth Fund Award environmental service by those younger than 30 Nathan E. Jones, Sean Sullivan
Madelyn Pyeatt Award working with youths Allan Williams
Oliver Kehrlein Award Outings program service David E. Bybee
Raymond J. Sherwin International Award international conservation India Advisory Council
Special Achievement Award important conservation or Club service John Klein, Verena Owen
Special Service Award commitment to conservation and the Club Joyce Blumenshine, Susan Heitman, Jill Workman
Susan E. Miller Award contribution to Club chapters Donna Specht, Barry L. Wulff
William E. Colby Award Club leadership, dedication, and service Jonathan Ela
William O. Douglas Award outstanding use of the legal process Joe Lovett and Jim Hecker (co-recipients)

ON THE WEB For more information about the awards and the winners, go to

To take action on the Sierra Club's top issues and find out how to contact your elected officials, visit

For the latest on Club campaigns and how you can help, sign up for our biweekly e-newsletter, the Sierra Club Insider, and other Club e-mails at Or check out our Action Center on Facebook for more online tools.

Photos, from top: Mike Klein, Amy Waddell/, Brian Paddock; used with permission



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