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Sierra Club

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Sierra Club

Sierra Club
Logo of Sierra Club
Motto Explore, enjoy and protect the planet.
Formation May 28, 1892 (1892-05-28)
Founder John Muir
Type 501(c)(4) nonprofit advocacy organization
Headquarters San Francisco, CA, USA
2.4 million (self-reported)[1]
Exec. Dir.
Michael Brune
Aaron Mair[2]
Affiliations Sierra Club Foundation, Sierra Student Coalition, Sierra Club Books, Sierra Club Canada
$97,891,373 (2013)[3]
Website .org.sierraclubwww

The Sierra Club is an United States. It was founded on May 28, 1892, in San Francisco, California, by the Scottish-American preservationist John Muir, who became its first president.

Traditionally associated with the green politics and especially toward bright green environmentalism. Recent focuses of the club include green energy, preventing climate change and opposing coal.

In addition to political advocacy, the Sierra Club organizes outdoor recreation activities, and is a notable organization for mountaineering and rock climbing in the United States, having pioneered the Yosemite Decimal System of climbing. The Sierra Club does not set standards for or regulate alpinism, but it organizes wilderness courses, hikes, rock climbs, and alpine expeditions for members.


  • Mission and overview 1
  • History 2
    • Founding 2.1
    • Hetch Hetchy controversy 2.2
    • 1920s, '30s and '40s 2.3
    • National reach 2.4
    • Book series 2.5
    • Grand Canyon campaign 2.6
    • End of the Brower era 2.7
    • McCloskey years 2.8
    • Lobbying within the club 2.9
    • 21st century 2.10
  • Programs 3
    • Recreational excursions 3.1
    • Sierra Club awards 3.2
  • Policy positions 4
    • Land management 4.1
    • Opposition to coal 4.2
    • Opposition to dams 4.3
    • Alliance with organized labor 4.4
    • Population control and immigration 4.5
  • Affiliates and subsidiaries 5
  • Budget and funding 6
  • Leadership 7
    • Presidents 7.1
    • Executive directors 7.2
    • Directors 7.3
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • Further reading 10
  • External links 11

Mission and overview

The Sierra Club's stated mission is "To explore, enjoy, and protect the wild places of the earth; To practice and promote the responsible use of the earth's ecosystems and resources; To educate and enlist humanity to protect and restore the quality of the natural and human environment; and to use all lawful means to carry out these objectives."[5]

The Sierra Club is governed by a 15-member

External links

  • David Brower, For Earth's Sake: The Life and Times of David Brower (Salt Lake City: Peregrine Smith Books, 1990) ISBN 0-87905-013-6
  • Michael McCloskey, In the Thick of It: My Life in the Sierra Club (Washington, DC: Island Press, 2005) ISBN 1-55963-979-2
  • Tom Turner, Sierra Club: 100 Years of Protecting Nature (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1991) ISBN 0-8109-3820-0

Further reading

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  8. ^ a b c d Michael P. Cohen, The History of the Sierra Club, 1892–1970 (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1988)
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h Stephen Fox, John Muir and His Legacy: The American Conservation Movement (Boston: Little, Brown, 1981), pp. 125–319.
  10. ^
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  12. ^ Michael McCloskey, In the Thick of It: My Life in the Sierra Club (Washington, DC: Island Press, 2000), pp. 99–248.
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  38. ^ a b
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  40. ^ a b
  41. ^ "Sierra Club Policy: Immigration Policy History." SUSPS. Accessed 14 May 2008.
  42. ^ Kunofsky, Judy. "Sierra Club, U.S. Population Growth, and Immigration." Sierra Club Population Report. Spring 1989. Accessed 14 May 2008.
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  50. ^ a b “Hostile takeover,” Intelligence Report, Spring 2004, p. 57.
  51. ^ Potok, Mark, Editor of Intelligence Report, Letter to Larry Fahn, President, The Sierra Club, October 21, 2003. Reprinted in Intelligence Report, Spring 2004, pp. 59–63.
  52. ^ "Tacoma Seeking Segregation Curb." Spokane Daily Chronicle. July 15, 1966.
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  74. ^ "List of Sierra Club Executive Directors," Sierra Club. Accessed: September 14, 2012.


See also


The Sierra Club's executive directors have included:[74]

Executive directors

Presidents of the Sierra Club have included:[73]



There are reports of the Sierra Club receiving funding from groups with ties to Russia's state owned oil company.[71][72]

Donors to the Sierra Club have included Tides Foundation Advocacy Fund.[69][70]

[67] The Sierra Club is a partner of [66] The Sierra Club has an affiliated super PAC. It spent $1,000,575 on the 2014 elections, all of it opposing Republican candidates for office.

In 2014, the Energy and Environment Legal Institute filed a referral with the Internal Revenue Service pointing out that Sierra Club and Sierra Club Foundation were not paying income taxes from sales of solar panels for their partners across the US.[65]

In February 2012, it was reported that the Sierra Club had secretly accepted over $26 million in gifts from the natural gas industry, mostly from Aubrey McClendon, CEO of Chesapeake Energy.[64] The Sierra Club used the Chesapeake Energy money for its Beyond Coal campaign to block new coal-fired power plants and close old ones. Michael Brune reported that he learned of the gifts after he succeeded Carl Pope as executive director of the Sierra Club in 2010. Brune reported that he ended the financial agreement with natural gas industry interests.[27]

In 2008, Clorox donated $1.3 million to the Sierra Club in exchange for the right to display the Sierra Club's logo on a line of cleaning products.[4]

The Sierra Club's annual budget was $88 million in 2011 and $100 million in 2012.[63] In 2013, the group's budget was $97.8 million.[3]

Budget and funding

The Wilderness Travel Course is a basic mountaineering class that is administered by the Sierra Club.[62]

The organization maintains a publishing imprint, Sierra Club Books, publishing books on environmental issues, wilderness photographic essays, nature guides, and other related subjects. They publish the Sierra Club Calendars, perennial bestsellers, featuring photographs by well-known nature photographers such as Galen Rowell. They also publish the John Muir library, which includes many of their founder's titles.[61]

The Sierra Club Voter Education Fund is a 527 group that became active in the 2004 Presidential election by airing television advertisements about the major party candidates' positions on environmental issues. Through the Environmental Voter Education Campaign (EVEC), the Club sought to mobilize volunteers for phone banking, door-to-door canvassing and postcard writing to emphasize these issues in the campaign.

The Sierra Student Coalition (SSC) is the student-run arm of the Sierra Club. Founded by Adam Werbach in 1991, it has 30,000 members.[60]

In 1971, volunteer lawyers who had worked with the Sierra Club established the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund. This was a separate organization that used the "Sierra Club" name under license from the Club; it changed its name to Earthjustice in 1997.[59]

The Sierra Club added its first Canadian chapter in 1963 and in 1989 opened a national office in Ottawa. Canadian affiliates of the Sierra Club operate under the Sierra Club Canada.[58]

The Internal Revenue Service revoked the Sierra Club's tax-exempt status due to the group's political activities.[56][57]

Affiliates and subsidiaries

The controversy resurfaced when a group of three immigration reduction proponents ran in the 2004 Sierra Club Board of Directors election, hoping to move the Club's position away from a neutral stance on immigration, and to restore the stance previously held.[47][48] Groups outside of the Club became involved, such as the Southern Poverty Law Center and MoveOn.[49] Of the three candidates, two (Frank Morris and David Pimentel), were on the board of the anti-immigration group Diversity Alliance for a Sustainable America[50][51] and two (Richard Lamm and Frank Morris) were on the board of directors or the board of advisors of the Federation for American Immigration Reform;[50] both had also held leadership positions within the NAACP.[52] Their candidacies were denounced by a fourth candidate, Morris Dees of the SPLC, as a "hostile takeover" attempt by "radical anti-immigrant activists."[53] The immigration reduction proponents won 7% of all votes cast in the election.[54] In 2005, members voted 102,455 to 19,898 against a proposed change to "recognize the need to adopt lower limits on migration to the United States."[55]

Sierra Club member who are advocates of immigration reduction organized themselves as "SUSPS", a name originally derived from "Sierrans for U.S. Population Stabilization" which now stands for "Support U.S. Population Stabilization."[44] SUSPS advocates a return to the Sierra Club's "traditional" (1970-1996) immigration policy stance.[45] SUSPS has called for fully closing the borders of the United States, and for returning to immigration levels established by the Immigration Act of 1924, which includes strict ethnic quotas.[46]

Other Sierra Club members thought that the immigration issue was too far from the Club's core environmentalist mission, and were also concerned that involvement would impair the organization's political ability to pursue its other objectives. In 1998, 60.1% of Sierra Club voting members voted that the organization should remain neutral on America's immigration policies, while 39.2% supported a measure calling for stricter curbs on immigration to the United States.[43]

[42] During the 1980s, some Sierra Club members, including Paul Ehrlich's wife

[40] In 1978,

In 1969, the Sierra Club published Paul R. Ehrlich's book, The Population Bomb, in which he said that population growth was responsible for environmental decline and advocated coercive measures to reduce it. Some observers have argued that the book had a "racial dimension" in the tradition of the Eugenics movement, and that it "reiterated many of Osborn's jeremiads."[38][39][40]

Some critics of the Sierra Club have charged that the organization's views on population growth, and the efforts of some club members to restrain immigration, are a continuation of aspects of the Eugenics movement.[36][37]

Population control and immigration

The Sierra Club is a member of the BlueGreen Alliance, a coalition of environmental groups and labor unions. The BlueGreen Alliance was formed in 2006 and grew out of a less-formal collaboration between the Sierra Club and the United Steelworkers. In 2012, the Laborers' International Union of North America left the coalition due to the Sierra Club and other environmental groups' opposition to the Keystone Pipeline.[35]

Alliance with organized labor

The Sierra Club advocates the decommissioning of Glen Canyon Dam and the draining of Lake Powell.[33] The Club also supports removal, breaching or decommissioning of many other dams, including four dams on the lower Snake River in eastern Washington.[34]

The Sierra Club opposes dams it considers inappropriate, including some government-built dams in national parks.[30][31] In the early 20th century, the organization fought against the damming and flooding of the Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park. Despite this lobbying, Congress authorized the construction of O'Shaughnessy Dam on the Tuolumne River. The Sierra Club continues to support removal of the dam.[32]

Opposition to dams

The Sierra Club is also opposed to nuclear energy.[28][29]

A goal of the Sierra Club is to replace coal with other energy sources.[23] Through its "Beyond Coal" campaign, the Sierra Club has set a goal to close half of all coal plants in the U.S. by 2017. American business magnate and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg donated $50 million to the Sierra Club's anti-coal work in 2011, and announced another $30 million gift to Sierra's Beyond Coal campaign in 2015.[24] The Beyond Coal campaign says 187 coal plants have been closed since 2010.[25] Other funders of the Sierra Club's anti-coal campaign include the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.[26] The CEO of Chesapeake Energy, a natural gas company, donated $26 million to the Beyond Coal campaign between 2007 and 2010.[27]

Opposition to coal

Some Sierra Club members have urged the Club to be more forceful in advocating for the protection of National Forests and other federally owned public lands. For example, in 2002 the Club was criticized for joining with the Wilderness Society in agreeing to a compromise that would allow logging in the Black Hills in South Dakota.[22]

Land management

Policy positions

Other awards given by the Sierra Club include the Ansel Adams Award for Conservation Photography, which honors excellence in conservation photography; and the Francis P. Farquhar Mountaineering Award, which recognizes contributions to mountaineering.

[21] The Sierra Club presents a number of annual awards. These awards include the

Ladybug, Ready for Takeoff – Grand Prize Winner in the Sierra Club's April 2010 Trails Photo Contest

Sierra Club awards

The High Trips, sometimes large expeditions with more than a hundred participants and crew, have given way to smaller and more numerous excursions held across the United States and abroad.[19]

In 1901, [19] Among them was Brower, who managed the High Trip program from 1947 to 1954, while serving as a major in the Army Reserve.[20]

Recreational excursions


In May 2015, the Sierra Club appointed its first black president of the board of directors, Aaron Mair.[18]

In January 2013, executive director Michael Brune announced [15] that the Sierra Club would officially participate in the first civil disobedience action in its 120-year history as part of the ongoing protest calling on the Obama administration to reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, stating, “we are watching a global crisis unfold before our eyes, and to stand aside and let it happen – even though we know how to stop it – would be unconscionable." On 13 February 2013, Michael Brune was arrested along with forty-eight people, including civil rights leader Julian Bond and NASA climate scientist James Hansen.[16][17]

In 2008, the Sierra Club endorsed Senator Barack Obama for President, citing "his strong record of support for clean air, wetlands protection, and clean energy."[14]

In September 2005, the Sierra Club held its first Sierra Summit in San Francisco. Approximately 1,000 volunteers from around the country, selected by their chapters and groups, were delegates; some nondelegate members also attended. There were seminars and exhibit presentations about current environmental issues and about techniques for more effective activism. Prominent guest speakers included Al Gore; Bill Maher; Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.; and Arianna Huffington.

21st century

In the 1990s, club members Jim Bensman, Roger Clarke, David Dilworth, Chad Hanson and David Orr along with about 2,000 members formed the John Muir Sierrans (JMS), an internal caucus, to promote changes to club positions. They favored a zero-cut forest policy on public lands and, a few years later, decommissioning Glen Canyon Dam. JMS was successful in changing club positions on both counts.[13]

Lobbying within the club

, formerly the Club’s legislative director, was named executive director in 1992. Carl Pope, who served as executive director from 1987 to 1992. California Coastal Commission After a two-year interlude with Douglas Wheeler, whose Republican credentials were disconcerting to liberal members, the Club hired Michael Fischer, the former head of the [12] Michael McCloskey, hired by Brower in 1961 as the Club's first northwest field representative, became the Club's second executive director in 1969. An administrator attentive to detail, McCloskey had set up the Club's conservation department in 1965 and guided the campaigns to save the Grand Canyon and establish

McCloskey years

Despite the Club's success in blocking plans for the Grand Canyon dams and weathering the transition from 501(c)(3) to 501(c)(4) status, tension grew over finances between Brower and the board of directors. The Club's annual deficits rose from $100,000 in 1967 and 1968 to some $200,000 in 1969. Another conflict occurred over the Club's policy toward the nuclear power plant to be constructed by Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) at Diablo Canyon near San Luis Obispo, California. Although the Club had played the leading role blocking PG&E's nuclear power plant proposed for Bodega Bay, California in the early 1960s, that case had been built around the local environmental impact and earthquake danger from the nearby San Andreas fault, not from opposition to nuclear power itself. In exchange for moving the new proposed site from the environmentally sensitive Nipomo Dunes to Diablo Canyon, the board of directors voted to support PG&E's plan for the power plant. A membership referendum in 1967 upheld the board's decision. But Brower concluded that nuclear power at any location was a mistake, and he voiced his opposition to the plant, contrary to the Club's official policy. As pro- and anti-Brower factions polarized, the annual election of new directors reflected the conflict. Brower's supporters won a majority in 1968, but in the April 1969 election the anti-Brower candidates won all five open positions. Ansel Adams and president Richard Leonard, two of his closest friends on the board, led the opposition to Brower, charging him with financial recklessness and insubordination and calling for his ouster as executive director. The board voted ten to five to accept Brower's resignation.[8] Eventually reconciled with the Club, Brower was elected to the board of directors for a term from 1983 to 1988, and again from 1995 to 2000.

End of the Brower era

The victory over the dam projects and challenges from the IRS did not come without costs. To make up for the power that would have been produced by the dams, the Sierra Club actually advocated for coal power plants. The result of the campaign and its trade-off was, in the words of historian Andrew Needham, that "the Grand Canyon became protected, sacred space," while "the Navajo Reservation" -- which housed some of the main power plants picking up the slack -- "became increasingly industrial."[11]

Even so, contributions to the Club dropped off, aggravating its annual operating deficits. Membership, however, climbed sharply in response to the investigation into the legitimacy of the society's tax status by the IRS from 30,000 in 1965 to 57,000 in 1967 and 75,000 in 1969. [8] The Sierra Club's most publicized crusade of the 1960s was the effort to stop the Bureau of Reclamation from building two dams that would flood portions of the

Grand Canyon campaign

[9], with color photographs by In Wildness Is the Preservation of the World, and in 1962 This Is the American Earth In 1960, Brower launched the Exhibit Format book series with

Book series

The Sierra Club was now truly a national conservation organization, and preservationists took the offensive with wilderness proposals. The Club's Biennial Wilderness Conferences, launched in 1949 in concert with The Wilderness Society, became an important force in the campaign that secured passage of the Wilderness Act in 1964.[9]

The Sierra Club secured its national reputation in the battle against the Echo Park Dam in Dinosaur National Monument in Utah, which had been announced by the Bureau of Reclamation in 1950. Brower led the fight, marshaling support from other conservation groups. Brower's background in publishing proved decisive; with the help of publisher Alfred Knopf, This Is Dinosaur was rushed into press. Invoking the specter of Hetch Hetchy, conservationists effectively lobbied Congress, which deleted the Echo Park dam from the Colorado River project as approved in 1955. Recognition of the Sierra Club's role in the Echo Park dam victory boosted membership from 10,000 in 1956 to 15,000 in 1960.[9]

In 1950, the Sierra Club had some 7,000 members, mostly on the West Coast. That year the Atlantic chapter became the first formed outside California. An active volunteer board of directors ran the organization, assisted by a small clerical staff. Brower was appointed the first executive director in 1952, and the Club began to catch up with major conservation organizations such as the National Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation, The Wilderness Society, and Izaak Walton League, which had long had professional staff.[9]

National reach

Adams sponsored Brower for membership in the Club, and he was appointed to the editorial board of the Sierra Club Bulletin. After World War II Brower returned to his job with the University of California Press, and began editing the Sierra Club Bulletin in 1946.[9]

The New Deal brought many conservationists to the Democratic Party, and many Democrats entered the ranks of conservationists. Leading the generation of Young Turks who revitalized the Sierra Club after World War II were attorneys Richard Leonard and Bestor Robinson, nature photographer Ansel Adams, and David Brower.

During the 1920s and 1930s, the Sierra Club functioned as a social and recreational society, conducting outings, maintaining trails and building huts and lodges in the Sierras. Preservation campaigns included a several-year effort to enlarge Sequoia National Park (achieved in 1926) and over three decades of work to protect and then preserve Kings Canyon National Park (established in 1940). Historian Stephen Fox notes, "In the 1930s most of the three thousand members were middle-aged Republicans."[9]

1920s, '30s and '40s

The bill to dam Hetch Hetchy passed Congress in 1913, and so the Sierra Club lost its first major battle. In retaliation, the Club supported creation of the National Park Service in 1916, to remove the parks from Forest Service oversight. Stephen Mather, a Club member from Chicago and an opponent of the Hetch Hetchy dam, became the first National Park Service director.[9]

Gifford Pinchot, a progressive supporter of public utilities and head of the US Forest Service, which then had jurisdiction over the national parks, supported the creation of the Hetch Hetchy dam. Muir appealed to his friend U.S. President Roosevelt, who would not commit himself against the dam, given its popularity with the people of San Francisco (a referendum in 1908 confirmed a seven-to-one majority in favor of the dam and municipal water). Muir and attorney William Edward Colby began a national campaign against the dam, attracting the support of many eastern conservationists. With the 1912 election of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, who carried San Francisco, supporters of the dam had a friend in the White House.

In the first decade of the 1900s, the Sierra Club became embroiled in the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir controversy that divided preservationists from "resource management" conservationists. In the late 19th century, the city of San Francisco was rapidly outgrowing its limited water supply, which depended on intermittent local springs and streams. In 1890, San Francisco mayor James D. Phelan proposed to build a dam and aqueduct on the Tuolumne River, one of the largest southern Sierra rivers, as a way to increase and stabilize the city's water supply.[10]

Hetch Hetchy controversy

Muir escorted President Theodore Roosevelt through Yosemite in 1903, and two years later the California legislature ceded Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove to the federal government. The Sierra Club won its first lobbying victory with the creation of the country's second national park, after Yellowstone in 1872.[9]

The Club's first goals included establishing Glacier and Mount Rainier national parks, convincing the California legislature to give Yosemite Valley to the U.S. federal government, and preserving California's coastal redwoods.

In May 1892, a group of professors from the Appalachian Mountain Club. The Sierra Club's charter members elected Muir president, an office he held until his death in 1914.[8]

Journalist Robert Underwood Johnson had worked with John Muir on the successful campaign to create a large Yosemite National Park surrounding the much smaller state park which had been created in 1864. This campaign succeeded in 1890. As early as 1889, Johnson had encouraged Muir to form an "association" to help protect the Sierra Nevada, and preliminary meetings were held to plan the group. Others involved in the early planning included artist William Keith, Joseph LeConte and David Starr Jordan.


Petition and map from John Muir and other founders of Sierra Club


Sierra Club members belong to statewide chapters and local groups. National and local special-interest sections, committees, and task forces address particular issues. The national Sierra Club sets the organization's policy agenda.[5]

[4]. Pope stepped down amid discontent that the group had strayed from its core principles.Carl Pope Brune succeeded [7]

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