Anne Woiwode, Mackinac Chapter Director
Anne became a Sierra Club volunteer in 1980 when she moved to Michigan with her husband Tom. Five years later she became staff, and now works with both the state legislative program and the Environmental Protection Education Campaign at the Club. With all of these years under her belt, Anne has worked on a wide range of issues including forests, sprawl, and, more recently, concentrated animal feeding operations, a.k.a. factory farms. Anne works extensively with the Environmental Law Program to use litigation as a critical tool for saving the environment.
In her position, Anne is delighted that she still has daily contact with volunteers because she never loses touch with the activists or with people who are directly impacted by poor environmental decisions. In all of the issues that she works on, Anne tries to both educate the public and respond to people. As she notes, "there are many challenges...you are working with real people and real problems." But there are also rewards--when Anne's children lived at home she took comfort knowing that she could go home and feel proud of her work, regardless of whether she had won or lost.
About four or five years ago, the local chapter began to receive phone calls from people living near large factory farms who were complaining about health problems. Anne wanted to respond to their concerns, and subsequently began to research the problem and find real solutions.
Now, in coordination with the Environmental Law Program, the chapter has settled four lawsuits that have forced factory farms to pay fines and implement substantial facility improvements aimed at preventing unlawful pollution of Michigan waterways. The lawsuits, in combination with grassroots organizing, have also led to a drastic shift in the state's attitude toward factory farm pollution: Michigan has gone from being one of the most recalcitrant states in the nation to now being one of the more aggressive in working to protect communities from factory farm pollution.
Anne notes that the litigation program has been a terrific asset for the Club by making our conservation work much more effective. "Being able to work with attorneys on staff that are fully informed on our issues and are able to help us think through issues even short of litigation, as well as to do really well in court, has just been a boon for the Sierra Club."