Carla Cloer's family has lived near California's Sequoia forests for four generations. Carla grew up hiking and riding her horse along the forests trials; to this day she returns every summer to stay in the cabin that her grandfather built. These trips are a source of renewal, a reminder of the beauty and majesty that she has spent much of her life fighting to protect. In 1962, years before the National Environmental Policy Act became law, Carla inadvertently stumbled upon the first clearcuts she had ever seen. She immediately called her district ranger in protest; thus began a journey that would take her through the halls of Congress, to federal courtrooms, and across the country as a widely renowned Sequoia activist. Most recently, Carla was an integral part of a Sierra Club legal challenge which put a stop to the Bush administration's illegal logging of the Giant Sequoia National Monument.
An art major at UCLA, Carla was a teacher for over 33 years. For the duration of her career, Carla spent much of her free time working to protect the Sequoia forests. In 2000, Carla won the John Muir award, the Sierra Club's highest honor, for her tireless efforts. A self professed "unlikely environmentalist" with conservative roots, Carla's rise to becoming the Club's expert on Sequoia issues is an empowering example of what one person can accomplish: "No one could have been less prepared to fight this battle than I was. You just learn and do the best you can, you can't be afraid to make mistakes." Carla explained how her early efforts began with the manual to her word processor in one hand and the National Environmental Policy Act in the other; from these beginnings she went on to write dozens of timber sale appeals, give presentations across California and beyond, and organize trips to the forests for Congressmen and other decision-makers.
In April of 2000 President Clinton created the Giant Sequoia National Monument, providing federal protection to 328,000 acres of trees. Along with a coalition of other conservation organizations and activists, Carla worked on recommendations for the proclamation months ahead of time. One major disappointment that went along with this victory was that the protection of these Sequoias would remain in the hands of the U.S. Forest Service - the agency that had logged the sequoia groves - instead of the National Park Service, which has done an exemplary job managing Sequoia National Park without reliance on logging. True to form, the Forest Service's first management plan for the new Monument ignored the Proclamation's stricture against logging and allowed more logging than had the Monument not been created. The Bush administration's plan called for enough logging to fill 1,500 trucks each year, and would've allowed logging of trees as big as 30 inches in diameter or more; trees this size can be more than 300 years old.
The Sierra Club filed a legal challenge to the Bush administrations' plan, calling on them to halt their illegal logging. Carla worked closely with the Sierra Club Environmental Law Program on this case, providing valuable evidence and declarations. Each day, after the loggers left the Monument, Carla went out with her tape measure and camera to collect essential evidence which she then sent to Sierra Club lawyers. Sierra Club Environmental Law Program Director Pat Gallagher worked extensively with Carla on this case, stating how "Carla is one of the most dedicated Sierra Club volunteers I have ever encountered. Her tireless devotion to the Giant Sequoia has helped preserve huge tracts of the forest." With Carla's help, on August 22, 2006 the Sierra Club won two court orders which halted all logging ongoing within the Monument. Judge Charles Breyer vindicated the hard work of Carla and the Sierra Club Environmental Law Program, stating how "the Forest Service's interest in harvesting timber has trampled the applicable environmental laws" and that the "Monument Plan is decidedly incomprehensible."
However, despite the recent legal victories, the battle for the Sequoias will not truly be over until the protection of these trees rests in the capable hands of the National Park Service. Asked if and for how long she will continue this fight, Carla responds, "As long as I can. I have developed a sense of responsibility to this forest that has meant so much to me and family. It would be a betrayal if I walked away now; protecting this one place is my way of fighting the environmental destruction I see happening all over the world." Living the motto, "Think globally, act locally" Carla is an inspiration to us all.