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Sierra Club Insider March 1, 2005

La Isla del Encanto and Leatherbacks

Puerto RicoThe Island of Enchantment -- that's Puerto Rico, which now boasts the newest Sierra Club chapter. The Club's board of directors approved the chapter at its February meeting in San Juan.

And leatherbacks are the largest living turtles -- an endangered species that nests along the Northeast Ecological Corridor, a stretch of pristine Puerto Rican coastline. Unfortunately, the Marriott and Four Seasons hotel chains want to develop this coastal forest jewel for resorts.

Patricia BurkeProtecting the Northeast Ecological Corridor as a Commonwealth of Puerto Rico nature reserve is the new chapter's first priority, says Patricia Burke, left, who was elected the chapter's first chair. Puerto Rico has good laws protecting the environment, she says, but no compliance or enforcement. "That's where we come in," says Burke. You can help welcome the new chapter to the Sierra Club by taking action to protect the Northeast Ecological Corridor from the net of development.

One Cool Freeze

Antifreeze in your car: good. Antifreeze in the babbling brook next door: not good.

Gunpowder CreekFor years, de-icing fluid runoff from the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport poisoned long stretches of Gunpowder Creek. The pollution got so bad that snow along the creek banks turned black, and the creek itself wouldn't freeze in winter.

To the rescue: The Sierra Club's Water Sentinels Program, which over the course of a three-year campaign has successfully pressured the airport to agree to install more than $50 million in pollution controls and has convinced the state of Kentucky to issue a new, stronger discharge permit. The photo above, taken this past January, is Gunpowder Creek -- visible testimony that the pollution controls are working.

Chipping Away at Tasmanian Old-Growth

Gunns, a huge Australian woodchip company that sells most of its chips to Japan, is suing 20 organizations and individuals for $6.3 million in damages. Why? They have opposed the company's logging of old-growth forests in Tasmania.

Both major Australian political parties made election pledges in 2004 to protect more of Tasmania's threatened old-growth from the woodchip industry, and recent public opinion polls show that 80 percent of Australians want full protection for Tasmania's old-growth forests, which contain some of the tallest hardwood trees in the world and are home to many endangered species.

"Having lost the public debate in Australia," says the Sierra Club's Stephen Mills, "Gunns is now using its wealth and power to intimidate its critics through the courts."

The Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth International, Greenpeace International, and the Rainforest Action Network call on Gunns major shareholders and its Japanese customers to condemn the lawsuit and support the democratic right of individuals and communities to "peacefully oppose environmentally and socially destructive activity."

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  Inside the Outdoors

Nature can transform lives. Just ask Juan Martinez, the recent recipient of the Sierra Club Hilda L. Solis Environmental Youth Leadership Award. (That's him with Congresswoman Solis below at the February 12 awards presentation.)

Born in Mexico, and raised in South Los Angeles, Martinez faced peer pressure to join gangs and use drugs but, when he was 15, an outdoor science school in the Grand Tetons changed his life. "I saw that the world was not just concrete, streetlights or smog-infested cities."

He became the first member of his family to graduate from high school, he completed an 80-day Outward Bound course, and he founded the Youth Advisory Council, which uses the environment to mentor at-risk youth.

The Solis award is part of the Club's Inside the Outdoors program.

Solis and Juan  
  Make Your Own Movie

Got something to say, but unlike that McDonald's guy, you didn't get it together to write and direct a movie in time for this year's Oscars? Don't worry: There's plenty of time for next year. Check out the Sierra Club's MovieMaker software and see how easy it is to make your own animated environmental film. (The category you're aiming for is short documentary. Very short.)

Send us your best effort (, and we may feature it in a future Insider.

Movie Maker  
  CAFTA Undermines Environmental Standards

The Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), which extends the NAFTA model to Central America, was signed last May by the negotiating countries (El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua) and is now awaiting approval by the U.S. Congress.

"CAFTA includes the investor provisions from NAFTA," says Margrete Strand, the Sierra Club's trade specialist, "which grant a foreign corporation the right to sue a country over environmental and public health rules that it feels stand in its way to profit."

The Bush administration could have brought CAFTA up as soon as it was signed in May, but it didn't have necessary votes. Approximately 50 Republican members of Congress oppose CAFTA because of its potential impact on the textile and sugar industries. In states where sugar beets are big business, such as Minnesota, agribusiness (not a usual Club ally) is pressuring Republican Congressmembers to oppose the agreement. But countering that will be heavy arm-twisting from the Bush administration, which could sway some votes. (Trade votes tend to be bought, says Strand, not won.)

Let your member of Congress know where you stand.


Puerto Rico (Samarys Seguinot/Carmen Guerrero/Sierra Club) | Gunpowder Creek (Tim Guilfoile) | Martinez and Solis (Davis Barber) | dFilm (dFilm) | Central American rainforest (




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