Sierra Club: The Planet--1996
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The Planet
Club Beat

Utah Wilderness Fever - It's Catching

From Salt Lake City to Nebraska, Utah wilderness proponents are getting the word out.

This fall in Salt Lake City, four natural-gas-powered city buses will provide a roving billboard exhorting Utah residents (and their congressional representatives) to help protect 5.7 million acres of Utah wilderness. "Hundreds of thousands of people will see our message," says conservation assistant Greg Underwood (at right being interviewed), "including (Republican Sen.) Bob Bennett - unless he drives blindfolded to his office every day."

Meanwhile, Sierra Club Southwest Regional Representative Lawson LeGate recently traveled from Utah across the nation's heartland in the company of his two children. One morning, they stopped at a cafe in the small town of Wymore in southeastern Nebraska, where LeGate's great-grandfather was raised.

"We were the first customers of the day," he says. "While we waited for our breakfast, the regular clientele began to trickle in. It appeared that none of them were under the age of 65. Some of the men wore overalls and billed caps and, in appearance, at least, conveyed the expected impression of stalwart retired farmers. We immediately became the object of their curiosity." Two gentlemen took it upon themselves to start up a conversation.

"Where ya from?" asked one.

"Utah," replied LeGate.

One of the interrogators, tapping into a recent memory, said, "It seems to me that southeastern Utah is where Orrin Hatch wants to develop all that land. I've never been there, but I've seen pictures, and it's very beautiful."

They continued the conversation and asked LeGate what he did for a living. "I considered a moment before I answered, wondering how my response would be received by these salt-of- the-earth farmers. Then I told them I work for the Sierra Club."

"Is that so?" said the farmer. "Well I back you on what you're trying to do. Too many people treat the resources of this country like they'll last forever. I worry about the future if we go on like this." "This simple declaration," says LeGate, "told me more than I expected to learn on my vacation: that our message is reaching far and wide and people are receptive to it."

Note: At press time, the Clinton administration was considering the possiblity of creating a 1.8 million-acre Canyon of the Escalante National Monument in southern Utah.

The Home Lobbying Network

by Joan Jones Holtz

The Sierra Club's 600,000-plus membership shows the strength of the environmental movement. However, most of our members neither attend meetings nor are otherwise active in the Club. This represents an untapped reservoir of support for . environmental projects. We at Sierra Club California created the Home Lobbying Network with our state members in mind; it provides an easy way to participate in meaningful activism.

The strategy is simple. Network organizers developed a participation form that is now included in California Chapter newsletters. When the completed form is returned, names are entered into a database and indexed according to congressional and state legislative districts.

During legislative alerts our lobbying staff has immediate access to all network participants of any targeted swing- vote legislator. When notified, they flood their elected official's office with messages; often, the targeted legislator can be persuaded to cast a pro-environmental vote.

We're enthusiastic about our success and believe that activating the network was instrumental in staving off efforts to weaken the California Environmental Quality Act, to destroy the California Endangered Species Act and to expose a well-disguised effort to undermine the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.

Besides the obvious advantage of empowering more of our members to participate, we believe that encouraging this type of involvement will help expand Sierra Club membership. Most people join the Sierra Club because they want to be connected to the environmental movement. They often drop out because they fail to make that connection. To join the Home Lobbying Network, or to start one of your own, contact Joan Jones Holtz at (818) 443-0706.

On the Right Track in Michigan

When President Clinton's train to the Democratic convention rolled into Michigan, the Sierra Club was at every train stop. In Wyandotte, one of our April doorhanger organizers shook his hand and left him with a "Protect Our Environment" button for his lapel. When Clinton rolled into Holly, Mike Keeler and a crew of sign-waving Sierra Club members were there to work the crowd. Their signs -"Sierra Club: 610,000 Strong" and "We Organize and We Vote" - caught Clinton's eye. "Good to see you, Sierra Club," said Clinton, "Thanks for all your help on Yellowstone."

When Clinton got to Kalamazoo the next day for his environmental speech on a picturesque bend in the Kalamazoo River (which also happens to be a Superfund site), Club volunteers and chapter staff were already there with signs reading:"I drink water - and I vote."

The week wrapped up with an editorial in the Detroit paper, which stated, "On environmental quality, it's clear that few Americans will tolerate going backwards," clearly reflecting an editorial meeting that Club Executive Director Carl Pope had with the paper during the previous week.

Learning About Lead

Lead poisoning is most often found in low-income communities. However, as the Sierra Club video "Kids at Risk" points out, no community in Los Angeles County is immune; childhood lead poisoning is a major problem throughout Southern California.

Conceived and carried out by Brent Scott, associate regional representative in the Calif./Nev./Hawaii field office, the 30-minute video is a Sierra Club environmental justice project funded by a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Angeles Chapter.

The Los Angeles County Health Department translated both the video and pamphlet into Spanish. Club volunteer and graphic artist, Louis Quirarte, designed the pamphlet. Six University of Southern California interns assisted with final production and California Assemblywoman Martha Escutia of Los Angeles helped narrate the video and secure free studio time.

"What we have here isn't a $24,000 project, but a $50,000 project when we consider the in-kind services the Club received," said Scott. "And from the word go, community response has been tremendous." The video and pamphlet will be distributed by the EPA.


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