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The Planet Newsletter
Who We Are

by Jenny Coyle

Sam Clauson - Rapid City, S.D. Chair, South Dakota Chapter

Sam Clauson figures that somewhere in the back of his brain is a little residual pool of DDT. He grew up on a farm in eastern South Dakota during the '50s when the chemical was used - often with wild abandon. "In the summer, when we'd go into the barn to milk the cows, we'd spray the flies with DDT until the barn was just full of this mist," Clauson says. "It was unbearably hot, so we thought the spray was great because it would cool us off."

If indeed the pool of DDT is there, it hasn't slowed him down. Clauson owns a debt-collection agency, an art gallery (which he started with some other Sierra Club members) and a solar company. At one time he also owned a print shop (which he sold to yet another Sierra Club member).

Clauson is chapter chair, but he's also been outings chair for years. He works hard these days to recruit new leaders. "Our executive committee members are all about 50 or older - and graying."

Clauson's a busy guy, but now and then he escapes with his wife in a camper-van to tour the country. They've been to Alaska, all of the Canadian provinces and in every state of the union - except Hawaii.

"We have a very full life," he says. "People like John Muir stayed active until late in their lives. I plan to do the same."


Dean Whitworth - Butler, Tenn. Organizer, End Commercial Logging Campaign

Dean Whitworth was a chemical engineer who longed to be an actor. He took the leap of faith in 1977 when his employer, an incinerator manufacturer, rejected his cleaner-burning systems as too expensive to build. Whitworth took a backstage job and acted whenever he could land a part. He finally got his first paid stage job in 1978, and by 1982 was making enough money to quit the backstage work.

Now he's got an agent, and he's been in some movies you might recognize. In "Sommersby," starring Richard Gere and Jodie Foster, he played a town resident with several lines. In "King Kong Lives" he was one of three hunters who blew up a mountain and buried the giant ape under rocks. "But then we started poking him and he stood up, ripped one guy in half, and ate the other one," says Whitworth. "Luckily, I was only crushed by the rocks that poured off him when he rose up."

The actor lives in a log cabin on woodland acreage that abuts a national forest. One day he came home to find all of the trees on public land marked to be logged. "It scared the liver out of me," he says. He stopped the sale by denying access across his private road, but the incident led him to the Sierra Club. Now his acting career is on hold while he works as a full-time organizer for the Club's campaign to End Commercial Logging on Public Lands. "I like the idea of having the prestige of the Sierra Club behind me as I work on an issue I care about," says Whitworth.


Kelbie Wall - Spanish Forks, Utah National outings leader

It all started when Toni Wall handed her 14-year-old daughter Kelbie a copy of Edward Abbey's "The Monkey Wrench Gang." On the book's title page was inscribed a piece of motherly hope: "May you grow up to have a strong voice in defense of wilderness."

Apparently, the book hit its mark. In high school, Kelbie sewed a Sierra Club patch on her daypack - a brave move for a student in "anti-environmental southern Utah," as Kelbie describes it. In junior college, as a member of an environmental studies group, she picked up trash around campus, planted trees with the Forest Service and adopted a stretch of highway.

Now, at age 19 she's one of the Club's youngest national outings leaders. This summer she'll guide seven adults - all of them older than she is - on a service trip into the Mystic Seven Devils area of Hells Canyon in Idaho where they'll build and maintain trails for a week. "On this trip I hope to bring a group of strangers together and form kind of a family out there," says Kelbie.

"I believe in volunteering like this because I want to do what I can while I'm here. I want my kids to find an Indian ruin that no one's ever seen before. I don't want them to experience everything behind glass."

Somewhere out there, Edward Abbey is smiling.

Know someone whose story is deserving? Contact us at The Planet, 85 Second St., Second Floor, San Francisco, CA 94105; planet@sierraclub.org.


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