By Sarah Wootton and Laura Fauth
Mike Keeler - Flint, Mich.
Co-Chair, Mackinac Chapter
One of the Mackinac (Michigan) Chapter's top volunteers is a factory worker. But he's no ordinary factory worker.
Mike Keeler, a lifelong resident of Flint, Mich., and 24-year employee of General Motors, used organizing skills he learned at Sierra Club workshops to win his run as an independent in a union election this spring. He now serves as recording secretary of United Auto Workers Local 599.
His passion for politics is equal to his love of nature. "I'm an urban organic gardener, cross country skier and a hiker," says Keeler. "Since 1982 I've been a vegetarian and my cars have had 4-cylinder engines. I'll be riding my bike to my new job at the Local!"
Keeler, who has a Bachelor of Science in Wildlife and Fisheries, says he is rejuvenated by time spent in nature. He has maintained trails in the Holly Recreation Area for more than a decade and helped create its trail map system.
Last year Keeler led a campaign to stop the Mayor of Flint from cutting the city's park trees for profit. This plan was one of many bad policies that led to the mayor's recall.
Keeler also helped organize a municipal curbside recycling program.
A Club member since 1992, Keeler has served on the Mackinac Chapter's executive committee since 1993. In January, he was elected chapter co-chair.
Anne Ambler - Silver Spring, Md.
Vice Chair, Membership and Events Chair,
Montgomery County Group
Sometimes a step in the right direction is only a click away.
For Anne Ambler, a photographer, seeing is believing. She takes photographs of the good and the bad, including some "before and after" photographs in Montgomery County towns, near where she lives, that have redeveloped their "walkable" centers.
In her "Alternatives to Sprawl" slide show she explains that building new roads is not the solution to her county's exploding growth and resulting sprawl.
"Montgomery County planners envisioned a series of walkable downtowns connected by transit and the 270 interstate. The transit has not happened," says Ambler. "I try to show what's possible."
Ambler also works on and helped organize the Montgomery County group's "Parks! Not Pavement" campaign to fight the proposed Inter-County Connector that would tear up and fragment five stream valley parks, the county's best contiguous upland forest, indwelling bird habitat and many acres of wetlands.
When not working on sprawl issues, Ambler is, appropriately, ambling. She and her husband have walked the entire Appalachian Trail in Maryland, and parts in Virginia, Pennsylvania and West Virginia and hiked in numerous national parks, from Yosemite to Glacier.
But most every day, Anne walks through the regional park near her home.
"I have the good fortune of living next to a regional park - it's why I moved to this house 30 years ago," says Ambler.
Sometimes a name just fits.
Anna Smith - Perkaksie, Penn.
Conservation Chair, Burk County Group
Anna Smith is not easily intimidated - or picky.
"Anything to do with the watershed, I'm interested," says Smith.
In 1997, she took on the Environmental Protection Agency to get an abandoned landfill listed as a Superfund site even though the case was closed more than a decade earlier.
Smith reopened the EPA's file and found that investigators had been in the wrong location when they collected the clean samples that closed the case in 1981. When the EPA tested area wells, investigators found high levels of arsenic and lead. The landfill was added to the EPA's National Priority List, making it a Superfund site, in September 2001.
"Everything affects the water," says Smith, who grew up in England and learned to conserve water during severe droughts.
She worries that continuous building will destroy the watershed permanently, exacerbating natural droughts. "New construction keeps going up, but the people in new mansions won't be able to use their five bathrooms when there's no more water."
When not working, Smith cares for her garden, where wild orchids and raspberries, frogs and dragonflies keep her company.
"When I'm worried about something, I like to go out into the garden," says Smith. "My mind can work on things subconsciously when I'm out there."
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