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In This Section
How to Stop the Bush Administration? Start Talking.
Going Beyond Green
  Partnerships Program Builds Bridges
Victories to Savor
Is Your Relationship In Trouble?
The Energy Plan That Could Be
  (If only they’d allow some environmentalists to help write the rules.)
How to Protect National Forests When Your President Won’t
Family Planning Yields Results In Ecuador
2003 Year in Review Calendar
One-Minute Activist
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The Planet

For 111 years, the Sierra Club has worked to build effective coalitions to advance its conservation goals. But these ad hoc issue-based coalitions usually faded away when campaigns ended or individuals moved on to other challenges. Club leaders saw the growing need to build more permanent strategic partnerships, and in 2002 the Environmental Partnerships program was launched in a dedicated effort to broaden and diversify the base of active public support for environmental issues.

Volunteers and staff have enthusiastically embraced the objectives of the program, working with partners on current issues of common concern, but also investing the time and energy necessary for building long-term trusting relationships with diverse constituencies and communities. Program staff lend support to existing conservation efforts, as well as break new ground with constituencies like labor unions, religious groups, Latino organizations, and hunters and anglers.

" Everyone wants healthy communities with open space and clean air and water for their families," says Melanie Griffin, national director of the program. "It’s a matter of listening to people’s concerns and learning how to present positive solutions in terms that they can embrace. It isn’t always easy. We are used to being advocates and taking action at every turn. But building relationships means taking the time to listen and respect different approaches."

At the national level, the Partnerships program has sponsored joint TV ads on energy policy with the National Council of Churches, produced a video with famed football personality Pat Summerall on the natural alliance between the Sierra Club and sports enthusiasts, and helped organize workshops, trainings, and rallies with a number of labor unions.

Perhaps the broadest partnership effort undertaken in the past few years is the national education campaign aimed at exposing the Bush administration’s effort to pack America’s courts with extreme, ultra-right wing judges. Partnership staff and volunteers have been working with the Club’s Legal Program to educate members and the public about the importance of the courts and the serious risks posed by the lifetime appointments of judges who believe that environmental laws are unconstitutional. "You know you are representing mainstream America when you’re sitting at the table with the NAACP, AFL-CIO, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund," says Griffin. "This powerful partnership is about protecting our communities and our civil rights from a well-funded, orchestrated campaign to politicize America’s courts—it’s no wonder so many different constituencies are speaking out."


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