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Planet Main
In This Section
PDF January/February 2006
e-mail December 20, 2005
e-mail October 28, 2005


The Power of Many
How We Saved the Arctic Refuge (For Now)
Getting Somewhere on the Bridges to Nowhere
Cities Get Cool
Measuring Mercury
Fighting for the Valle Vidal
Building Trust
There's No Limit to Colorado's Power
Finding Common Ground
Trickle-Down Activism
‘Hey, I Can Do This’
I Can Smell for Miles and Miles
Building Environmental Community One Canyon at a Time
Paper to Pixels
Sierra Summit Soars
‘Why Live If You Don't Have Something to Struggle For?’
Expanding Excom
Club Charts Direction for Next Five Years
Big Easy to Beltway: ‘Where's the Beef?’
2005 Timeline
Faces of the Sierra Club


Hope Surfaces in Katrina's Wake
Snapshots from the Summit
Democracy Breaks Out
Rally for the Arctic
A Better Legacy
Thoroughbred Power Plant Blocked
John Swingle
Betsy Bennett
Larry Fahn
Is Your City a Cool City?
Endangered Species Act Endangered
Smithfield Shareholder Resolution
Owens Valley Victory
New Energy Bill Exploits Katrina
From the Editor: Wake of the Flood
Search for a Story
Back Issues

The Planet
Timeline 2005


January 15
Freshman Advisor
Wauwatosa, Wisconsin -- Colleen O’Conor, a high school freshman who volunteered with the Club’s 2004 voter education efforts in Wisconsin, is named to the  Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s reader advisory council, one of 10 chosen out of 150 applicants. PHOTO BY JOHN BYRNE BARRY.



January 26
Tyson Forced to Clean Up Its Act
Louisville, Kentucky -- The Sierra Club wins a legal victory in federal court when it files a consent decree settling its case against Tyson Foods. Tyson is now required to spend $500,000 to study and report on emissions from its chicken operations and mitigate ammonia emissions that have plagued rural residents for years.


February 3
Bienvenidos a La Isla del Encanta

San Juan, Puerto Rico --Local activists celebrate the birth of the Sierra Club’s 64th Chapter. With a population density greater than any of the 50 states, and one of the world’s highest road densities, tension between construction and conservation is high. The chapter’s top priority is to rein in unchecked development and protect remaining wildlands, such as the Northeast Ecological Corridor, which is threatened by two proposed mega-resorts. PHOTOS BY JENNIFER HATTAM.

February 3
Mercury Rules Rigged
Washington, D.C. -- An EPA Inspector General report says that EPA political appointees set “modest” mercury pollution limits (those in President Bush’s “Clear Skies” proposal), then told EPA scientists to work backwards to justify those limits. “Rather than basing its decision on good science, the administration stacked the deck to give its industry friends what they wanted,” says the Sierra Club’s Nat Mund.

February 7
Stopping Toxic Antifreeze
Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport -- Local Water Sentinels activists successfully pressure the airport to install more than $50 million in pollution controls and Kentucky issues a stronger discharge permit to stop runoff of airplane de-icing fluid into local streams. PHOTO BY JAMES BAKER.


March 12
Oil on Ice
St. Louis, San francisco and Elsewhere -- In the weeks preceding the Senate’s March Arctic vote, Club members host 1,700 house parties nationwide to screen “Oil on Ice,” a documentary about the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the Gwich’in Indians who rely on the caribou that calve there, and how America’s energy policy affects them.

March 23
Canada Chooses Clean Cars
Ottawa, canada -- The Canadian government and automobile manufacturers sign a historic agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles by more than 15 million tons by the end of 2010 using existing technologies like more efficient engines. With one third of the North American market opting for stricter emissions laws, “the automakers will find it financially impossible to make one clean set of cars for eight states and Canada and a dirty set for the rest,” according to the Sierra Club’s Dan Becker. “Eight plus one equals 50.”


April 2
Jane Goodall Speaks
Washington, D.C. -- Jane Goodall tells population activists how working to improve Tanzanian communities helps protect primates and habitat. PHOTO BY MICHAEL NEUGEBAUER. Note: The chimpanzee is a sanctuary chimpanzee. Jane Goodall does not handle wild chimpanzees.

April 20
Earth Day Everywhere
Nationwide -- In Concord, activists display 35,000 paper dolls to represent New Hampshire children with asthma. In  Washington, D.C., superhero Metro Woman passes out literature in support of a stronger local transit system. In New York’s Jamaica Bay, activists clean  up a marsh; in Boise, Idaho, they plant trees; in Providence, Rhode Island, they tour a landfill ; and in Tampa, they  launch a “Green Cities” campaign.

April 28
Back from the Brink
The Big Woods of Eastern Arkansas -- After the ivory-billed woodpecker, thought to be extinct in the United States, is sighted in Arkansas’ Cache River National Wildlife Refuge, New York Times science writer James Gorman writes: “The reason for the astonishing re-emergence of a mysterious bird is...habitat preservation, achieved by hard, tedious work, like lobbying, legislating and fund-raising.”


May 23
Renstrom Elected 51st President
San Francisco -- Lisa Renstrom of Charlotte, North Carolina, is elected the Sierra Club’s new president. She played a major role carrying out September’s Sierra Summit and wants to enlist friends and neighbors in the Club’s activities. The key, she says, is to “listen to what turns them on, find the seed of sameness, and build on that.” PHOTO BY JON ZILBER.


June 15
Wal-Mart Stopped in its Tracks

St. Petersburg, Florida -- The Florida Chapter's Suncoast Group, in partnership with labor and neighborhood groups, successfully beats back a proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter that would have been built in a St. Petersburg wetland. "What many of us thought would be a routine approval of a terrible, wetlands-destroying project turned into a clear victory after ten hours of testimony, questions, and rebuttals at the local Environmental Development Commission," says Florida Sierra Club organizer Darden Rice. One of the activists involved was Suncoast Group Conservation Chair Sara McDonald (right) whose testimony before the commission shaped the environmental debate.

June 21
Hanging Loose to Stop the Toll Road
Sacramento, California -- Thirty-five surfers from south Orange County present a surfboard signed by about a thousand activists to Governor Schwarzenegger in Sacramento. They are working as part of the Sierra Club’s Friends of the Foothills project and the Orange County Building Environmental Communities campaign to block a toll road through the headwaters of San Mateo Creek, near Trestles Beach, otherwise known as the “Yosemite of Surfing.” PHOTO BY CARL ZICHELLA.

June 30
CAFTA Passes
Washington, D.C. -- Workers like Sonia Diaz of El Salvador stand to lose with the passage of the Central American Free Trade Agreement, which could weaken labor rights and environmental laws. Diaz, however, is part of the only unionized maquila in her country and will not let CAFTA stop the pursuit of fair wages and trade and workers’ rights. “We’ve come too far and struggled too much to abandon it at this point.”


July 12
Exxpose Exxon Kicks Off
Nationwide -- In coalition with 12 national environmental and public interest groups, Sierra Club volunteers and staff rally across the country to educate Americans about Exxon’s policies and encourage them not to purchase Exxon gasoline or invest in Exxon stock. “It’s in our national interest to reduce dependence on oil and protect the environment,” says the Club’s Dave Hamilton. “Exxon is actively working against those goals.”


August 9
Thoroughbred Power Plant Blocked
Central City, Kentucky -- Kentucky Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet hearing officer Janet Thompson agrees with nearly all of the Sierra Club Cumberland Chapter's charges against Peabody Energy, the world's largest coal company. The Club and its allies challenged Peabody’s state air-quality permit on the grounds that the company had been ignoring Clean Air Act technology requirements. Thompson says that Peabody, in cooperation with the state Division of Air Quality, acted in an “arbitrary and capricious” manner. If the decision is upheld, the company will have to improve its technology. The chapter’s victory will likely have an effect on the regulation of power plants throughout the Midwest.

August 15
E-Mail Planet Debuts
San Francisco -- The first e-mail version of the Planet goes to the inboxes of the several hundred trailblazers who have signed up to get the Planet online.

You can sign up to receive the Planet e-mail instead of or in addition to the print version. Find out more at

August 26
Appeal to Shareholders
Richmond, Virginia -- The Sierra Club’s Shareholder Action Task Force gains the support of nearly 1 in 4 investors in hog giant Smithfield Foods, Inc., in calling for a closer look at the environmental impacts of the company’s contract farms. Glen Besa presents the Sierra Club resolution at Smithfield’s annual shareholder meeting in Richmond.

August 28
Katrina Hits
Mississippi and Louisiana Gulf Coast -- Hurricane Katrina slams into the Gulf Coast, destroying much of coastal Mississippi and breaching the New Orleans levees. More than 1,000 people die, hundreds of thousands lose their homes or are displaced, and the damage is estimated to be the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history. The inept disaster response throws into high relief substandard levee construction and maintenance, coastal wetlands loss, environmental justice issues, and the increased threat of killer hurricanes due to higher ocean surface temperatures caused by global warming. For more, go to PHOTO BY DARRYL MALEK-WILEY.


September 8
Sierra Summit Kicks Off

San Francisco -- Several thousand Sierra Club members and supporters gather in Moscone Center for three days of speakers, workshops, an exhibition floor, and a direction-setting process to give grassroots leaders a voice in charting the Club’s future. PHOTO BY T.E. LESLE.

September 21
Legacy Victory in Utah
Salt Lake City --In a resounding victory concluding an 8-year fight for the Utah Chapter, the proposed Legacy Highway—a $700 million, 300-foot-wide expressway and trucking corridor connecting Salt Lake City with its near-northern suburbs—is scrapped in favor of the Legacy Parkway and Preserve, a two-lane truck-free road with lower speed limits and quiet, rubberized pavement. Wetlands along the lakeshore that were slated for large-scale development will be saved through the purchase of 125 acres west of the parkway.

September 22
Metro Riders Win in D.C.
Washington, D.C. -- After a year-long campaign to improve the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s accountability to the public, local Sierra Club members, including Dennis Jaffe and Melanie Maycock, score a victory when Metro establishes a Riders Advisory Council (RAC). The RAC will advise the agency on how to improve service and make the system more environmentally-friendly. Almost 1,000 people applied for the 21-member volunteer panel.

September 29
An Endangered ESA
Washington, D.C -- The House votes in favor of legislation by Congressman Richard Pombo (R-Calif.) that guts the Endangered Species Act by eliminating habitat protections for fish and wildlife facing extinction, creates an exemption for pesticide approval, and establishes a new entitlement program for developers and polluters. According to the Congressional Budget Office, implementation of the bill will cost taxpayers $2.7 billion over the next five years. It may also bankrupt existing conservation programs that aid landowners and rural businesses.


October 11
Hell, No, We Won’t Glow
Memphis -- In an environmental justice victory for the Chickasaw Group and its allies, the city council votes 12 to 1 to conditionally grant Radiological Assistance, Consulting, and Engineering (RACE) modified special-use permits. This effectively stops RACE’s plans to build a radioactive waste incinerator nearby and forces RACE to buy three  homes and move a daycare center and teen after-school program that are near a waste storage site. The success is largely due to activists creating a groundswell of community opposition throughout the area and keeping the story in the media for almost 10 months.

October 27
Stopping El Paso’s Worst Citizen
El Paso -- A Texas state judge rules that the American Smelting and Refinery Company (ASARCO) should no longer have a permit to pollute.  ASARCO has emitted hundreds of tons of lead and arsenic on nearby homes, schools, and businesses since 1987. The Sierra Club led the charge to close the smelter and hold ASARCO accountable. Local families join the Club in applauding this ruling, an important step toward protecting the health of border communities.


November 7
BeltLine Benchmark
Atlanta -- The city council OKs funding for the BeltLine, a proposed 22-mile transit, bike path, and linear park system encircling the city’s inner core. Dozens of Sierra Club chapter volunteers and staff have been pushing for the BeltLine. Next hurdles: the school board and county commission. The idea of transforming existing railroad tracks into a BeltLine around the city grew from a 1999 graduate thesis by Georgia Tech student Ryan Gravel, right, helping out on an Earth Day cleanup in Atlanta, who founded the Friends of the BeltLine.

November 14
Saving the Sequoias
San Francisco -- A federal district court judge grants the Sierra Club’s legal motion to stop implementation of the Ice Timber Sale in Giant Sequoia National Monument. In September, the Club won a legal injunction stopping a similar project. Both actions were part of the Club’s January challenge to the Forest Service’s Giant Sequoia National Monument Management Plan, which allows logging of large trees in the monument. The Club has been working to protect giant sequoia ecosystems in their entirety since 1901, when John Muir lobbied for the expansion of Sequoia National Park.

November 16
The High Cost of Low Prices
Nationwide -- At the Safari Cup Cafe in Birmingham, Alabama, the Sierra Club and NOW host a standing room only showings of “Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Prices.” In Charlotte, a whistle blower featured in the film answers questions after the screening. More than 900 come to a showing in Madison. All told, there are 7,000 screenings in living rooms, union halls, churches, and more during the Wal-Mart Watch’s “Higher Expectations Week.”

November 30
Building Better

Washington, D.C. -- The Sierra Club’s Challenge to Sprawl Campaign unveils its Building Better report, showcasing good development around the country, and sparking a Wall Street Journal article speculating the Club would gain allies in local communities and Congress. In Grist, David Roberts writes that “the environmental movement needs to offer solutions rather than just problems, to be for something rather than against everything. Perhaps because it’s more of a ground-up organization, the Sierra Club has been making some nice, high-profile moves in this direction. I hope all greens will welcome it.” See the report at


December 2
Winter Warmth
OMAHA -- In an under-construction house, the Sierra Club, Habitat for Humanity, and the Omaha Public Power District host a home heating event, “Insulating Your Wallet,” to demonstrate ways homeowners can make their homes more energy-efficient while promoting cleaner indoor air. “This is the first of 30 homes that Habitat and the Omaha Public Power District are collaborating on, and we are pretty fortunate to be able to partner with them,” says Club organizer Cammy Watkins. Similar Club-sponsored events are ongoing in 14 states. For more, see

December 2
‘The United States Is Opposed’
MONTREAL -- Hockey is practically the national religion in Canada, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that among the many groups gathered in Montreal for an international global warming meeting is a “Save Hockey” contingent concerned that the change in the world’s climate may ruin winter sports. The Sierra Club is on hand to laud the almost 200 U.S. mayors who have signed on to a climate protection agreement in 2005. (See “Cities Get Cool,” page 2.) Club President Lisa Renstrom says at a press conference that she’s “ashamed of the Bush administration’s decision to sit on the sidelines.” Harlan Watson, the Bush administration’s man in Montreal, is succinct in his response to negotiating about international targets for greenhouse emissions: “The United States is opposed.”


Telling Our Story: ‘Sierra Club Chronicles’ Debuts January 12
When two powerful politicians paved the way for the drilling of oil and gas in the Gulf Islands National Seashore off the Mississippi coast, they didn’t expect opposition from a coalition of unlikely environmentalists who prefer a lasting tourist trade and pristine beach to temporary gain. This David vs. Goliath tale is just one of the seven stories told in “Sierra Club Chronicles,” a new monthly television series produced by award-winning filmmaker Robert Greenwald (“Wal-Mart: The High Price of Low Cost,”) in association with Sierra Club Productions. PHOTO FROM SIERRA CLUB CHRONICLES.

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