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Sierra Club Conservation Policies

Nuclear Weapons

Because the use of nuclear weapons in modern warfare would result in unprecedented destruction to the global environment on which human and all life depends for survival, the Sierra Club expresses grave concern over the lack of progress in completing nuclear arms reduction agreements and urges all nations by bilateral and multilateral agreements to halt any further development, testing, and further deployment of nuclear weapons. We urge all nations to develop a long-term program to reduce nuclear weapons stockpiles. We hope that progress on these issues can be made at the 1982 U.N. Disarmament Conference.

Adopted by the Board of Directors, November 21-22, 1981

  1. The Sierra Club supports a general bilateral nuclear freeze.
  2. The Sierra Club is opposed to programs that appropriate or expend public funds for any further testing, production or deployment of destabilizing nuclear weapons systems.

Adopted by the Board of Directors, January 28-29, 1983

No-First-Use of Nuclear Weapons

Owing to devastating environmental effects of nuclear weapons, the Sierra Club urges the United States to adopt and announce a policy of no-first-use of nuclear weapons and to base its military plans, training programs, defense budgets, weapons deployments, and arms negotiations on the assumption that it will not use nuclear weapons first.

Adopted by the Board of Directors, November 14-15, 1987

Minimum Deterrence Policy

Because of the massive overkill capability of existing nuclear arsenals, the danger of nuclear war from accident or miscalculation, the risk of proliferation, and the environmental hazards of nuclear weapons production, the United States, with the Soviet Union and all other states, should no longer test any nuclear weapons. Furthermore, over a period of the next ten years, no new nuclear weapons should be produced or deployed. Negotiations should be initiated among the nuclear powers to achieve a minimum level of arsenals essential for mutual deterrence as a first step toward the ultimate goal of non-nuclear security systems.

Adopted by the Board of Directors, March 16-17, 1991

Nuclear Testing

The Sierra Club supports an international ban on all nuclear testing of bombs, including explosions underground.

Adopted by the Board of Directors, January 27, 1972


The Sierra Club reaffirms its support for the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and urges all nations to sign and adhere to it. Stricter enforcement of it and attendant international inspection is needed to prevent diversion of nuclear materials for weapons purposes. Realization of its aim will be enhanced by the negotiation of a verifiable, comprehensive test ban treaty that would impede the development of nuclear weapons by more countries.

The Club urges the United States and the Soviet Union to take the lead in negotiating such a treaty and including other nations to accede to it. Once in force, these two countries should conscientiously carry out their obligations under it, and in addition, they would provide an example of nuclear arms control by substantially reducing their stockpiles of nuclear weapons.

They should also use their influence with nations that have not signed the non-proliferation treaty to induce them to abstain from developing and stockpiling nuclear weapons, employing both positive and negative incentives. They should withhold exporting weapons-grade materials themselves to any nation and should impose restrictions which are as tight as feasible on exports of materials that could be used for nuclear weapons.

Moreover, the U.S. and the Soviet Union should apply pressure on other nations, which may be supplying such materials, to stop exports to countries which they cannot influence directly, and to impose much stricter controls on the export and use of technology that could be used for nuclear weapons. The Sierra Club encourages its environmentally minded colleagues in other nations to press for these reforms in their countries.

Adopted by the Board of Directors, September 14, 1985

Moratorium on Production of Weapons-Grade Fissile Materials

Recognizing the dangers of nuclear proliferation and the immediate threats to public health and environmental safety from the continuous production of fissile materials, the Sierra Club urges the United States government to negotiate a global, verifiable moratorium on the production of plutonium and highly enriched uranium.

Adopted by the Board of Directors, May 7, 1988

Project Chariot

The Sierra Club commends and supports the Governor of Alaska for his stand in opposition to Project Chariot -- the controversial proposal for a nuclear test excavation in the region of Cape Thompson, Alaska -- pending a more complete study of the total effects, including damage to native people, wilderness and wildlife.

Adopted by the Board of Directors, May 6, 1961

Amchitka Testing

The Sierra Club opposes further use of Amchitka Island for nuclear testing.

Adopted by the Board of Directors, September 15, 1969

Deployment of Weapons in Space

Because of the grave threat to Earth's environment from space-based weapons and because the Sierra Club believes that outer space should be preserved for peaceful cooperation, exploration, and scientific discovery, the Sierra Club opposes any development, testing, or deployment of space- based weaponry. Consequently, the Sierra Club:

  1. Opposes the unilateral pursuit of space-based weapons systems beyond basic research to keep current on what is and what is not feasible;
  2. Calls upon Congress to limit appropriations for the Strategic Defense Initiative accordingly;
  3. Opposes any abrogation of relevant arms control agreements;
  4. Calls upon the Soviet Union, the United States, and all other nations to expand the 1967 Outer Space Treaty and negotiate a mutually verifiable, multilateral ban on the production, testing, and deployment of weapons in space.

The Sierra Club's position is based on the following considerations:

  1. The risk of nuclear war and nuclear winter with their potential for initiating mass extinction of life on Earth would be increased by the possible pre-emptive (first-strike) use of space-based weapons and by the likelihood that pursuing them would remove all current restraints to the arms race, such as the ABM Treaty of 1972, the SALT II limits, the Partial Test Ban Treaty of 1963, the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, and the Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1968.
  2. Radioactive and/or other debris from space based weapons testing and orbiting nuclear reactors used for weapons application may contaminate the extra-atmospheric space environment and damage life on Earth.
  3. Pursuing the Strategic Defense Initiative would drain financial resources and scientific talent badly needed for the solution of pressing environmental problems and other socially beneficial programs.

Adopted by the Board of Directors, January 15, 1986

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