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Sierra Magazine
Sierra Club Bulletin: News for Members

A Hike Through History

January 1, 2000, marks two milestones for the Sierra Club. While everyone's observing their first changing of the millennium, the Club--which was founded in 1892--is entering its second new century. That makes it an opportune moment to take stock of what we've accomplished (or, sometimes, failed to accomplish) in 108 years on Earth.

1892-1899 With membership on its way to virtually doubling to 350 by 1897, the Club--making the most of our magazine, the Sierra Club Bulletin, and the prestige of our founders, including John Muir--works to establish additional "national forest parks." In response, Congress creates Mount Rainier National Park in 1899.

1900-1909 Muir and President Theodore Roosevelt spend three days together in Yosemite in 1901, camping one night in a snowstorm. At the Club's urging, the California legislature cedes Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Big Tree Grove--both managed by the state since 1864--to allow expansion of Yosemite National Park in 1905.

1910-1919 The decade begins with President William Howard Taft signing a bill to create Glacier National Park--the country's tenth--in Montana, thereby outlawing the mining and homesteading allowed under its previous status as a forest reserve. In 1913, Congress approves the damming and flooding of California's Hetch Hetchy Valley, a loss that galvanized the nascent conservation movement. Muir, who had called the valley "one of nature's rarest and most precious mountain mansions," dies the following year.

1920-1929 After successfully opposing a series of dams to be built in Yellowstone National Park, the Club in 1923 assists the fledgling National Park Service in adding Redwood Meadow to California's Sequoia National Park. Congress expands Sequoia further in 1926, and--with help from the Club to acquire a private inholding--again in 1928.

1930-1939 The Club throws its weight behind the effort to convert Kings Canyon, managed by the U.S. Forest Service, to a national park. Ansel Adams' photographs of the Kings Canyon high country are published by the Club as his first book, and a young David Brower shoots the Club's first movie while exploring the canyon. The campaign is bolstered by a grassroots lobbying effort by the Club's nearly 3,000 members.

1940-1949 Congress establishes Kings Canyon National Park in 1940. Eight years later, the Club blocks the construction of hydroelectric dams in the newly protected canyon.

1950-1959 The Club wages a major battle to prevent a pair of dams from being built in Dinosaur National Monument, on the Utah/Colorado border. In 1956, the federal government drops the proposal, but only after the Club drops its opposition to Glen Canyon Dam, flooding what Brower--by then the Club's first executive director--would later call, regretfully, "the place no one knew."

1960-1969 When the U.S. government tries to create a series of reservoirs within the Grand Canyon, the Club launches a campaign to keep it dam-free, including the famous newspaper ad that asked, "Should we also flood the Sistine Chapel so tourists can get nearer the ceiling?" Soon after, the IRS rules that donations to the Club are no longer tax-deductible. Despite the move, membership soars from 39,000 to 78,000. Responding to conservationists' vigorous lobbying, Congress passes the Wilderness Act and establishes Redwood National Park.

1970-1979 Congress creates the Environmental Protection Agency and passes the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act, and other landmark laws supported by the Club and its allies. Club lobbying also helps win creation of Big Thicket Preserve in Texas and Big Cypress Preserve in Florida, and expansion of Grand Canyon National Park.

1980-1989 The Club helps pass the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, which designates 104 million acres as parks, wildlife refuges, and wilderness areas. Our activists gather over a million signatures on petitions calling for the ouster of Ronald Reagan's anti-environment Interior secretary, James Watt. The Club launches campaigns to protect Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the California desert. Membership hits the 400,000 mark.

1990-1999 Our nationwide campaigns help win passage of the Colorado Wilderness and California Desert Protection acts, and defeat efforts to open the Arctic Refuge to oil drilling. Club activists gather 1.2 million signatures on the Environmental Bill of Rights, turning back Republican congressional leaders' War on the Environment. In 1996, our efforts lead to the creation of the 1.6-million-acre Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in southern Utah.

2000-2010 To be determined by Sierra Club members, now more than 550,000 strong. Watch this space . . .


Honoring Our Eco-Heroes

At its 1999 national awards ceremony in September, the Sierra Club lauded young volunteers and seasoned conservationists, cyber-activists and outings leaders. The top honor bestowed at the San Francisco event, the John Muir Award, went to Judy Anderson, whose cartography and leadership skills helped make the California Desert Protection Act of 1994 a reality.

Former Arkansas Governor Dale Bumpers won the Edgar Wayburn Award for public officials, while reporter Tom Kenworthy of The Washington Post's Denver office received the David R. Brower Award for environmental journalism.

Richard Hellard of the Alaska Chapter, Laurie MacDonald of the Florida Chapter, Jono Miller of Florida's Manatee-Sarasota Group, and Lucille Vinyard of California's North Group were each honored with a Special Service Award. The next generation of activists was represented by Sierra Student Coalition member Elizabeth Hagan, a Harvard University sophomore who won the Joseph Barbosa Earth Fund Award for Club leaders under age 30.

While Josh Weisman, Will Easton, and Jeffrey Solari of San Francisco garnered the Electronic Communication Award for the Club's anti-sprawl Web site (www.sierraclub.org/sprawl), Herbert Carlton was honored with the Oliver Kehrlein Award for his work in the Cypress Group's outings program. Mary Evanson received the One Club Award for combining recreation and conservation in Maui Group outings. The Toiyabe Chapter, Georgia Chapter, and Fox Valley (Wisconsin) Group took Newsletter Awards for their publications Toiyabe Trails, Georgia Sierran, and It's Our Nature.

Former Club director Helen Burke received the Walter A. Starr Award for her San Francisco Bay Chapter work; the Mexican Federation of Private Health and Community Development Associations received the Earthcare Award for international environmental protection; Dick Simpson of California's Black Mountain Group won the Special Achievement Award for work on the Bradley Hut; and Denver lawyer and former Club secretary Tony Ruckel received the William O. Douglas Award for environmental law.
—Jennifer Hattam


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