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Sierra Magazine
Home Front

In 65 chapters and hundreds of local groups spanning 21 ecoregions and two nations, Sierra Club members are hard at work protecting our natural heritage.

By Jennifer Hattam

American Southeast:
Jeb Bush Cements Deal

Florida activists celebrated in June when the state quashed plans to build a cement plant near the scenic Ichetucknee River (see "Cement Nix-ers" in "Homefront," November/December 1999). But their victory was short-lived.

Five months later, state Department of Environmental Protection Secretary David Struhs and Republican Governor Jeb Bush reversed the decision, giving developer Joseph Anderson III a permit to build the cement kiln and lime-rock mine. No studies have been done to predict the facility's impact on the Ichetucknee, which runs for seven miles as pure spring water through dense hardwood forest. "The Ichetucknee is a symbol of the best nature offers us," says Virginia Seacrist of the Club's Suwannee/St. Johns Group, which is fighting the decision. "If we can't save it, we can't save anything in Florida."

To get involved, contact Seacrist at vseacrist@aol.com. Floridians should call Governor Bush at (850) 488-4441 or write to jeb@jeb.org, and tell him that they will remember his environmental turnaround at election time.

Across Canada:
Genetic Ghouls

On Halloween weekend, ears of genetically engineered corn and "Flavr Savr" tomatoes marched down the streets of 24 Canadian cities. A sly figure in a devil's mask held up a sign saying, "Mon-Satan says GE food is safe: Trust me," while Frankenstein led rousing choruses of eco-carols like "Monsanto's Chemical Restaurant." During these Frankenfood Days of Action-organized by the Sierra Youth Coalition (SYC), the Council of Canadians, and other health and environmental groups—activists paraded their costumes, songs, and slogans at supermarkets, corporate headquarters, and town squares to illustrate the potential dangers of genetically engineered foods, which now include everything from french fries to infant formula.

"Genetically engineered food is created to make profits for the company, not to help people or feed the hungry," says 25-year-old SYC activist Aaron Koleszar. No long-term tests have been done to assess the impact of such foods on human health. The European Union has already gone GE-free, but the U.S. and Canadian governments are resisting even labeling these products. To activists, that's far scarier than Halloween.

Mississippi Basin:
Literal Tree Huggers

Members of the Club's Iowa City Area Group are reaching around tree trunks with tape measures to help preserve and maintain their natural heritage. Volunteers on surveying trips are assigned a specific area and given a map on which to record the location, type, diameter, and other features of each tree they see. The information they and other groups gather about parks, residential streets, and other public areas will be used by the city forester to make decisions about managing and planting, as well as to create maps of scenic neighborhood walks. "People don't know a lot about trees anymore," says Kate Klaus of Heritage Trees, the group leading the effort. "But people who volunteered on the surveying trips say again and again that when they go on walks now, they're looking up."

Atlantic Coast:
Army Green

"In the 1930s, Shawme-Crowell State Forest was carved up to create the Massachusetts Military Reservation. Now 15,000 acres of the Army National Guard facility will become a natural resource again, thanks to intensive lobbying by the Sierra Club's Cape Cod Group and other activists. In October, Republican Governor Paul Cellucci took away control of Cape Cod's largest remaining tract of undeveloped land from the military and entrusted it to state environmental officials. The area's forests, grasslands, scrublands, and pine barrens will now be managed to protect the public water supply and habitat for wildlife such as whippoorwills, upland sandpipers, and eastern box turtles. Since any future military training must be compatible with environmental goals, it will likely be limited to soldiers marching through the woods.

The victory is particularly sweet for the Cape Cod Group, which was founded in part to work for the cleanup of the military reserve, a federal Superfund site that has polluted more than 66 billion gallons of groundwater with chlorinated solvents and aviation-fuel by-products. In January, the EPA ordered the National Guard to clean up its firing ranges, a move that could set a precedent for the 65 million acres nationwide that the military has polluted with unexploded ammunition.

Southwest Deserts:
Power Plant Cleans Up

For more than 25 years, the Mohave Generating Station in Laughlin, Nevada, fouled the air while other power plants cleaned up their acts. The notorious facility, built before most clean-air requirements were enacted, has been one of the largest single sources of air pollution in the West, pumping out more sulphur dioxide than 6 million cars. "Blasts of dark, lung-damaging soot would fall on the town,"says Sierra Club Southwest Director Rob Smith.

"The plant had no pollution controls for the sulphur dioxide that creates haze over Grand Canyon National Park, even though other southwestern power plants have installed scrubbers that remove up to 90 percent." Thanks to a lawsuit and persistent lobbying by the Sierra Club and other environmental groups, Southern California Edison and the plant's other owners agreed in September to install pollution-control equipment."It's a major environmental victory at a time when Congress is talking about rolling back the Clean Air Act," Smith says. "The settlement will turn one of the dirtiest power plants in the Southwest into one of the cleanest."

To spotlight Sierra Club activism in your area, contact Jennifer Hattam at Sierra, 85 Second St., 2nd Floor, San Francisco, CA 94105-3441; e-mail jennifer.hattam@sierraclub.org; fax (415) 977-5794.


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