The Sierra Club and the natural environment lost a dear friend and staunch ally in March when Peggy Wayburn passed away at the age of 84.
A native New Yorker, Wayburns half-century love affair with the outdoors began in the mid-1940s with a hike on Mt. Tamalpais, just north of San Francisco. It was her first date with her future husband, Ed Wayburn, who later served twice as president of the Sierra Club.
After participating on a Club High Trip in 1948, she wrote, "The love of the wilderness had entered into me . . . I was, and forever would be, one of John Muirs disciples."
The San Francisco couple took their first of what became annual visits to Alaska in 1967, and they spent the next decade working to save its wildlands from logging and oil development. Important as this initial trip proved, it began almost casually. "It was the flip of a coin, really," she recalled two decades later. "Our choosing Alaska made all the difference in our lives." A book that she coauthored, Alaska: The Great Land, was instrumental in the campaign. The Wayburns efforts helped pass the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980, which preserved over 100 million acres of wilderness, national parks, and national wildlife refuges.
Closer to home, the Wayburns were key players in establishing Point Reyes National Seashore in 1962, Redwood National Park in 1968, and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in 1972. Peggy Wayburn made many of her contributions through her writing, penning numerous articles in the Sierra Club Bulletin and three more books for the Sierra Club: Edge of Life, about Bolinas Lagoon in Marin County, and the authoritative guides Adventuring in Alaska and Adventuring in the San Francisco Bay Area, both aimed at travelers more interested in wild nature than tame sightseeing.
Wayburn organized national conferences in support of the Wilderness Act; cofounded People for Open Space (now Greenbelt Alliance), a Bay Area land-preservation group; and directed the Point Reyes Seashore Foundation. Her efforts were recognized with the Sierra Clubs Special Achievement Award and the California Conservation Council Award, among other accolades. In 2001, the Wilderness Society presented both Wayburns with the Robert Marshall Award, the groups highest honor for lifetime service.
As part of her longtime association with the Sierra Club, Peggy Wayburn served as an honorary vice president, a trustee of the Sierra Club Foundation, and a member of the National Advisory Council. She is survived by her husband, four children, and three grandchildren.
In April, Sierra Club members reelected one incumbent and chose four new representatives to the 15-member board of directors. The winners of the election are:
Ben Zuckerman, a physics and astronomy professor at the University of California, Los Angeles (36,383 votes)
Jim Catlin, a project director with the Wild Utah Project in Salt Lake City (33,788 votes)
Encumbent Larry Fahn, executive director of the As You Sow Foundation, a San Franciscobased nonprofit working on corporate accountability (32,135 votes)
Chuck McGrady, an attorney and youth-camp owner in Tuxedo, North Carolina, and a former Sierra Club president (30,532 votes)
Marcia Hanscom, a wetlands-protection activist from Las Flores Canyon, California (30,141 votes)
Ten percent of Club members participated in this years election; of the 73,842 votes cast, 16 percent were submitted online. To recommend a nominee for next years election, contact Debbie Heaton at email@example.com.
Not many Sierra Club members get their letters read on the Senate floor. And not many Club activists are also car dealers.
But Chuck Frank is. The owner of "Z" Frank Chevrolet in Chicago and a Sierra Club member since 1976, Frank has bucked the automotive establishment to support increased fuel-economy standards. Earlier this year, he sent a letter to every U.S. senator, asking them to pass a bill that would require car companies to make their vehiclesincluding sport-utility vehicles and light trucksget at least 35 miles to the gallon across the board by 2013.
"It pains me to be at odds with the manufacturer I represent. For 65 years, my family has been selling cars and trucksalmost 50 of those years, Chevrolets," Frank wrote in his letter, which Senator Dick Durbin
(D-Ill.) read at a March 12 hearing on the Kerry-Hollings-McCain energy bill. "I want to support my manufacturerbut first, they must give me the vehicles to sell that are in the best interests of our citizens and our country."
Unfortunately, the Senate didnt heed Franks eloquent call. By a vote of 62 to 38, the legislators rejected the bipartisan bill, which would have raised corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards for cars and light trucks 30 percent. Offered by Senators John Kerry (D-Mass.), Fritz Hollings (D-S.C.), and John McCain (R-Ariz.), the proposed amendment could have saved a million barrels of oil per day by 2015.
Frank hasnt given up the fight. He has extended his evangelism to fellow car dealers, slowly working to build a larger lobby for fuel-efficient vehicles. "Most dealers have bought the manufacturers line that raising fuel-economy standards would be very detrimental to our business," Frank says. "But everything Ive learned tells me that doing things that are good for the ecology are good for the economy overall." J.H.
"Vice President Dick Cheney: Good morning, gentlemen.
Unidentified Group: [In unison] Good morning, Mr. Vice President.
Cheney: Welcome to the first meeting of the White House energy task force. . . . Lets see whos here. Lee Raymond, ExxonMobil.
Raymond: Yep, right here.
Cheney: Dave OReilly, ChevronTexaco.
OReilly: Yes, sir.
Cheney: Ken Lay, Enron.
Cheney: Dave Lesar, Halliburton.
Lesar: Here, sir.
Cheney: Peter Sutherland, British Petroleum.
Sutherland: Oh, yes, present and accounted for.
Cheney: And Carl Pope, the Sierra Club. [silence] Carl Pope, the Sierra Club? Oh, gee, Carls invitation must have gotten lost in the mail.
From a National Public Radio satire, "Secret Energy Task Force Meeting," February 28, 2002
To join the Sierra Club activist network, write to the Office of Volunteer and Activist Services, 85 Second St., San Francisco, CA 94105-3441; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Members receive a free subscription to the Planet monthly newsletter and Sierra Club Currents, a twice-weekly e-mail update.
California Condors Versus Oil Vultures
Pick a scenic, wild American landscape these days, and its a fair bet youre looking at one of the Bush administrations proposed sites for oil and gas drilling. In Californias rugged Los Padres National Forest, for example, the U.S. Forest Service is offering exploration leases on some 140,000 acres, over 100,000 of which are in roadless areas. Twenty threatened or endangered species make their home there, including the peregrine falcon and San Joaquin kit fox. According to the Forest Service, the species most at risk from oil drilling are the blunt-nosed leopard lizard and the California condor. In fact, two of the three lone California condor eggs laid in the wild since 1984 were found in the Fox Mountain roadless area of Los Padres, which is now being considered for drilling.
"This is right in Santa Barbaras backyard, where theres already drilling offshore and elsewhere," says Barbara Boyle, Sierra Club senior regional representative. But Los Padres 84 million barrels will carry the United States to energy sufficiency, right? Nope. The potential oil reserves within the forest add up to only a five- to ten-day supply for the nation.
Colorado Hold the Mustard
When it comes to the environment, whats more persistent2,600 tons of mustard gas, or a Sierra Club activist? In April the Pentagon chose a novel water-based technology instead of incineration to neutralize its 50-year-old stockpile of deadly mustard gas stored at Colorados Pueblo Chemical Depot. A catalyst for the choice was Pueblo resident and Rocky Mountain Chapter activist Ross Vincent, who first challenged the Pentagons plans to incinerate more than a decade ago. By the time the Army made its final decision this year, Vincents supporters included labor unions, community groups, the local Catholic diocese, county commissioners, the Colorado senate, Governor Bill Owens, and U.S. Senator Wayne Allard (R).
Instead of burning the mustard agent and explosives now stored in artillery and mortar shells at the depot (which to the environment is equivalent to exploding them on the battlefield) the new process will mix the components with warm water to deactivate them. Bacteria similar to those used at sewage plants will then be introduced to break down the chemicals. Whats been dubbed "the bug method," Vincent says, "represents the beginning of the end of incineration, which is long overdue. Its simpler and safer, and the waste products dont get distributed all over the place after coming out of a stack."
So what does a victorious activist do now? Thats easy: Hell be addressing the next threats to Pueblo residents. Vincents group, now incorporated as Better Pueblo, is fighting a limestone strip mine and cement kiln proposed for a site just south of the city.
A Tree Victory or Three
If you think that environmental activism is one long slog, heres a trio of recent forest victories to inspire you. This spring, the Oregon Chapter and five other environmental groups successfully delayed a proposed timber sale in Deschutes National Forest (above) that would have removed about 17 million board feet of timber from nearly 8,000 acres. The chapter scored another hit in April when the U.S. Forest Service agreed to cancel the Eagle Creek timber sale on Mt. Hood National Forest, in an area that provides both recreation and water supplies to urban Oregonians. (Now the acreage can be considered for wilderness designation.) And, thanks to Grand Canyon Chapter activists in Arizona, Kaibab National Forest managers have withdrawn a proposed timber sale that would have logged nearly 1,600 truckloads of trees from one of the most extensive tracts of old-growth ponderosa pine remaining in the Southwestall within three miles of Grand Canyon National Park.
Texas City Limits
When youre battling a sprawl problem as big as the state of Texas, you need a media campaign to match. Thats why the Lone Star Chapter launched its Wide Open Spaces Campaign, an all-out effort to educate Texans about the need for parklands and to enlist their help. The campaigns newspaper ads hit the states proud residents square in the myth. "Texass Wide Open Spaces . . . Arent So Wide or Open Anymore" they proclaim above contrasting photos of bucolic ranchland and congested interstates. In a call to arms that would make Sam Houston proud, the ads declare: "We are losing the broad expanses of land that define us as Texans, nourish our spirit, and need our protection." This time, though, the goal isnt to expand the frontier, but simply to urge the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to develop a statewide land and water conservation plan. While 85 percent of Texass population is concentrated in urban areas, the state ranks 49th in per capita spending on state parks. The state grew nearly 23 percent in ten years to 21 million; state capital Austin, on the edge of the idyllic Hill Country, ballooned more than 40 percent in that time. For more information, go to http://texas.sierraclub.org/WideOpenSpaces.