Ayears worth of reading assignments and term papers can turn a dorm room into a minor fire hazard. So when students across the country learned that their schoolwork was using up endangered eco-systems, they were quick to act. Their target? The Boise Cascade Corporation, one of the largest suppliers of paper to college campuses, and a voracious logger of U.S. national forests.
"This issue hit home because Boise held contracts with universities," says Meighan Davis, national director of the Sierra Student Coalition. "Students could immediately see the effects of their campaign." They organized protests, circulated petitions, held teach-ins, and passed resolutions asking their schools to stop buying from Boise. In late 2002, the University of Texas at Austin, the largest in the country, chose another supplier, citing student activism as a factor.
Soon after, Boise began negotiations with its former nemesis, Rainforest Action Network. Eight months later, the timber company announced a new environmental policy, promising to "eliminate completely the purchase of wood products from endangered areas," including old-growth forests in the United States.
"Students played a critical role in forcing Boise to realize that its customers are demanding sustainable products," says Jennifer Krill, old-growth campaigns director for RAN. "I dont think that we would have won any concessions without their organizing."
Want to be a part of the next victory? See www.ssc.org for details about student activist trainings.
What do an engineer-turned-photographer, a California congressional representative, and an intrepid mountaineer have in common? They were all winners of 2003 Sierra Club awards. Subhankar Banerjee, an activist with the Southern New Mexico Group, left his job at Boeing to explore the Arctic with a camera. Banerjee received the Special Achievement Award for his book, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: Seasons of Life and Land. Representative Sam Farr (D-Calif.) won the Edgar Wayburn Award for his leadership in protecting the Big Sur backcountry, while fellow Californian Barbara Lilley netted the Francis P. Farquhar Award for mountaineering for her ascents of more than 4,200 summits from the Sierra Nevada to Africa.
Also honored were Salt Lake City mayor Rocky Anderson and Benjamin Brumberg, the former ombudsman for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection; each received a Distinguished Service Award for commitment to conservation as public servants. Journalist Steve Curwood won the David Brower Award for his weekly show on National Public Radio, Living on Earth. Madelyn Pyeatt, who has led underprivileged children on more than 500 outings in the San Francisco Bay Area, was the inaugural recipient of the Madelyn Pyeatt Award for working with youth. And the Sierra Clubs highest honor, the John Muir Award, went to Maine activist Vivian Newman for her two decades of work protecting marine resources.
Other winners include: Douglas Steakley (Ansel Adams Award for conservation photography); Isaac Hall (William O. Douglas Award for environmental law); the Winyah Group of the South Carolina Chapter (Environmental Alliance Award, which includes a $1,000 prize from the Joseph Barbosa Earth Fund); the
International POPs (Persistent Organic Pollutants) Elimination Network (Earthcare Award for international work); the Michigan Chapter and the California/Nevada Desert Committee (Newsletter Award); Christopher Kelley (Electronic Communication Award); Rudy Scheffer (Oliver Kehrlein Award for service to the Outings program); Robert Keane (One Club Award for combining conservation and outings); Carolyn Carr (Raymond Sherwin International Award); Gina Carola and Marilyn Wall (Special Achievement Award for a single initiative); Julia Bott and Ralph Salisbury (Susan E. Miller Award for service to Club chapters); Ann Pogue and Tony Ruckel (Walter Starr Award for continuing support by a former director); and David Raney, Brian Scherf, Susie Shields, and the late Jim Stephens (Special Service Awards for longtime commitment to conservation).
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For ten years, Southern California Sierra Club activists fought developers plans to build 3,000 homes, two golf courses, and a luxury hotel on increasingly rare oak-studded acreage on the edge of Los Angeles. But it took a last-minute move from a governor facing recall to halt the project. In early October, then-governor Gray Davis approved funds to purchase the 2,800-acre Ahmanson Ranch in Ventura County. (He also provided funds to protect the long-contested Ballona Wetlands near Los Angeles International Airport [see "The Sierra Club Bulletin," November/December 1999, page 63] as well as 691 acres of old-growth redwoods in Northern California controlled by Texas financier Charles Hurwitzs Pacific Lumber.) Now, instead of worrying about the 45,000 additional vehicle trips per day that the Ahmanson project would have dumped on Los Angeles clogged roadways, Southern California activists can focus on creating outdoor-education programs at the ranch and protecting its five endangered species, including the San Fernando Valley spineflower and the California red-legged frog.
A local newspaper calls him "an environmental pit bull" for his activism, but Los Padres Chapter conservation chair Al Sanders sounds more like a puppy dog when he talks about preserving endangered least-tern nests on Southern California beach dunes. "When the first group of terns arrives, I watch them circling, deciding where to nest," he says. "Its like theyre asking, Should we have our home and family here? "
For many years, the answer was no. The ground-nesting birds were routinely flattened by illegal off-road vehicles joyriding on Ventura Countys Ormond Beach, adjacent to one of Southern Californias last remaining wetlands. Sanders decided to take the terns under his wing. With local members of the Sierra Club, he erected warning signs and fencing to protect the nests. When that didnt work ("People kept driving over them"), Sanders helped organize community patrolsand convinced the Oxnard Police Department to ticket illegal off-roaders. The first year, between 20 and 30 nests survived the birds April-to-October nesting season; these days, there are upwards of 100.
The nest patrols have spawned a broader effort to protect the whole beach. The Los Padres Chapter has been instrumental in blocking development of an RV park there, and in stopping the local flood-control agency from bulldozing wetland lagoons. When Occidental Petroleum attempted to build a liquefied natural gas plant at Ormond a year ago, the hue and cry from citizens and local businesses stopped the proposal in its tracks; the California Coastal Conservancy subsequently purchased the disputed acreage. "People are laying claim to their resource," Sanders says.
Contact Us Spotlight Sierra Club activism in your area by writing to Reed McManus at Sierra, 85 Second St., 2nd Floor, San Francisco, CA 94105-3441; e-mail email@example.com; fax (415) 977-5794.