Sierra Club Honors 2016 Award Winners

On September 10, the Sierra Club held its annual national awards ceremony in Oakland, California, where it presented 20 awards to individuals and groups who have made exceptional contributions to protecting the environment.

The Club’s top award, the John Muir Award, was presented to Tom Goldtooth of Bemidji, Minnesota. That's Goldtooth above, second from left, flanked by Sierra Club Environmental Justice Program Director Leslie Fields, Sierra Club President Aaron Mair, and Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune.

Formerly the executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, Goldtooth has spent more than 40 years helping Native American and indigenous communities worldwide address issues such as environmental protection, climate change, energy, biodiversity, environmental health, water, and sustainable development. He has been a leader on domestic and international efforts to keep fossil fuels in the ground and foster indigenous-based environmental protection initiatives. Goldtooth’s tireless work to elevate tribal opposition to the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline was key to the project’s ultimate rejection, and he is now helping to lead and coordinate the ongoing tribal opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline.

“It is hard to imagine that the fight to stop the Keystone XL pipeline would have been won without Tom bringing together the vast majority of tribal groups into a powerful coalition,” said Mair. “Tom has provided a powerful example to the U.S. environmental movement of what can be achieved through principled engagement with indigenous communities.”

The Sierra Club’s top award for public officials, the Edgar Wayburn Award, went to Jonathan Jarvis, below, who has served as director of the National Park Service since 2009. Early in his tenure as head of the agency, Jarvis issued a Second-Century vision for our parks, which called for connecting people to parks, advancing an education mission, preserving America’s special places, and enhancing professional and organizational excellence. In collaboration with the National Park Foundation, he led the National Park Service in launching a broad public awareness and engagement campaign called “Find Your Park” to invite the public to enjoy parks and open spaces across the nation as the agency celebrates its 100th anniversary this year.

National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis

The Distinguished Service Award, which honors people in public service for long-term commitment to conservation, was presented to U.S. Congresswoman Lois Capps (D-CA) and Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, who directs a federally funded climate research center that is based at Texas Tech University. Capps, pictured below with Mair and Brune, has been a member of Congress since 1998 and has been at the forefront of efforts to protect the environment as a champion of clean energy innovation and a foe of fossil fuels. She is retiring from Congress at the end of her current term. Hayhoe has gained an international reputation for her work as a climate scientist, as well as her efforts to persuade fellow Evangelical Christians to acknowledge the reality of man-made climate change and help combat it.

Michael Brune, Lois Capps, and Aaron Maiir

The Chico Mendes Award, which recognizes individuals or non-governmental organizations outside the United States who have exhibited extraordinary courage and leadership at the grassroots level in the global struggle to protect the environment, was presented to the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) in memory of Berta Cáceres Flores and Nelson Noé Garcia, who were assassinated this year because of their efforts to protect indigenous communities and natural areas of Honduras and Central America.

Aaron Mair presenting the Chico Mendes Award

Accepting the award on behalf of COPINH was Christopher Loperena, below at center, an assistant professor of international studies at San Francisco State University whose scholarly interests include indigenous struggles for autonomy in Central America.

Christopher Loperena with Aaron Mair and Michael Brune

Oregon State Rep. Jessica Vega Pederson received the Distinguished Achievement Award for her work in helping Oregon pass an historic Clean Electricity and Coal Transition Act this year. As the chair of the House Energy and Environment Committee during the past two legislative sessions, Pederson also led the way for passage of Oregon’s Clean Fuels Standard law.

The David R. Brower Award, which recognizes outstanding environmental reporting or editorial comment that contributes to a better understanding of environmental issues, went to Bill Dawson of Houston, Texas. Dawson served as the environmental reporter for the Houston Chronicle for 17 years and is the founder of Texas Climate News, an online magazine focusing on climate and sustainability.

Nick Brandt of Malibu, California, received the Ansel Adams Award, which honors excellence in conservation photography. Brandt has published a trilogy of books that document the vanishing natural grandeur of East Africa and has founded a non-profit organization called the Big Life Foundation, which is dedicated to the conservation of Africa's wildlife and ecosystems.

The William O. Douglas Award, which recognizes individuals who have made outstanding use of the legal/judicial process to achieve environmental goals, went to David Guest of Tallahassee, Florida. Guest has served as the managing attorney of the Earthjustice office in Florida for 26 years and has won several major court cases to help protect and restore the Everglades.

Another top award, the William E. Colby Award, was presented to Susan Heitman of Claremont, California. Heitman has served on or led multiple Sierra Club committees and has previously served on the Board of the Sierra Club Foundation.

The Raymond J. Sherwin International Award, which honors extraordinary volunteer service toward international conservation, went to Dr. A.P. Lino Grima of North York, Ontario, Canada, and Wayne Howard of Rochester, New York, who have co-chaired the Sierra Club’s Binational Great Lakes Committee.

The EarthCare Award, which honors an individual, organization or agency that has made a unique contribution to international environmental protection and conservation, was presented to Sierra Club Canada’s British Columbia Foundation and other organizations that worked together to pass the Great Bear Rainforest Agreements. The Great Bear is the largest coastal temperate rainforest on the planet, and the Agreements have saved 85 percent of it (7.66 million acres) from industrial logging.

Other recipients of national awards from the Sierra Club this year are:

Communications Award (honors the best use of communications, either print or electronic, to further the Sierra Club’s mission): Dave Schneider of Boulder, Colorado.

Denny and Ida Wilcher Award (recognizes excellence in fundraising and/or membership development): The Sierra Club’s Loxahatchee Group (Florida). The group will receive $3,000 in recognition of their award.

Environmental Alliance Award (honors Sierra Club members who have helped further environmental goals through collaboration with other, non-Sierra Club constituencies): The Cumberland (Kentucky) Chapter, for its work in forming The Kentucky Pipeline and Fracking Coalition, which helped defeat the proposed Bluegrass Pipeline.

Joseph Barbosa Award (recognizes Sierra Club members under age 30 and includes a $500 prize to further the recipient’s work): Reynaldo Figueroa of Ciales, Puerto Rico. Figueroa has been active in the Sierra Student Coalition and the Sierra Club’s Puerto Rico Chapter and is a student environmental leader at the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico.

Madelyn Pyeatt Award (recognizes work with youth and includes a $500 prize to further the recipient’s work): Sheila Calderon of Greenacres, Florida. Calderon started the Loxahatchee Group’s Inspiring Connections Outdoors (ICO) program.

Oliver Kehrlein Award (for outstanding service to the Sierra Club’s outings program): Bill Crane of Chatsworth, California. Crane has led outings for the Sierra Club Angeles Chapter for more than 40 years.

One-Club Award (recognizes Sierra Club members who have combined outings with conservation): Luis Villanueva-Cubero of San Juan, Puerto Rico. Villanueva-Cubelo has led outings to bolster the success of the Puerto Rico Chapter’s Northeast Ecological Corridor Campaign.

Special Achievement Award (for a single act of importance dedicated to conservation or the Sierra Club): Glenn Pascall of Dana Point, California. Pascall published a book entitled Southern California Mountain Country: Places John Muir Walked and Places He Would Have Loved to Know, which combines photographs he took during 50 years of hiking with relevant quotes from Sierra Club founder John Muir.

Special Service Award (for strong and consistent commitment to conservation over an extended period of time): Eric Patterson of Valdez, New Mexico. Patterson has been a long-time volunteer for the Sierra Club, in both Illinois and New Mexico.

For more information on the Sierra Club awards program, visit

Up Next

PrĂłximo ArtĂ­culo