Sierra Club Announces 2017 Award Winners

Dr. Jane Goodall, Rep. Kildee, Sen. Stabenow Among Winners

Ellen Davis, (512) 639-9959 or

Cindy Carr, (202) 495-3034 or

Washington, D.C. – Two public officials who helped secure funding to address the water crisis in Flint, Mich., a photographer who has documented the natural beauty of Nebraska, and a world-renowned conservationist are among those receiving national awards from the Sierra Club this year.

The Club’s top award, the John Muir Award, will be presented to British animal behavior expert and conservationist Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE, founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and UN Messenger of Peace. Goodall has dedicated nearly six decades of work to wild animal research, animal welfare, community-centered conservation and human rights. Of particular note in recent years has been her global environmental and humanitarian youth initiative, Roots & Shoots (, which connects more than 150,000 young people in nearly 100 countries to build a better environment for people and animals.

“Dr. Goodall’s impressive body of work has inspired multiple generations to rise against environmental degradation, habitat loss, and destruction of entire species within our world,” said Sierra Club President Loren Blackford. “Her ability to highlight the ethical and moral aspects of our relationship with this planet is demonstrated on a continual basis, leading to a community of more than one million followers that she continues to inspire to this day, whether that be providing inspiration to activists and tribes protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline, or raising the ethical concerns about the ongoing state of animals in captivity.” 

The Club’s top award for public officials, the Edgar Wayburn Award, will be shared by Rep. Dan Kildee and Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan. The two led the fight in Congress to bring federal funding and resources to Flint, Mich., in the wake of the drinking water crisis that started in 2014.

The Distinguished Service Award, which honors persons in public service for long-term commitment to conservation, will be shared by former Rep. Bob Inglis of South Carolina and John Peterson “Pete” Myers of Charlottesville, Va. Inglis founded the nonprofit Energy and Enterprise Initiative based at George Mason University (also known as and now works full-time trying to educate the public and elected officials about free-enterprise solutions to climate change and the potential for job creation. Myers is a research scientist who helped introduce the scientific field of endocrine disruption. In 2002, he founded Environmental Health Sciences and its daily publication, Environmental Health News, providing the public, journalists and environmentalists with sound scientific information.

The Ansel Adams Award, which honors excellence in conservation photography, will be presented to Michael Forsberg of Lincoln, Neb. Forsberg has published two books: On Ancient Wings – The Sandhill Cranes of North America, and Great Plains – America’s Lingering Wild. He also directs the Platte Basin Time-lapse project (, in which more than 50 cameras are capturing pictures of the watershed every daylight hour. 

The David R. Brower Award, which recognizes outstanding environmental reporting or editorial comment that contributes to a better understanding of environmental issues, will be shared by former “60 Minutes” producers Joel Bach and David Gelber. In 2011, they left CBS to start a production company that produced the award-winning television series “Years of Living Dangerously” (, which focuses on the need to take action on climate change.

The Robert Bullard Environmental Justice Award will be shared by Mustafa Ali of Washington, D.C., and Dr. Mildred McClain of Savannah, Ga. Ali spent more than two decades at the Environmental Protection Agency working to ease the burden of air and water pollution in hundreds of poor, minority communities nationwide. McClain is co-founder and executive director of the Harambee House/Citizens for Environmental Justice, a Savannah-based organization that has worked in partnership with environmental and social justice activists worldwide.

The William O. Douglas Award, which recognizes individuals who have made outstanding use of the legal/judicial process to achieve environmental goals, will be presented to Kristen Boyles of Seattle, Wash. Boyles has led multi-year litigation to protect the salmon runs and ancient forests of the Pacific Northwest and more recently has helped the Sierra Club fight numerous crude-by-rail infrastructure projects in the region.

The EarthCare Award, which honors an individual, organization or agency that has made a unique contribution to international environmental protection and conservation, will be going to Plant for the Planet (, an international organization that has planted more than 14 billion trees since it was founded in 2007 by 9-year-old Felix Finkbeiner of Germany.

Another top award, the William E. Colby Award, will be presented to longtime club leader Barb Williams of Orangevale, Calif. Williams has held more than 40 different leadership positions within the club, including serving as chair of the Council of Club Leaders and chair of the Nominating Committee.

Others receiving national awards from the Sierra Club this year are:

Environmental Alliance Award (honors Club members who have helped further environmental goals through collaboration with other, non-Sierra Club constituencies): The Utah Chapter Executive Committee, which has worked with Native American groups to help preserve more than 9 million acres of wilderness-quality land in Utah, including the new Bear Ears National Monument.

Oliver Kehrlein Award (for outstanding service to the Sierra Club’s outings program): Melinda Goodwater of Sunnyvale, Calif. Goodwater has led or staffed more than 140 national outings for the club since 1992.

One-Club Award (recognizes club members who have combined outings with conservation): Randy Ching of Honolulu, Hawaii. Ching has used hiking, outdoor education and trail maintenance as tools to build recognition and support for the Sierra Club in Hawaii.

Special Achievement Award (for a single act of importance dedicated to conservation or the Sierra Club): Doug Harnsberger of Swarthmore, Pa.; Sierra Club San Diego; and the Waukesha County Transportation Coalition formed by members of the Wisconsin Chapter. Harnsberger helped get the Muir Memorial Shelter, located on the John Muir Trail, placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Sierra Club San Diego was honored for its Wilderness Basics Course, which has trained more than 20,000 individuals on how to enjoy the outdoors comfortably and safely. The Transportation Coalition has brought together activists from a wide variety of groups to push for local transportation solutions.

Special Service Award (for strong and consistent commitment to conservation over an extended period of time): Martha Ainsworth of Bowie, Md.; Peggie Griffin of Gadsden, Ala.; and Gordon Nipp of Bakersfield, Calif. Ainsworth has helped pass numerous environmental initiatives in Maryland, including its recent ban on fracking. Griffin has founded two Sierra Club groups in Alabama and led many campaigns to protect environmentally sensitive areas. Nipp has been a tireless advocate for the environment and human health in Kern County, Calif., which is the nation’s top oil-producing county.

Susan E. Miller Award (for service to Sierra Club chapters): Chris Applegate of Denver, Colo., and David Kimo Frankel of Honolulu, Hawaii. Applegate has helped build the Rocky Mountain Chapter, particularly through outings, and Frankel is a longtime leader in the Hawaii Chapter.

The awards will be presented tonight, Sept. 15 at an event held in Washington, D.C. For more information on the Sierra Club awards program, visit

Note to editors: Photos of the award winners are available upon request


About the Sierra Club

The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 3 million members and supporters. In addition to helping people from all backgrounds explore nature and our outdoor heritage, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit