Sierra Club Announces 2019 National Award Winners


Ellen Davis, 512-639-9959 or

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

OAKLAND, CA – Five young people who have taken a lead in addressing climate change and the congresswoman who proposed the Green New Deal are among those receiving national awards from the Sierra Club this year.

The Club’s top honor, the John Muir Award, goes to five young people who are active in the climate change movement: Nadia Nazar of Perry Hall, Maryland; Varshini Prakash of Boston, Massachusetts; Kelsey Juliana of Eugene, Oregon; Hernaliz Vazquez Torres of Guayama, Puerto Rico; and Joseph White Eyes of Lower Brule, South Dakota.

Nazar is co-founder of Zero Hour; Prakash is co-founder of the Sunrise Movement; Juliana is the named plaintiff in the landmark constitutional climate case Juliana v. United States, supported by Our Children's Trust; Vazquez Torres is a leader in the Sierra Student Coalition; and White Eyes led youth opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline.

“Today’s youth have been condemned to live with an escalating climate crisis caused by previous generations,” said Sierra Club President Loren Blackford. “Many are stepping up, calling on us all to act with greater urgency and justice, and leading the way with tactics ranging from lawsuits to climate strikes.”

Blackford said the Sierra Club is giving its highest award to the five young leaders in recognition of their individual contributions, as well as the diversity of groups and approaches they represent. “These leaders and the movements they are driving give me hope for the future!” said Blackford.

Blackford noted that many of the Muir Award winners have been involved with planning a nationwide climate strike Sept. 20 in advance of the UN Climate Week in New York City.

The Club’s top award for public officials, the Edgar Wayburn Award, goes to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from New York. Five weeks after taking office in January 2019, Ocasio-Cortez introduced the Green New Deal, an ambitious blueprint for addressing climate change and inequity in the next decade.

The Distinguished Service Award, which honors persons in public service for long-term commitment to conservation, goes to Peter Raven of St. Louis, Missouri; Lisa Sorg of Raleigh, North Carolina; and the nonprofit organization LightHawk, which is based in Denver, Colorado. Raven is a former president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and president emeritus of the Missouri Botanical Garden. Sorg writes about environmental issues for N.C. Policy Watch. LightHawk helps conservation groups achieve their goals by offering free flights that help gather important data and photos.

The Distinguished Achievement Award, which honors persons in public service for particular acts of benefit to the environment, goes to Michael Isaac Stein of New Orleans, Louisiana. As a writer for the public-interest newsroom called The Lens, Stein helped expose Entergy Company’s use of paid actors to build support for a proposed gas plant in New Orleans.

The Ansel Adams Award, which honors excellence in conservation photography, goes to Tim Palmer of Port Orford, Oregon. Palmer has written and photographed 29 books about rivers, conservation, and adventure travel.

A new award, the Rachel Carson Award, goes to Andrew Revkin for more than three decades of groundbreaking reporting on climate change, mostly for the New York Times. Revkin is also the author of four books on the environment, most notably The Burning Season: The Murder of Chico Mendes and the Fight for the Amazon Rain Forest. The Rachel Carson Award was created this year to honor sustained achievement by professional journalists or authors, and to honor Carson, who was a benefactor of the Sierra Club.

The Robert Bullard Environmental Justice Award, which recognizes individuals who have done outstanding work in the area of environmental justice, goes to two pioneers in the field of environmental justice  ̶ Vernice Miller-Travis of Bowie, Maryland, and Quentin Pair of Washington, D.C.

The William O. Douglas Award, which recognizes individuals who have made outstanding use of the legal/judicial process to achieve environmental goals, goes to Howard Fox of Washington, D.C. Fox is among the most effective Clean Air Act attorneys in the country. 

The EarthCare Award, which honors an individual, organization or agency that has made a unique contribution to international environmental protection and conservation, goes to Mithika Mwenda of Nairobi, Kenya. Mwenda is the founder and current executive director of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance, which includes more than 1,000 organizations from 48 African countries.

The Chico Mendes Award, which recognizes individuals or non-governmental organizations outside the United States who have exhibited extraordinary courage and leadership in the universal struggle to protect the environment, goes to two organizations  ̶ MASS and the Centre for Financial Accountability (CFA) ̶ that have been fighting to make the owners of a massive coal-fired power plant in northwest India responsible for the damage the plant has caused to local communities.

The William E. Colby Award, which recognizes administrative service to the Sierra Club, goes to Allison Chin of Leesburg, Virgina. Chin is a long-time member of the Sierra Club Board of Directors and a former president of the Sierra Club.

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

Joseph Barbosa Award (recognizes Sierra Club members under age 30 who have a demonstrated record of service to the environment and includes a $500 prize): Abigail Ross of Madison, Wisconsin. Ross was an environmental activist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and co-founded the Wisconsin Youth Network.

Madelyn Pyeatt Award (recognizes Sierra Club members for working with youth and includes a $500 prize): Karen Kerr of South Miami, Florida. Kerr is a long-time leader in the Miami Inspiring Connections Outdoors (ICO) program.

Oliver Kehrlein Award (for outstanding service to the Sierra Club’s outings program): John Kaiser of Huntington Beach, California. Kaiser has been the backbone of the Sierra Club trail maintenance team in the San Mateo Canyon Wilderness for 15 years and an outings leader since 1999.

Special Achievement Award (honors Sierra Club members for a single act of particular importance dedicated to conservation or to the Sierra Club): Jim Boone of Las Vegas, Nevada. Boone has personally removed more than 1,000 illegal mining markers from public lands in southern Nevada. The hollow markers are a death trap for birds.

Special Service Award (for strong and consistent commitment to conservation or the Sierra Club over an extended period of time): Whitey Markle of Citra, Florida; and a father-son team from San Diego, California, both of whom share the name Bill Tayler. Markle has been active on the group and chapter level of Sierra Club Florida for nearly two decades. The Taylers have jointly led more than 220 camping and hiking trips for children through the San Diego Chapter's Inspiring Connections Outdoors (ICO) program.

Susan Miller Award (for administrative contributions to Sierra Club chapters): John Allen of Boise, Idaho. Allen served as treasurer of the Idaho Chapter for more than two decades, in addition to playing a major role in several important conservation initiatives.

The awards were presented Sept. 14 at an event in Oakland, California. For more information on the Sierra Club awards program, visit

About the Sierra Club

The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 3.5 million members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person's right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, 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