Sierra Club Announces 2020 National Award Winners


Ellen Davis, 512-639-9959 or

(Oakland, California) – A female anti-poaching unit in South Africa, a tribal leader who is fighting to protect Chaco Canyon, and a governor who made climate change the focal point of his presidential campaign are among those receiving national awards from the Sierra Club this year.

The Sierra Club’s top award for public officials, the Edgar Wayburn Award, is going to Washington State Governor Jay Inslee.

"Governor Inslee has been a lifelong advocate for a safe climate, healthy environment, and a functioning democracy for everyone," said Sierra Club President Ramón Cruz. "He was one of the top environmental champions in Congress in the last 20 years, and then carried the same passion for protecting the natural environment as Washington State’s governor and Democratic presidential candidate."

Inslee served in the Washington State legislature from 1988 to 1992 and in the US House of Representatives from 1993 to 1995 and again from 1999 to 2012. During his 14 years in Congress, he earned a lifetime League of Conservation Voters (LCV) voting record of 92 percent.

As governor of Washington State, Inslee has helped usher through one of the nation's strongest state-level 100 percent clean energy laws. He signed the bill into law in 2019.

Inslee made climate change the centerpiece of his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2019. His 200-page climate plan was considered the gold standard of climate policy among the contenders, and almost every Democratic candidate strengthened their proposals or adopted parts of his plan in response to his campaign.

Dr. Edgar Wayburn was a famed conservationist, former Sierra Club president, and Medal of Freedom winner. The Wayburn Award honors outstanding service to the environmental cause by a public official.

The EarthCare Award, which honors an individual, organization or agency that has made a unique contribution to international environmental protection and conservation, goes to the Black Mambas, the first majority female anti-poaching unit in the world. The unit is protecting wildlife in South Africa's Balule Nature Reserve, which is home to some of the planet’s most endangered animals.

The Distinguished Service Award, which honors persons in public service for long-term commitment to conservation, is going to Navajo Nation Council Delegate Daniel Tso for his efforts to protect the Greater Chaco Region in New Mexico from the negative impacts of fracking.

The Distinguished Achievement Award, which honors persons in public service for particular acts of benefit to the environment, goes to North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality Secretary Michael Regan. Regan was honored for his leadership on securing coal ash cleanup for North Carolina.

The Ansel Adams Award for Photography goes to Rob Badger and Nita Winter of Sausalito, California. Their most recent book is titled Beauty and the Beast: California Wildflowers and Climate Change.

The Ansel Adams Award for Video goes to Ben Masters of Austin, Texas. Masters has created several award-winning films, including the 2019 film, The River and The Wall.

The Rachel Carson Award, which honors sustained achievement by professional journalists or authors, goes to David Helvarg of Richmond, California. Helvarg is the author of seven books and the founder of Blue Frontier, an ocean advocacy organization.

The Robert Bullard Environmental Justice Award, which recognizes individuals who have done outstanding work in the area of environmental justice, goes to Sue Williams of Memphis, Tennessee. Williams has advocated for environmental justice in the Memphis area for nearly 30 years.

The William O. Douglas Award, which recognizes individuals who have made outstanding use of the legal/judicial process to achieve environmental goals, goes to Monique Harden of New Orleans. Harden has helped African American communities achieve significant environmental justice victories. Her outstanding use of the legal process also has led to significant development of international environmental and human rights law.

The William E. Colby Award, which recognizes administrative service to the Sierra Club, goes to Clayton Daughenbaugh of Berwyn, Illinois. Daughenbaugh has helped build a strong Grassroots Network Support Team that aids the work of dozens of chapter and issue conservation teams throughout the country.

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): Cheyenne Branscum of Shawnee, Oklahoma. Branscum is chair of the Oklahoma Chapter and has founded a nonprofit organization called the Oklahoma Geo Team that helps students in rural areas use GIS to solve real-world environmental problems.

Denny and Ida Wilcher Award (honors Sierra Club groups or chapters for outstanding work in membership development and/or fundraising and includes a $3,000 prize): The Toiyabe Chapter (Nevada) and the Maryland Chapter. Members of the Toiyabe Chapter raised $24,370 through their first-ever major donor campaign in 2019 and the Maryland Chapter (under the leadership of Ben Hance) implemented new ways to increase and retain members.

Communication Award (honors the best use of communications by a Sierra Club group, chapter or other entity to further the Sierra Club's mission): Toiyabe Chapter (Nevada) and the Grand Canyon Chapter (Arizona). The Toiyabe Chapter was recognized for its Earth Day 50 Celebration and the Grand Canyon Chapter was recognized for its quarterly newsletter, the Canyon Echo.

Environmental Alliance Award (honors Club members or entities who have helped further environmental goals through collaboration with other, non–Sierra Club constituencies): Janet Stanko of Jacksonville, Florida. As chair of the Sierra Club's Northeast Florida Group, Stanko encouraged close alliances with a variety of other environmental organizations.

Madelyn Pyeatt Award (recognizes Sierra Club members for working with youth and includes a $500 prize): Judy Mattox of Leicester, North Carolina. Mattox helped establish an Inspiring Connections Outdoors (ICO) program for the Sierra Club's Western North Carolina Group, as well as an advocacy program called Youth for Environmental Stewardship.

Oliver Kehrlein Award (for outstanding service to the Sierra Club’s outings program): Jane Simpson of Santa Monica, California. Simpson has served the Sierra Club Outings programs at the local and national level.

One-Club Award (honors members at any level who have used outings as a way to protect or improve public lands, instill an interest in conservation, increase membership in the Sierra Club, or increase awareness of the Sierra Club): Thomas Dempsey of Grayslake, Illinois. Dempsey has organized a variety of innovative and educational outings for the Illinois Chapter's Woods and Wetlands Group.

Special Achievement Award (honors Sierra Club members for a single act of particular importance dedicated to conservation or to the Sierra Club): the Climate Resilience, Carbon Dioxide Removal and Geoengineering Policy Task Force and the Oklahoma Renewable Energy Education Program developed by the Oklahoma Chapter.

Special Service Award (for strong and consistent commitment to conservation or the Sierra Club over an extended period of time): Robert Guild of Columbia, South Carolina; Drew Martin of Lake Worth, Florida; and Dr. John Osborn of Vashon, Washington. Guild has been a leader in the South Carolina chapter for more than 20 years and has used his legal skills to help the chapter become a force for change in the state. Martin has been active in Sierra Club chapters in California, Arizona, and Florida. Osborn helped found the Sierra Club's Upper Columbia River Group in the late 1980s and continues to serve as the group's Conservation Chair, advocating for protection of the waters and forests of the Pacific Northwest.

Susan Miller Award (for administrative contributions to Sierra Club chapters): Rosa Hance of Great Mills, Maryland; and David Holtz of Lansing, Michigan. Hance has served in a variety of leadership roles for the Southern Maryland Group and the Maryland Chapter. As the chair of the Council of Club Leaders, Holtz has worked with chapter leaders throughout the Sierra Club to identify challenges chapters are facing and develop solutions to those challenges.

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