Sierra Club

views updated May 23 2018

Sierra Club

85 Second St., 2nd Fl.
San Francisco, California 94105
Telephone: (415) 977-5500
Fax: (415) 977-5799
Web site:



By the early twenty-first century, the Sierra Club, one of the oldest and largest environmental advocacy groups in the United States, boasted a membership of more than 700,000. One of the principal concerns of the organization was the low gas mileage of U.S. automobiles. The popularity of inefficient sport-utility vehicles (SUVs) meant that U.S. cars averaged only 21 miles per gallon. Because fossil fuels were believed to be the number-one cause of global warming, this had serious consequences for the environment. Hybrid cars, which got up to 47 miles per gallon and thus burned less gasoline, could help alleviate the problem. It was for this reason that the Sierra Club acted as an advocate for hybrid cars, encouraging more automakers to sell them and trying to convince the U.S. government to promote their use.

The Sierra Club worked with the Change, an advertising agency based in Raleigh, North Carolina, to promote energy conservation. On Memorial Day in 2004 the organization launched the "Hybrid Evolution" campaign. The Sierra Club often undertook campaigns designed to influence behavior, as opposed to self-promotion, and "Hybrid Evolution" was one such effort. The campaign featured print and Web-based advertisements targeted at young trendsetters, encouraging them to drive hybrid cars. The key element in the campaign, however, was three long-distance tours on which Sierra Club members drove hybrid vehicles across interstate routes in the United States, stopping for rallies and posting updates about the trips on the campaign's website. The campaign also spotlighted the organization's opposition to the energy policies of George W. Bush, the incumbent U.S. president who was running for reelection in 2004.

Since the campaign was geared toward changing behavior, not promoting the Sierra Club, its success was difficult to gauge. Bush was reelected in November 2004, but the fuel efficiency of automobiles was not a significant issue in the campaign. The number of hybrid models offered by automakers continued to rise, however, and the cars gained in popularity. While only 47,000 hybrid vehicles were sold in the United States in 2003, by 2004 the number had risen to more than 88,000, and in 2005 it rose to 200,000.


The Sierra Club was founded on May 28, 1892, by a group of 182 conservationists. The environmental pioneer John Muir was the club's first president. Its first major undertaking was an effort to defend the borders of Yosemite National Park. Over the ensuing decades the Sierra Club became one of the most prominent and successful environmental organizations in the United States, with approximately 700,000 members by the first decade of the twenty-first century. Its stated purposes were to explore and protect wilderness land, to educate the public about conservation, and to promote conservation generally. Previous advertising campaigns had spotlighted the group's key role in promoting environmental conservation over the years.

One of the Sierra Club's most important goals in the early twenty-first century was to promote energy efficiency. Because of the increasing demand for energy from developing nations like China and India, the international market for oil and gasoline was steadily rising. In addition, the United States was in the midst of a protracted military engagement in the oil-rich Middle Eastern nation of Iraq. The conflict put additional pressures on oil markets, and as a result, by 2004 gasoline prices in the United States were higher than they had been for several years. More important from the Sierra Club's point of view was the impact on the environment of the burning of fossil fuels like gasoline. The organization was particularly concerned about global warming. Most scientists agreed that when fossil fuels like oil and coal were burned they released so-called greenhouse gasses, which trapped heat inside the Earth's atmosphere, causing temperatures to rise.

The United States, however, was noted for its "car culture." With the rise in popularity of SUVs in the 1990s, the average fuel efficiency of American cars had fallen to only about 21 miles per gallon. The more gasoline used, the more greenhouse gasses emitted into the air. The Sierra Club considered this to be a major issue and argued that hybrid vehicles, especially hybrid cars that could get upwards of 47 miles per gallon of gasoline, were the best way to reduce this figure. Hybrid cars combined elements of gas-powered and electrical engines. It was the electrical engine that handled most of the work when the car was moving at a constant speed, with the gasoline engine coming into play to help the car accelerate. When the driver stepped on the brake pedal, the energy thus created charged the electrical engine. By 2004 three hybrid models were available in the United States: the Toyota Prius, the Honda Insight, and the Honda Civic. Both Toyota and Honda were Japanese-based companies. The Prius proved particularly popular, with a six-month waiting list for the vehicle, but this was in part because Toyota limited itself to making 47,000 units of the vehicle in 2004.


The "Hybrid Evolution" campaign was geared mostly toward young people, particularly college students and people in their 20s. In an effort to convince young people to buy hybrids, one of the Sierra Club's goals was to help make the cars seem cool and trendy. To this end, each of the print ads in the campaign featured a hip young person, someone who represented a likely hybrid driver.


During the 2004 presidential campaign, the Sierra Club and other environmental groups voiced strong opposition to the policies of U.S. President George W. Bush on climate change. Relations between Bush and such groups had been severely strained since his decision in March 2001 to withdraw the U.S. signature from the Kyoto Protocol. This agreement, named for the Japanese city in which it had been negotiated, was a UN-sanctioned effort to create a general international protocol for addressing global warming. It committed all of its signatories, especially the 39 industrialized nations that ratified it, to reduce the levels of greenhouse gases they were emitting to about 5 percent below the levels of 1990. After objections from Russia, the reduction was renegotiated downward to about 2 percent. The agreement would be toughest on the United States, since at the time of the protocol's inception in 1990 it was producing 36 percent of all such emissions. Bush objected to the agreement on the grounds that it would harm the U.S. economy. Environmentalist countered, however, that Bush was merely protecting large companies in the energy industry, especially oil companies. These critics pointed out that Bush and his vice president, Dick Cheney, had both previously worked in the oil industry.

The campaign was also aimed at auto manufacturers. At the time the campaign was introduced, none of the so-called Big Three automakers in the United States—General Motors, Ford, and DaimlerChrysler—offered hybrid automobiles. In addition, the companies that offered hybrids did so only in limited quantities. As a result, by 2004 the Toyota Prius, for example, had a six-month waiting list. The Sierra Club wanted to pressure automakers to offer more hybrid models and to increase the production of the lines that were already available. Though the "Hybrid Evolution" campaign featured the Toyota Prius and the Honda Civic hybrids, the automakers were not involved in the campaign in any capacity.

The fact that 2004 was a presidential election year in the United States was also a factor in the Sierra Club's campaign. Though the "Hybrid Evolution" campaign did not overtly endorse particular candidates, it was meant to encourage both young people and undecided voters to focus on issues of fuel efficiency in the midst of the campaign and to encourage politicians to take fuel efficiency seriously.


The Sierra Club's primary goal for the "Hybrid Evolution" campaign was to promote the energy efficiency of hybrid cars, not the organization itself. Since Bush, the incumbent president, was seen as hostile to the position of the Sierra Club on environmental matters in general and not supportive of efforts to improve the efficiency of motor vehicles through public policy, the "Hybrid Evolution" campaign also served to counter the administration's environmental policies. Though the campaign did not attempt to promote the candidacy of Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, who challenged Bush in the 2004 election, the Sierra Club was open in saying that the "Hybrid Evolution" campaign was opposed to the environmental policies of the incumbent administration. Some ads, in fact, questioned the president's policies by name.

The Bush administration had withdrawn from the Kyoto Protocol, which required signatories to reduce the use of fossil fuels. Further, Vice President Dick Cheney had gone on record as saying that energy conservation was a matter of private choice, a position that many people felt implied that the administration had no interest in promoting energy conservation in general or hybrid cars in particular. The Bush administration was not inclined to provide subsidies or other types of government support for the development of hybrid vehicles.

In a sense, therefore, the campaign's main competition was the Bush administration, which the Sierra Club saw as unresponsive to conservation issues. The organization was also seeking to counter certain members of Congress, including Representative Bill Thomas of California. Thomas, the chairman of the Means and Ways Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, was seen as opposed to providing tax incentives to consumers who bought hybrid vehicles.


The Sierra Club developed the "Hybrid Evolution" campaign in conjunction with the advertising agency the Change, which was based in Raleigh, North Carolina. The Change was experienced in working with nonprofit organizations like the Sierra Club. The campaign was built around print and online ads, but the focus was on a series of tours across the United States that featured hybrid cars. Members of the Sierra Club drove hybrid vehicles on three separate tours along different routes. One route extended from Key West, Florida, to Portland, Maine, with stops for rallies in 25 major metropolitan areas along the way. The second followed U.S. Route 66 from Chicago, Illinois, to Los Angeles, California, with more than 15 stops. The final route extended from Seattle, Washington, to San Diego, California, with 9 stops.

The tours featured only two of the three hybrid cars on the market, the Toyota Prius and the Honda Civic hybrid. The club decided not to use the Honda Insight, which offered only two seats, feeling that a larger car would be better for the tours. The club also used the West Coast tour to promote the new Ford Escape, a hybrid SUV that was to be introduced in 2005. The Escape would be the first American-made hybrid vehicle. None of the automakers were directly involved in the campaign. In fact, one of the campaign's goals was to pressure the automakers into manufacturing greater numbers of hybrid cars. The campaign did, however, benefit the automakers by giving them free publicity.

In conjunction with the campaign, on May 28, 2004, the Sierra Club launched the I Will Evolve website ( The site gave reports on the three tours, and it had ads and banners that could be downloaded free of charge. This served as a low-cost way of distributing campaign material among Web users. All of the Web ads featured young people wearing campaign T-shirts, part of the effort to appeal especially to a young demographic. In addition, the campaign had a print component, which also appeared on the I Will Evolve website. Each print ad included a shot of a young person wearing a T-shirt with the slogan "I Will Evolve." The ads also featured text that highlighted the benefits of hybrid cars. They focused on the environmental advantages of hybrids and, in addition, touched on economic concerns. One ad, for example, forecast that an energy-efficient economy built around hybrid cars would create 3.3 million jobs. The forecast was meant to rebut claims by opponents that greater fuel efficiency would hurt the U.S. economy. The ads also encouraged consumers to test-drive a hybrid car so that they could experience the technology in action.

Each ad specifically criticized the Bush administration for its policies. One ad, for example, accused the White House of wanting to give $23.3 billion in subsidies to the fossil fuel industry while earmarking only $5.9 billion to promote the further development of energy-efficient technologies. Each ad closed with the tagline "Is the Bush administration for evolution OR AGAINST IT?" The tagline was an attempt to ensure that energy issues were not lost amid the election year campaigning. While the ads did not mention Kerry by name and did not openly advocate his election, they did echo one of his campaign themes. Kerry supported greater investment in hybrid vehicles and energy efficiency, and he had supported legislation in the U.S. Senate that would offer incentives to drive hybrid vehicles. Environmental policy was thus a key point of difference between the two candidates, and this was something the campaign made note of.


Since the intent of the "Hybrid Evolution" campaign was to change people's lifestyle, its success was not easy to measure. Bush was reelected in November 2004 by more than 3 million votes, but environmental issues were not particularly important for many voters. Nonetheless, hybrid vehicles were selling in ever-increasing numbers in the United States. Although only about 47,000 units of hybrid vehicles had been sold in 2003, some 88,000 units were sold in 2004, with more than 200,000 the following year.

More important, additional automakers began manufacturing hybrids. Toyota's Lexus brand unveiled the RX 400H, an SUV hybrid, and Honda introduced a hybrid Accord as well. By 2005 more than 1 percent of all new cars sold in the United States were hybrids. ExxonMobil, the world's largest oil company, forecast that by 2030 as much as 30 percent of the U.S. auto market could consist of hybrid vehicles.


Aldershot, Ulf Hjelmar. The Political Practice of Environmental Organizations. Brookfield, VT: Ashgate, 1996.

Fonda, Daren. "Make Vroom for the Hybrids." Time, April 9, 2004.

Gross, Jane. "From Guilt Trip to Hot Wheels." New York Times, June 13, 2004.

Hakim, Danny. "Energy-Saving Spots Give Cars Short Shrift." New York Times, June 25, 2004.

―――――――. "A Fuel-Saving Proposal from Your Automaker: Tax the Gas." New York Times, April 18, 2004.

Justice, Glen, and Jim Rutenberg. "Senators Say Political Groups Are Circumventing Finance Law." New York Times, March 11, 2004.

Lemonick, Michael D. "Life in the Greenhouse." Time, April 9, 2001.

Motavalli, Jim. "Speaking Up for Cleaner Air." New York Times, April 26, 2004.

Turner, Tom. Sierra Club: 100 Years of Protecting Nature. New York: HN Abrams, 1991.

Westbrook, Michael H. The Electric Car: Development and Future of Battery, Hybrid, and Fuel-Cell Cars. Warrendale, PA: Society of Automotive Engineers, 2001.

                                   Guy Patrick Cunningham

Sierra Club

views updated May 18 2018


The Sierra Club is one of the leading non-governmental organizations that influence science, technology, and ethics relations from the environmental perspective.


The oldest environmental organization in the United States, the Sierra Club was founded in 1892 by a Scotsman, John Muir (1838–1914), who did not become a U.S. citizen until 1903. By 1892, however, he was already known to presidents and writers (including Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882) as one of the country's most passionate advocates for the protection of wilderness.

Muir arrived in San Francisco, California, from Wisconsin in 1868 and headed to Yosemite Valley in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, which the avid outdoorsman had read about in a magazine. He spent the next seven years there, exploring, collecting plants, writing about his discoveries, and urging others to visit the high country. Those writings helped convince President Benjamin Harrison to create the Yosemite National Park in 1890.

In 1892 Muir became the first president of The Sierra Club, an association whose purpose as listed in its Articles of Incorporation was "To explore, enjoy, and render accessible the mountain regions of the Pacific Coast; to publish authentic information concerning them; and to enlist the support and cooperation of the people and government in preserving the forests and other natural features of the Sierra Nevada Mountains."

The Sierra Club-sponsored hiking and camping outings, called High Trips, that were fun but also meant to make members aware of and articulate about the preservation challenges facing the Sierra Nevadas. The education of such activists was important, for almost as soon as Yosemite National Park was established, efforts began to shrink it, strip it of federal protection, build a private railroad through it, and drown its beautiful Hetch Hetchy Valley behind a dam.

The park was shrunk and the proposal to build the dam passed in 1913, but all these fights—and especially the tragedy of the Hetch Hetchy defeat—helped transform the Sierra Club from a politically naive hiking club into a formidable and politically astute environmental organization. Its leaders now understood how the government worked and how important it was to win over public opinion to its causes. Outings and conservation were still integral to the Sierra Club, but so was political clout.

Contemporary Work

In the early twenty-first century, the Sierra Club is headquartered in San Francisco. With more than 750,000 members, it has lobbyists in Washington, DC, and a nationwide volunteer grassroots network striving to influence public policy on a variety of environmental issues.

Over the years, the club focus widened as environmental threats increased. Air and water pollution, urban sprawl, unsustainable logging, and the promotion of renewable energy—in addition to the protection of wilderness areas such as those in Yosemite—have emerged as some of the organization's top priorities. In recent years scientific pursuits in the areas of biotechnology—particularly as this new science relates to genetically modified organisms in agriculture and forestry—have been challenged by the club.

With regard to genetically engineered organisms, the club subscribes to a hard version of the Precautionary Principle and calls for a moratorium on the planting of all genetically engineered crops and the release of all genetically engineered organisms (GEOs) into the environment. It urges that where there are safer alternatives to the use of GEOs, these technologies should be given preference. On this topic the Sierra Club represents citizen science in action. Its biotechnology committee is all-volunteer. Some of its members are scientists but others are merely concerned citizens, worried about an unproven technology, who have researched the issue and feel compelled to act. Sierra Club committees make recommendations to the board of directors, which then formulates the club's official stand.

In the areas of energy conservation and renewables, the Sierra Club advocates for public transportation systems, energy efficient buildings and fuel efficient automobiles, and the use of renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, and geothermal power. The club has urged the U.S. Congress to provide for the expenditure of at least 2 billion dollars per year for at least five years for federal research and development—with emphasis on geothermal, solar, and fusion power; energy conservation and more efficient utilization of energy; and stripmining reclamation. In 2001, when the U.S. government announced an energy plan that privileged oil, gas, and nuclear power interests, the Sierra Club sued to gain access to Vice President Dick Cheney's notes of meetings in which the energy policy was developed.

Following founder John Muir's statement that "Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike" (Muir 1912, p. 260), the Sierra Club has made an effort to broaden its preservation ethic to include what have come to be called environmental justice issues. Whether it is the threat to the Gwichin people's subsistence hunting from drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge or dioxin-spewing power plants in poor neighborhoods of Detroit or San Francisco, the Sierra Club attempts to reach out to communities not usually associated with the environmental movement and assist them in their struggles.

In the early 2000s the Sierra Club continues to promote outings, where hikers can explore and enjoy the wild places of the earth. But in a political and corporate environment that increasingly compromises the quality of water, air, and soil in pursuit of economic gain, organizations such as the Sierra Club have become essential advocates for the responsible use of the earth's ecosystems and resources. The Sierra Club's catalog of coffee table nature books and environmental literature can be accessed at


SEE ALSO Alternative Energy;Deforestation and Desertification;Ecological Restoration;Ecology;Environmental Ethics;Environmental Justice;Environmentalism;Genetically Modified Foods;Nature;Nongovernmental Organizations;Rain Forest;Sustainability and Sustainable Development;Water.


Muir, John. (1912). The Yosemite. New York: Century.

Turner, Tom. (1991). The Sierra Club: 100 Years of Protecting Nature. New York: Harry N. Abrams in association with the Sierra Club.


Sierra Club. Home page at

Sierra Club

views updated Jun 08 2018

Sierra Club

The Sierra Club is one of the nation's foremost conservation organizations and has worked for over 100 years to preserve "the wild places of the earth." Founded in 1892 by author and wilderness explorer John Muir , who helped lead the fight to establish Yosemite National Park , the group's first goal was to preserve the Sierra Nevada mountain chain. Since then, the club has worked to protect dozens of other national treasures.

The preserve of Mount Rainier was one of the Sierra Club's earliest achievements, and in 1899 Congress made that area into a national park . The group also helped to establish Glacier National Park in 1910. The Sierra Club supported the creation of the National Park Service in 1916, and in 1919 began a campaign to halt the indiscriminate cutting of redwood trees.

The club has helped secure many conservation victories. They worked to create such national parks as Kings Canyon, Olympic, and Redwood, national seashores such as Point Reyes in California and Padre Island in Texas, as well as the Jackson Hole National Monument. The club also campaigned to expand Sequoia and Grand Teton national parks. In the 1960s, the Sierra Club helped to secure such legislative victories as the Wilderness Act in 1964, the establishment of the National Wilderness Preservation System, and the expansion of the Land and Water Conservation Fund in 1968.

By 1970, the Sierra Club had 100,000 members, with chapters in every state, and the group took advantage of growing public support for the environment to accelerate progress towards conserving America's natural heritage. The National Environmental Policy Act was passed by Congress that year, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was created. Later, the club helped defeat a proposal to build a fleet of polluting Supersonic Transports, and they organized the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund. In 1976, the club's lobbying efforts sped passage of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Organic Act, which increased governmental protection for an additional 459 million acres (185 ha).

One of the most important victories for the Sierra Club came in 1980, when a year-long campaign culminated in passage of the Alaska National Interest Conservation Act, establishing 103 million acres (41.6 million ha) as either national parks, monuments, refuges, or wilderness areas. Superfund legislation was also enacted to clean up the nation's abandoned toxic waste sites.

The decade of the 1980s, however, was a difficult one for conservationists. With James Watt as Secretary of Interior under President Ronald Reagan, and Ann Gorsuch Burford as EPA administrator, the Sierra Club was placed in a defensive position. The group focused mainly on preventing environmentally destructive projects and legislationfor example, blocking the MX missile complex in the Great Basin (1981), preventing weakening of the Clean Air Act , and stopping BLM from dropping 1.5 million acres (607,030 ha) from its wilderness inventory in 1983. Despite government interference, pressure from the public and from Congress helped the club continue its record of positive accomplishments, including the designation of 6.8 million acres (2.7 million ha) of wilderness in 18 states (1984), new wilderness designations in Alabama, Oklahoma, and Washington, and the addition of 40 rivers to the National Wild and Scenic River System.

In 1990, after years of grassroots lobbying, a compromise Clean Air Act was reauthorized, strengthening safeguards against acid rain and air pollution . Current projects include protecting the last remaining ancient forests of the Pacific Northwest; preventing oil and gas drilling in the 1.5-million-acre (607,030-ha) Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska; securing wilderness and park areas in California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, South Dakota, New Mexico, and Utah; and combating global warming and the depletion of the world's protective ozone layer.

In 2001, the Sierra Club began its hundred and tenth year of work to protect the environment. By 2002, it had grown to 700,000 members and had 58 chapters across the United States, with an annual budget of $38 million. Having become so large and influential, the Sierra Club is now considered one of the "big ten" American conservation organizations. An extensive professional staff is required to operate this complex organization, and members tend to have little influence over club policy at the national level. Some radical activists have criticized mainline organizations of this kind for being too conservative, too comfortable in their relationship to established powers, and too willing to compromise basic principles in order to maintain power and prestige. Supporters of the club argue that a spectrum of environmental organizations is desirable and that different organizations can play useful roles.

[Lewis G. Regenstein ]



Sierra Club, 85 Second St., Second Floor, San Francisco, CA USA 94105-3441 (415) 977-5500, Fax: (415) 977-5799, Email: [email protected], <>

Sierra Club

views updated May 29 2018


SIERRA CLUB. John Muir, the apostle of the American preservationist movement, cofounded the Sierra Club in 1892 and became its first president. The club's 182 charter members believed that by bringing people to the mountains and educating those who would not come, they could convince Americans to safeguard California's

wildlands. Foremost, the new clubstrove to protect the recently established Yosemite National Park, which faced its greatest threat from a proposal to dam the nearby Hetch Hetchy Valley. The ensuing controversy exposed a rift between preservationists, who believed in defending wilderness from most uses except recreation, and progressive conservationists, who advocated the "wise use" of the nation's resources.

During the first half of the twentieth century, the Sierra Clubstood at the vanguard of the preservationist movement. The club lobbied hard for the creation and protection of such national parks as Mount Rainier, Glacier, and the Grand Canyon, and clubmember Steven Mather became the first director of the National Park Service. Yet the Sierra Clubremained relatively small and localized.

Led by the so-called "Young Turks," including David Brower and Ansel Adams, during the 1950s, the Sierra Club became more aggressive and national. The club's focus, however, remained on preservation as it fought to stop a dam at Dinosaur National Monument and pushed for passage of the Wilderness Act. From 1955 to 1965, clubmembership grew from 10,000 to 33,000.

During the 1960s and the 1970s, the Sierra Clubretained its leadership role only by broadening its lobbying activities to support new environmental laws to protect human health and welfare. To this end the club supplemented lobbying with litigation, which, for example, led to a ban on the widely used carcinogenic DDT in 1972. Club membership climbed to 114,000 by 1970 and to 200,000 by 1980.

Although concern over the Ronald Reagan administration's anti environmentalism drove membership to 325,000 by 1982, the Sierra Club struggled during the 1980s just to defend what had been accomplished. During the 1990s, the club resumed the offensive, fighting to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, to strengthen the Clean Air Act, and to create the California Desert Protection Act. At the same time, the club again expanded its agenda by speaking out against global warming, the depletion of the ozone layer, and global trade without environmental controls and by linking environmentalism with human rights abuses worldwide. By 2000, club membership had reached 600,000. What had begun as a small group of outdoor enthusiasts dedicated to protecting Yosemite Valley became by the end of the twentieth century one of the largest and most influential environmental organizations in the world.


Cohen, Michael P. The History of the Sierra Club, 1892–1970. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1988.

Fox, Stephen R. The American Conservation Movement: John Muir and His Legacy. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1985.

Shannon C.Petersen

See alsoConservation ; National Park System ; Yosemite National Park .

Sierra Club

views updated May 29 2018


The Sierra Club is a nonprofit, member-supported public interest organization that promotes conservation of the natural environment by influencing public policy decisions. In addition, the Sierra Club organizes participation in wilderness activities for its members, including mountain climbing, backpacking, and camping. It is the oldest and largest nonprofit, grassroots environmental organization in the world, with more than 700,000 members. In mid-2003, the Sierra Club consisted of the national organization, located in San Francisco, California, 65 chapters, and approximately 365 local groups.

The organization was founded on June 4, 1892, by a group of 162 California residents. The Sierra Club's first president was John Muir, a pioneer in the promotion of national parks and the protection of the environment. Muir involved the club in political action, leading a successful fight to preserve Yosemite as a national park. Muir and the club also lobbied for the creation of national parks at the Grand Canyon and Mt. Rainier in the late nineteenth century. The Sierra Club drew national attention during the administration of President theodore roosevelt, when Muir got the president interested in creating more national parks.

The Sierra Club did not seek members out-side of California until 1950, when membership stood at 10,000. Membership has increased dramatically since that time, due in large part to the club's intense interest in protecting the environment. Since 1970 the club has played a major role in gaining legislative support for many federal environmental protection measures, including the establishment of the environmental protection agency and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the passage of the endangered species act, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the National Forest Management Act, and the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. The Sierra Club has also campaigned for similar state legislation.

During the 1990s, the Sierra Club filed lawsuits seeking to require the federal government to enforce provisions of the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Air Act. The organization also protested global trade that did not include adequate environmental protection controls. In the early 2000s the Sierra Club also advocated for the cleanup of toxic wastes, resolving the problems of solid waste disposal, promoting sustainable population and family planning, and fighting to reverse ozone depletion and global warming. In 2003 the Sierra Club highlighted the evasion of state and local pollution controls by many of the nation's "animal factories," sprawling establishments where thousands of animals are produced and housed in strict confinement before being transported to slaughterhouses.

further readings

Burton, Lloyd. 2002. Worship and Wilderness: Culture, Religion, and Law in Public Lands Management. Madison: Univ. of Wisconsin Press.

Clifton, Carr. 1990. Wild by Law: The Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund and the Places It Has Saved. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books.

Ehrlich, Gretel. 2000. John Muir: Nature's Visionary. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic.

Sierra Club. Available online at <> (accessed August 11, 2003).


Environmental Law; Environmental Protection Agency.

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