The Sierra Club's founder will grace the California quarter in 2005.
Putting a peach on the Georgia quarter was pretty much a no-brainer. But California has a wealth of icons — the Golden Gate Bridge, the Hollywood sign, the
forty-niner miners. From all the possibilities, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) picked Sierra Club founder John Muir.
Los Angeles graphic designer Garrett Burke proposed a coin depicting the conservationist hero in Yosemite Valley, which Muir helped protect. Burke's concept,
chosen from among 20 semifinalists by the governor in March, was one of 8,000 proposals.
"Other designs were associated more with Southern or Northern
California," says Dr. Kevin Starr, the state librarian emeritus who headed up the quarter-selection committee. "But Yosemite belongs to everybody." The Muir coin
will be issued next January as part of a decade-long U.S. Mint program to celebrate the states with 50 new quarter designs.
Sierra Club member Harold Wood, who heads the Club's John Muir Education Committee, helped organize an e-mail campaign that generated letters from all over
the world in support of the Muir design. Reading Muir's writings years ago in high school got Wood involved with the Sierra Club. "I hope that people who don't
already know about John Muir will see this quarter and find out," says Wood. "Because they're in for a treat."
Unprecedented numbers of Sierra Club members participated in this year's board of directors election. The race drew 171,616 voters–22.7 percent of the Club's
membership–who elected five representatives to the 15-member board. The winners of the April election are:
Lisa Renstrom, a former director and Sierra Club Foundation trustee from Charlotte, North Carolina (141,407 votes)
Jan O'Connell, a current director and board treasurer, and an insurance executive from Grand Rapids, Michigan (132,262 votes)
Nick Aumen, a current director and an aquatic ecologist from Palm Beach County, Florida (123,662 votes)
Sanjay Ranchod, a former Sierra Student Coalition leader and a consumer attorney from San Francisco, California (123,332 votes)
David Karpf, a former Sierra Student Coalition national director, and a PhD candidate at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia (110,756
"We're thrilled that so many people voted in this election," says Executive Director Carl Pope. "The turnout shows our members' commitment to the organization,
and to challenging the Bush administration's destructive environmental actions."
An artist can find inspiration just about anywhere. "This song came to me while I was stuck in traffic one morning," says Utah singer/songwriter Brenn Hill, a regular
on the cowboy poetry and music circuit. "Open spaces, wetlands, and fields of alfalfa are far more beautiful than six-lane superhighways."
A hundred thousand smokin' cars
Ev'ry single day
All bumper to bumper
Better build another highway
Right through the wetlands
And the farmland way out west
Then take a dagger
Sink it in my chest
And call it
The Legacy Highway
Right along the flyway
Right through the farmland and fields
Don't forget to tell the children about the way it used to be
When you take them for a ride down a road called Legacy.
"Where I live, in Montana, you have ranchers on the eastern front that are up in arms [over] the energy bill, which is going to encourage all sorts of
energy extraction, gas wells, oil wells. Ranchers and farmers over there who could hardly bring themselves to say the word Democrat a few years ago are
now; they're ready to join elbow in elbow with Sierra Club types to save these sort of landscapes."
— Ryan Busse, Montana hunting activist, on the ESPN2 morning show Cold Pizza, February 6, 2004
"The Sierra Club is perhaps the most powerful environmental lobby in existence today, but its Colorado headquarters looks more like a combination
student union/funky coffeehouse."
— Denver Westword, a local alternative weekly, March 18, 2004
"[Reese] Liggett, who served in the Air Force as a bomber pilot, is now a real-estate agent and a committed environmentalist. He sees no conflict
between military and environmental roles. 'I was in the military because I think it is very important to defend the country,' he said. 'I'm in the Sierra Club
to make sure there is something worth defending.' "
Bordering on Excessive
The 15-foot-tall corrugated-metal fence that separates Mexico from California near San Diego is a big enough intrusion in the coastal desert landscape. Now San
Diego Chapter activists are fighting an effort to build second and third fences along the 3.5-mile section of the border nearest the Pacific Ocean.
Already, some 10 miles of "triple border fence" have been built across San Diego County by the U.S. Border Patrol; the barriers are separated by roads,
stadium-style lighting, cameras, and motion sensors. The project's final march to the sea would entail lopping off the tops of two mesas and constructing a berm a
half-mile long, 800 feet wide at the base, and 160 feet high, all in sensitive coastal scrub habitat that is home to the endangered least Bell's vireo, southwestern willow
flycatcher, and coastal California gnatcatcher.
Some 5.5 million cubic yards of fill would be deposited in an area known as "Smuggler's Gulch" to prop up the new
walls. Opponents consider the project vastly overengineered: "It's like cutting butter with a chainsaw," says one of their attorneys, Cory Briggs.
In February, the Club, part of a coalition of San Diego–area environmental organizations, sued to halt the project, and the California Coastal Commission rejected
the plan. But the U.S. Department of Homeland Security could override the state's wishes, citing risks to national security.
It's a tough job, but at least they get to do it in paradise. Armed with pens, notepads, and cameras, Sierra Club Hawaii Chapter members are fanning out across their
archipelago to monitor inappropriate development, polluted runoff, and illegal dumping. Dubbed Blue Water Response Teams, volunteers receive free training on
how to spot and document threats to beaches, coral reefs, and surf spots. Residents can do their part by reporting potential violations to a statewide hotline.
Activists are also supporting a bill in the Hawaii legislature that would beef up runoff regulations, impose stricter fines for violators, and codify Hawaiians' right to
defend their clean water in court.
One crowded mesa
Cattle ranchers, property-rights activists, hunting and fishing groups, a Catholic bishop, and a governor have teamed up with Sierra Club activists and other
environmentalists to save one of the finest remnant Chihuahuan Desert grasslands in New Mexico.
After the Bush administration relaxed Clinton-era rules governing energy development on New Mexico's Otero Mesa, its fate seemed sealed. But the state's
unspoiled landscapes have the citizenry on their side. In late January, 700 residents converged on downtown Albuquerque to protest plans for drilling on the mesa's
1.2 million acres.
They were met by Governor Bill Richardson (D), who had already signed an executive order in favor of protection. Richardson is part of the
colorful coalition that includes the conservative property-rights group Paragon Foundation, which is concerned about potential groundwater contamination. In
February, the Sierra Club's Rio Grande Chapter and five other conservation groups filed a formal protest with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to stop
development plans on the mesa.