Sierra Club

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The Sierra Club, considered a Big Green environmental group member, was founded on May 28, 1892 by John Muir and other supporters. It is the oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization in the United States. The Sierra club has 1.3 million members. [1]

It is formally allied with Executive Director Michael Brune received special permission from his board to be arrested in a celebrity civil disobedience campaign at the White House in 2013.[2]

See also Sierra Club Foundation.


According to their mission statement, the Sierra Club endeavors to:

  • Explore, enjoy and protect the wild places of the earth.
  • Practice and promote the responsible use of the earth's ecosystems and resources.
  • Educate and enlist humanity to protect and restore the quality of the natural and human environment.
  • Use all lawful means to carry out these objectives. [3]

"Gas-cash fallout"

In February 2012, new Sierra Club national executive director Michael Brune (formerly executive director of the Rainforest Action Network) "came clean" in a blog post: "In 2010, soon after I became the organization's executive director, I learned that beginning in 2007 the Sierra Club had received more than $26 million from individuals or subsidiaries of Chesapeake Energy, one of the country's largest natural gas companies." He clarified that as of the time of his writing, "The Sierra Club opposes any natural gas development that poses unacceptable toxic risks to our land, water, and air. We insist that the volume and content of all fracking fluids and flowback should be disclosed, and that all toxics should be eliminated. . . . Fracking should not be permitted unless it can be demonstrated that drinking water is protected and that all cumulative impacts can be mitigated. And, of course, many beautiful areas and important watersheds across this country should be off-limits to drilling."[4]

The $26 million received represented more than half of the group's net assets as of 2010. The Club held a national conference call with members on Saturday, February 4, 2012, two days after the blog posting. According to Politico, which called the scandal the Sierra Club's "gas-cash fallout," many of these "long-time supporters" were left "feeling angry, betrayed or misled." Kate Bartholomew, a gas activist who at the time was an elected member of the executive committee of the Sierra Club's New York state chapter, told Politico that national leaders should have opened up sooner. "How do you hide $25 million?" she asked. “How do you not know where it comes from? That was my first response. . . . I think it betrays all the grass-roots volunteers.” Anti-fracking activist Walter Hang commented, "It basically looks like they're shilling for the No. 2 natural gas producer in America.”[5]

Others, including fracking activist and director of the Oscar-nominated documentary Gasland Josh Fox, applauded Brune for coming clean. “I think this means the Sierra Club is saying we cannot go down the road of a gas-powered future," Fox told Politico. Climate change activist Bill McKibben said he was “very glad to see the new transparency at the club. . . . I think it will enable the Sierra Club to take a foreground role in the burgeoning battle around fracking.”[5]

Clorox & "Green Works"

In January 2008, the Sierra Club announced a deal with Clorox whereby the company could "use the Sierra Club's name and logo to market a new line of non-chlorinated cleaning products called 'Green Works.' In return, Clorox Company will pay Sierra Club an undisclosed fee, based partly on product sales," reported Peter Montague. Sierra Club's director of Licensing & Cause-Related Marketing, Johanna O'Kelley, has said "the amount of money involved is 'substantial.'" Sierra executive director at the time, Carl Pope, wrote that "our focus was on consumers who otherwise would not migrate to a safer product because they wouldn't be sure it wasn't green scamming."[6]

The tension within the Sierra Club came to a head in late March 2008, when, in an unprecedented move, the "Sierra Club's national board voted March 25 to remove the leaders of the Club's 35,000-member Florida chapter, and to suspend the Chapter for four years." The Florida chapter was reportedly "highly critical" of the Clorox deal. [6] The Sierra Club told chapter leaders not to "seek public media coverage of this internal board decision," according to the Palm Beach Post. Some chapter leaders said "they fear punishment from the national organization" if they speak out.[7]

CAFOs or "animal factories"

The Sierra club reports on the environmental hazards and corporate and government corruption surrounding "giant animal factories" or Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO)s. [8]

"Governments are spending millions of taxpayer dollars to bring a pollution nightmare into our neighborhoods," declared Ken Midkiff, coordinator of the Sierra Club's Clean Water Committee. "In state after state, while factory farms rake in the financial benefits, Americans are paying the environmental, health and social costs."
"That giant sucking sound is the factory-farm industry taking a hold of the government teat," said Kathryn Hohmann, Director of Sierra Club's Environmental Quality Program. [9]

According to the Sierra Club, factory farms are breeding grounds for disease and pollution effecting air and water quality. According to an Iowa study cited by the group, nearby residents of factory farms complain of respiratory problems, headaches and other illnesses, similar to those of employees. [10] Scientific and medical researchers have conducted a handful of comprehensive studies that examine the public health impacts of animal factories. They conclude that residents living near animal factories show symptoms of respiratory, physical and emotional illness significantly higher than control groups. [11]

See also meat & dairy industry, sections 4 & 5.

"Ten Least Wanted" list

In 2002, Cargill, Smithfield Foods and Tyson Foods made the Sierra Club's "Ten Least Wanted" list.

Just weeks after the second-largest beef recall in history, the Sierra Club released a report on hundreds of criminal and civil violations of America's largest corporate factory farms. The Rap sheet documented convictions for animal cruelty, bribery, records destruction, fraud, worker endangerment and pollution.

"Despite repeated violations of environmental and public health laws, many of the companies highlighted in the Rap Sheets continue to receive millions of dollars every year from the School Lunch Program and other federal food assistance programs." [12]

Coal issues

Targeted coal plant proposals

For a sortable status list of coal plants opposed by the Sierra Club, see Proposed coal plants in the United States.

Targeted Institution Plants

University Circle coal steam plant hearing 8/10/10

The Medical Center Company (MCC), a non-profit district heating operation formed in 1932 to provide aggregated utility services to University Circle institutions in eastern Cleveland, OH, burns 40,000 tons of coal/year to heat the city's leading institutions. After operating its plant without a permit for 6 years, the Ohio EPA set a renewal process for their Title V air permit in Spring 2010. The Sierra Club urged MCC to stop burning coal, particularly since it is right next to a hospital, and asked for a public hearing on the permit renewal. Sierra Club then mobilized people in East Cleveland on the hearing, raising issues of environmental justice (see video). In August 2010, MCC chairman Bob Brown, who is also chairman of the corporation's board of directors, said that the company "was moving beyond coal" and is committed to replacing the plant, perhaps with a facility that burns natural gas and generates electrical power as well as steam heat.[13]

Campus Coal Plants

For details see: Campus coal plants.

Campuses Beyond Coal is a joint effort between the Sierra Student Coalition and the Sierra Club to move U.S. universities beyond coal to clean energy solutions, and aims to shut down or replace campus-based coal plants and coal-generated electricity.[14]

Internal debates

In 2003/2004, there was an attempt to vote in a number of anti-immigration board members to form an anti-immigration platform. The argument in favor was that "the greater the population, the bigger threat to the environment." Groundswell Sierra charged that anti-immigration leaders were working with directors Ben Zuckerman, Doug LaFollette and Paul Watson. Both Zuckerman, (an astronomy professor at the Univerisity of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)) and LaFollette are proponents of curbing immigration. However, while Sierra is a proponent of population control in general, it has remained officially neutral on immigration issues. (see Sierrans for U.S. Population Stablization)

Captain Paul Watson is the head of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, a marine environmental group. Watson and other animal rights supporters aligned themselves with anti-immigration advocates in hopes of forming a block to officially discourage hunting, fishing and raising animals for food. While Sierra is an opponent of CAFOs or factory farms, it still maintains a neutral policy on hunting, fishing and animal consumption in general. [15]

Political views

The Big Book of Bush.
Politics & Issues.


Sierra Club is funded in part by members of the Democracy Alliance.



  • David A. Scott, President
  • Spencer Black, Vice President
  • Lane E. Boldman, Secretary
  • Donna Buell, Treasurer
  • Susana Reyes, Fifth Officer

Board of directors

(Director, Role (if any), Term Expires)

  • David A. Scott, President, 2015
  • Spencer Black, Vice President, 2015
  • Lane E. Boldman, Secretary, 2015
  • Donna Buell, Treasurer, 2016
  • Susana Reyes, Fifth Officer, 2016
  • Loren Blackford, 2014
  • Jim Dougherty, 2016
  • Larry Fahn, 2014
  • Charles Frank, 2016
  • Jessica Helm, 2014
  • Aaron Mair, 2014
  • Robin Mann, 2016
  • Liz Walsh, 2015
  • Chris Warshaw, 2015
  • Rob Wilder, 2014

Former Board members

(Director, Role (if any), Term Expired (if known))

Former Executive Directors: 1952 to 2010

See also Sierra Club: Officers.


Sierra Club National Headquarters
85 Second Street, 2nd Floor
San Francisco, CA 94105

Phone: 415-977-5500
Fax: 415-977-5799

Sierra Club Legislative Office
50 F Street, NW, Eighth Floor
Washington, DC 20001

Phone: 202-547-1141
Fax: 202-547-6009

Web address:

Articles & sources

Sourcewatch resources

External articles

External resources

Books & publications


  1. Welcome page, Sierra Club, accessed January 2008.
  2. Jeffrey St. Clair, The Post-Modern Protest Blues, Designer Protests and Vanity Arrests in DC, CounterPunch, April 12, 2013.
  3. Inside the Sierra Club, Sierra Club, accessed February 2008.
  4. Michael Brune, The Sierra Club and Natural Gas, Coming Clean (the blog of Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune), February 2, 2012.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Bob King, Sierra Club Faces Gas-Cash Fallout, Politico, February 7, 2012.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Peter Montague, "Sierra Club Removes Leadership of its Florida Chapter," Rachel's Democracy & Health News, March 27, 2008.
  7. Robert P. King, "Sierra Club Fla. chapter leaders dumped," Palm Beach Post (Florida), March 26, 2008.
  8. The CAFO Papers: Animal Factories Using Closed-Door Meetings with Bush Administration to Evade Environmental Laws, Sierra Club Press Room, pg 1-2, May - October 2003
  9. Megan Fowler, Ed Hopkins Sierra Club Feeding Frenzy At Taxpayer Trough; Sierra Club Report Reveals Factory Farms Receive Millions of Tax Dollars to Pollute, Common Dreams Newswire, Sierra Club Press Release, Sept 1999
  10. Kendall Thu, et. al, "A Control Study of the Physical and Mental Health of Residents Living Near a Large-Scale Swine Operation," Journal of Agricultural Safety and Health, 3(l):13-26 (1997), p. 1-11
  11. Clean Water: That Stinks, Sierra Club, accessed September 2009
  12. Report and Online Database Document Animal Cruelty, Pollution Spills, Indiana Sierra, Fall 2002
  13. John Funk, "Case Western Reserve University steam plant may wait months for decision about permit renewal", August 11, 2010.
  14. "Campuses Beyond Coal" Sierra Club, accessed August 2010.
  15. Bill Berkowitz "Sierra Club Shenanigans", Alternet, February 2004
  16. Board of Directors, Sierra Club, accessed September 1, 2007.