Sierra Club – Explore, Enjoy and Protect the Planet

What comes to mind when you read the words Sierra Club? Backpacking, John Muir, Yosemite, treehugger, what’s the Sierra Club?

As a kid growing up in California, I knew John Muir was a wilderness conservationist, had founded the Sierra Club, and was instrumental in establishing Yosemite National Park. I thought the Sierra Club was a group of hardcore backpackers and wilderness experts. Later, I discovered it was that and more. I became a Sierra Club member a few years ago but still didn’t know much about its history or the overall organization.

123rd Anniversary of Yosemite National Park Google DoodleOn October 1, 2013, a Google doodle appeared honoring the 123rd anniversary of Yosemite National Park which was created in 1890. Unfortunately, due to the federal government shut down the park was closed that day. The Google doodle induced me to learn more about the Sierra Club and John Muir. This post is about the Sierra Club.

The Sierra Club

Sierra Club SealThe Sierra Club currently has about 1.4 million members and local chapters in every state and Canada. Its mission is:

“To explore, enjoy, and protect the wild places of the earth;
To practice and promote the responsible use of the earth’s ecosystems and resources;
To educate and enlist humanity to protect and restore the quality of the natural and human environment; and to use all lawful means to carry out these objectives.”

Sierra Club History Highlights

The Sierra Club inspires people to go outside and explore and enjoy the natural world. It plays a pivotal role in creating, expanding, and protecting national parks and national monuments. The Sierra Club’s influence and activism contribute to important environmental legislation being passed and strengthened.

A few of the many, many highlights from the Sierra Club’s 121-year history are noted below. Check out the Sierra Club history page for the full story.

  • John Muir by Mirror Lake in Yosemite, CA - Library of Congress1892: John Muir founds the Sierra Club on May 28th in San Francisco, California and is elected its first president.
  • 1901: 96 wilderness enthusiasts participate in the first Sierra Club outing, a trip led by William E. Colby to Yosemite Valley and Tuolumne Meadows; this marks the beginning of the annual High Trip tradition.
  • 1927: Aurelia Squire Harwood becomes the first woman president of the Sierra Club.
  • 1952: David Brower is named as the first executive director of the Sierra Club.
  • 1960: the Sierra Club Foundation is established to support charitable activities.
  • 1966: the Sierra Club begins using ads to influence and engage the public to push for environmental and conservation legislation; on account of its political activities the IRS revokes the Sierra Club’s tax-free status in 1967.
  • 1971: the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund is established to spearhead environmental litigation; it expands and becomes the Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund in 1997.
  • 1976: the Sierra Club launches the national Inner City Outings program to provide outdoor adventures for low-income and urban youth.
  • 1980: Longtime Sierra Club member and photographer Ansel Adams receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom for “his efforts to preserve this country’s wild and scenic areas.”
  • 1991: Adam Werbach creates the Sierra Student Coalition; he becomes the youngest Sierra Club president in 1996.
  • 2000: the Sierra Club Environmental Justice program is formed to address the Michael Brune Speaking at Forward on Climate Rally - Sierra Clubdisproportionate amount of environmental pollution and health issues borne by low-income communities and people of color.
  • 2013: for the first time in its history, the Sierra Club engages in civil disobedience which leads to the arrest of executive director, Michael Brune, and president, Allison Chin, at the Forward On Climate rally in Washington, D.C. on February 17th.
Sierra Club Outdoor Outings

The Outdoor Outings program sets the Sierra Club apart from other environmental organizations. Hundreds of trips are offered every year across the U.S. and around the world. The wide variety of trips makes it possible for adventure experts and novices alike to enjoy a trip that suits their interests and skill level. Each year, thousands of kids discover and explore our country’s wilderness areas via the Inner City Outings program.

Sierra Club Programs

Advocating and litigating for environmental conservation and protection is in the Sierra Club’s DNA and supports its mission. The Sierra Club’s current priority campaigns are Beyond Coal, Beyond Oil, Beyond Natural Gas, and Our Wild America. Other programs include Electric Vehicles, Global Population and the Environment, and Responsible Trade.

The Sierra Club and Clean Energy

On Monday of this week, my spouse and I had the opportunity to hear Michael Brune speak in person at an event organized by the Sierra Club Santa Lucia Chapter and held at Cal Poly University in San Luis Obispo, CA.

While listening to Brune talk about renewable energy, optimism, and action, I realized that clean energy is THE focus of the Sierra Club, at least right now. Perhaps I am wrong, but it makes sense. It is critical we move to clean and renewable energy, and soon. Without it, there may not be any wilderness trips or national parks to enjoy in the future.

The video below eloquently illustrates the message Brune delivered to us on Monday, “occupy the Sierra Club and think big.” Ready to join the Sierra Club and take action? Click Here.


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Author: Linda Poppenheimer

Linda researches and writes about environmental topics to share information and to spark conversation. Her mission is to live more lightly on Earth and to persuade everyone else to do the same.

2 thoughts on “Sierra Club – Explore, Enjoy and Protect the Planet”

  1. Excellent and informative article. Thanks for keeping us informed as well as inspired to help us become more respectful and protective of our environment.

  2. You got me with this Blog. I will definitely sign up for a Sierra Club membership. Couldn’t quite figure out how to do it through the You Tube video. Glad to see a concern is global population, very sledom mentioned anywhere. Great quick glimpse of solar roof panels and windmills.

    How fortunate to be able to hear Michael Brune in person.


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