Sierra Club

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This article is part of the Coal Issues portal on SourceWatch, a project of CoalSwarm and the Center for Media and Democracy
This is part of the Center for Media & Democracy’s water policy initiative. 


The Sierra Club was founded by 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] See also Sierra Club Foundation.



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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. [2]

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 Carl Pope has written 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.”[3]

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. [3] 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.[4]

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. [5]

“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. [6]

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. [7] 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. [8]

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.” [9]

Coal issues

Targeted coal plant proposals



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.

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. [10]

Political views

The Big Book of Bush.
Politics & Issues.


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



Board of directors

(Director, Role, Term Expires)


Former Executive Directors: 1952 to 1992

See also Sierra Club: Officers.


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

Fax: 415-977-5799

Sierra Club Legislative Office
408 C St., N.E.
Washington, DC 20002

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

Web address:

Articles & sources

Sourcewatch resources


  1. ? Welcome page, Sierra Club, accessed January 2008.
  2. ? Inside the Sierra Club, Sierra Club, accessed February 2008.
  3. ? 3.0 3.1 Peter Montague, “Sierra Club Removes Leadership of its Florida Chapter,” Rachel’s Democracy & Health News, March 27, 2008.
  4. ? Robert P. King, “Sierra Club Fla. chapter leaders dumped,” Palm Beach Post (Florida), March 26, 2008.
  5. ? 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
  6. ? 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
  7. ? 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
  8. ? Clean Water: That Stinks, Sierra Club, accessed September 2009
  9. ? Report and Online Database Document Animal Cruelty, Pollution Spills, Indiana Sierra, Fall 2002
  10. ? Bill Berkowitz “Sierra Club Shenanigans“, Alternet, February 2004
  11. ? Board of Directors, Sierra Club, accessed September 1, 2007.

External articles

External resources

Books & publications