Founded on May 28, 1892, the Sierra Club is one of the largest, oldest, and most well known environmental groups in the United States. Naturalist John Muir, who eventually became the first president, started it in San Francisco, California. Now the Sierra Club has chapters all across the U.S. Their members number almost half a million.
The Sierra Club’s 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.”
Looking back on its grassroots beginnings, John Muir was instrumental in getting things going. He worked with journalist Robert Underwood Johnson on the campaign to expand Yosemite National Park. A smaller state park had been created in 1864, but Muir saw room to grow. By 1890, he got his wish.
Yet, it was not just by wishing that made it so. Johnson urged Muir to form an “association” to protect the Sierra Nevadas. The two held get-togethers to form a plan. They invited artist William Keith, Joseph LeConte and David Starr Jordan.
In May of 1892, the group decided to model the Sierra Club after the Appalachian Mountain Club. They did so with help from some professors at UC Berkeley and Stanford University. They also enlisted attorney Warren Olney.
Muir held the office of presidency until his death in 1914. During that time, the club tackled their goals of “establishing Glacier and Mount Rainier national parks, convincing the California legislature to give Yosemite Valley to the US Federal government, and saving California’s coastal redwoods.”
The club fought for legislation to protect forest lands, clean air and promote clean energy. Their most recent endeavor was a rare act of civil disobedience in which they protested the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.
Executive director, Michael Brune, was arrested along with 48 people in February of 2013. He stated, “We are watching a global crisis unfold before our eyes, and to stand aside and let it happen – even though we know how to stop it – would be unconscionable.”