Environment Picture

Sierra Club celebrates milestone anniversaries in 2012

National group and Michigan chapter recall victories that protected Grand Canyon, Sleeping Bear Dunes
From the Grand Canyon to Michigan’s outstanding wilderness areas, tangible results of the Sierra Club’s successes are everywhere as the organization celebrates big anniversaries in 2012.

This national organization, founded in 1892 by celebrated conservationist John Muir, turns 120 years old this year. The Sierra Club’s Michigan Chapter marks its 45th anniversary throughout this year as well—more than half of them (27) under the leadership of venerable Director Anne Woiwode.

“If you’ve ever enjoyed Sleeping Bear Dunes, Grand Island, Nordhouse Dunes or many other wild places in Michigan or around the country, you have the Sierra Club to thank,” says Jean Gramlich, an Oakland County resident and chair of the chapter’s Executive Committee. “Its victories are a part of the fabric of our lives.”

The national Sierra Club played a key role in killing a plan to flood the Grand Canyon in the 1960s after mobilizing thousands of people in protest in the days before the Internet and social media. Similarly, since its founding in 1967, the Michigan Chapter has had many important victories, beginning with the protection of 35 miles of pristine coastline that became Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in 1970.

The Michigan Chapter’s success stories range from the historic 1987 Wilderness Act which protected 90,000 acres of old growth forests, lakes and dunes; to a 2002 ban on Great Lakes oil drilling; to 2008 legislation requiring power companies to invest in alternative energy and energy efficiency. The organization’s advocacy helped shut down old coal-fired power plants and stop new ones from being built, blocked over 100 damaging oil and gas leases, and brought greater scrutiny and regulation to factory farms.

Yet, the victory Woiwode takes most pride in is the Michigan Wilderness Act, passed in 1987 after a 10-year political battle she witnessed as a young environmentalist. The law created 10 now-familiar wilderness areas full of remote lakes and spectacular dunes: Big Island Lake, Delirium, Horseshoe Bay, Mackinac, McCormick, Nordhouse Dunes, Rock River Canyon, Round Island, Sturgeon River Gorge, and Sylvania.

“My son came home from college after a visit to Nordhouse Dunes and raved about it, asking if I’d ever heard of it,” recalls Woiwode. “I was happy and proud to know the Sierra Club had ensured that he and future generations would be able to enjoy this great natural treasure.”

The Michigan Chapter will celebrate throughout the year with events such as film screenings, wilderness outings and presentations that underscore the vital role it has played in protecting the state’s natural heritage. For details, visit www.michigan.sierraclub.org or contact Gail Philbin at gail.philbin@sierraclub.org.
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