The Sierra Club is the nation's oldest and largest grassroots nonprofit conservation and preservation organization. The club was founded in 1892 by John Muir and a group of passionate outdoor enthusiasts to protect Yosemite Valley National Park from waste and destruction and to promote the preservation of America's natural forests. Muir served as the first president of the Sierra Club until his death in 1914. The Sierra Club is dedicated to educating people about conserving global ecosystems and lobbies for legislation to preserve the environment. Moreover, the club organizes wilderness outings both domestically and internationally. For more than a century, the Sierra Club has played a pivotal role in securing millions of acres of wilderness for recreation, education, and conservation. In protecting the wilderness and bringing people in closer contact with nature, the work of the Sierra Club has been known to positively impact the spiritual lives of many.
EARLY PROTECTION AND CONSERVATION
In the early years of the Sierra Club, the organization lobbied for the continued establishment of national parks and opposed efforts to construct dams in protected areas. The most well-known debate led by the Sierra Club in the history of the United States over the use of wilderness was the proposal to dam the Hetch Hetchy Valley in the Tuolumne area of Yosemite National Park. After the earthquake of 1906 that destroyed most of the city of San Francisco, Mayor James D. Phelan proposed to dam the Hetch Hetchy Valley to create a reservoir to transport fresh water and hydroelectric power to the city of San Francisco. While Muir testified before Congress in 1908 that he thought that Hetch Hetchy's broad, spacious meadows were more beautiful and picturesque than Yosemite and, therefore needed to be protected as a national park, in 1913 the city of San Francisco won the long-fought battle to turn this wilderness valley into a reservoir. While the damming of Hetch Hetchy was a major defeat for the Sierra Club, it garnered national attention to the conservation efforts of the organization. In the years following 1913, the Sierra Club continued to push for the establishment of additional national parks. Accordingly, Olympia National Park in Washington State was established in 1938, and 2 years later Kings Canyon was designated as a national park. During the 10-year period between 1940 and 1950 the Sierra Club was responsible for stopping the construction of dams in Glacier, Dinosaur, and Kings Canyon National Parks.
INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL PRESERVATION AND CONSERVATION
Although during the early years of the Sierra Club's history the focus on protecting and preserving natural land was primarily a domestic issue, in 1971 the organization expanded its mission to protect the global environment. The Sierra Club International Program was created in an effort to assemble governmental agencies, corporations, and other institutions to work together to educate the world about natural resources and ecosystems, focusing specifically on global population, human rights policies to protect activists, and free trade. The commitment of the Sierra Club to protect the earth's ecosystems is coupled by its commitment to protect the rights of the people who do this preservation and conservation work worldwide. However, in order to advocate on behalf of an issue, one must be dedicated to the cause.
SIERRA CLUB OUTINGS
John Muir's passion to protect the wildlife and natural resources from needless destruction was born out of his love of nature's pristine beauty. He believed that taking people out of the city and into the wilderness would inspire a similar passion to conserve and fight to protect the natural world. As such, in 1901 the Board of the Directors determined that an annual summer outing would be a significant addition to the Club's regular activities. The first outing served as a model for what is now known as the High Trip. These excursions have evolved over the course of the past century to include new and more sophisticated techniques for wilderness recreation. However, due to the popularity in wilderness recreation in the postwar years, the High Trip outings paid greater attention to "minimum impact" camping such that the presence of visitors in the backcountry would leave the least effect on the environment. Moreover, as the interests in conservation grew among the High Trip participants, the trips extended beyond California and into parts of Washington State, Wyoming, and Idaho. Today, there are more than 350 trips offered by the Sierra Club that will take people throughout the world to participate in activities ranging from activist trips and service trips to kayaking, backpacking, and skiing trips. Muir's passion for the wilderness was one that he wished to share with all human beings including those who ordinarily cannot get into the wilderness (i.e., urban youth, seniors, and physically challenged).
The Inner-City Outings (ICO) was first established in 1971 by the San Francisco Bay chapter of the Sierra Club as a community outreach program to provide wilderness experiences for young people who otherwise might not have them. Youth who participate in these trips come from diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds; some are visual and/or hearing impaired, and some are physically disabled. They are led by a group of dedicated volunteers into the backcountry where they learn survival and interpersonal skills and develop abilities to face challenges outside their neighborhoods, in addition to discovering the vast wilderness in a manner that protects and preserves the environment. The ICO seeks to promote a greater appreciation and understanding of diverse cultures and to foster respect of self and others while simultaneously developing a conservation ethic among its participants through outdoor exploration, education, sharing, and spiritual growth. Since its inception in 1892, the Sierra Club has been the most effective advocate for the environment locally and globally. Today, there are over 700,000 active members in the Club who are committed to resolving pressing global concerns such as ensuring clean water, ending commercial logging, stopping global warming, and protecting our wildlands. In the true spirit of John Muir's vision, the Sierra Club has been instrumental in organizing concerned citizens to preserve nature's most splendid wild places so that its beauty can be experienced, protected, and appreciated by generations to come. By valuing and preserving the environment, the Sierra Club will continue to play a role in the spiritual lives of those touched by the beauty of nature for many years to come.