December 19, 2014

Help us protect Berryessa Snow Mountain on Friday, December 19

Tired hikers in the extreme south of the proposed National Monument get a glimpse of Lake Berryessa. Photo courtesy of Tuleyome.

Tired hikers in the extreme south of the proposed National Monument get a glimpse of Lake Berryessa. Photo courtesy of Tuleyome.

The Berryessa Snow Mountain region is the crown jewel of Northern California’s wild Inner Coast Range. Efforts to protect this wild place go back over a decade. Right now, we finally have the opportunity to protect Berryessa Snow Mountain as a national monument — and we need your help!

Please attend an important public meeting about the future of Berryessa Snow Mountain this Friday:

Friday, December 19, 2-4 pm
Napa Valley College Performing Arts Center
2277 Napa-Vallejo Hwy, Building 100 Napa, CA 94558

This meeting will be hosted by Representative Mike Thompson and attended by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, Undersecretary of Agriculture Robert Bonnie, Representative John Garamendi and other officials seeking public response to the idea of protecting Berryessa Snow Mountain as a National Monument. Your attendance and enthusiasm at this meeting will go a long way toward protecting this important landscape and rewarding Berryessa Snow Mountain with the “star on the map” as a national monument that this place has long deserved. There will be an opportunity for the public to speak so please be ready to talk about why this area is important to you! National monuments are areas of public lands that have unique attributes that merit protection for future generations. Please help to make that a reality by attending the meeting on December 19th!

Transportation will be available from the following locations, but you must RSVP:

  • Davis – Amtrak Station, 840 Second Street
  • Winters – Community Center, 201 Railroad Avenue
  • Sacramento – Convention Center, 1400 J Street
  • Berkeley – North Berkeley BART Station, 1750 Sacramento Street

For more information and to RSVP contact: Mike Thornton, California Coastal Organizer, Sierra Club California/Our Wild America, at Michael.thornton@sierraclub.org or 916-803-5942.

Let’s protect Berryessa Snow Mountain – now and forever!

National Wilderness Conference inspires a new generation of activists

Vicky Hoover at the National Wilderness Conference.

Vicky Hoover at the National Wilderness Conference.

Enlightening. Profound. Sobering. Just a few adjectives for the National Wilderness Conference, held October 15-19, 2014, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. Over 1,200 people from dozens of organizations and federal resource agencies converged on Albuquerque for the first national gathering of the wilderness community in 25 years.

The conference offered a rich array of plenary sessions, presentations, panels, exhibits, films, field trips, and skill-development workshops. Six wilderness themes were woven into every aspect of the programming: stewardship, education, history, experience, civic engagement, and science. The companion Wilderness Celebration Exhibition showcased organizational booths surrounding a “Wilderness Awareness Trail” for students. The culmination was a free-to-the-public outdoor “Get Wild” festival with music, Native American dance, kids’ stories and activities, and keynote speakers rallying to action a new and more diverse generation of wilderness advocates.

Throughout the conference, a litany of threats to the integrity and very existence of our National Wilderness Preservation System (NWPS) was explored. The Wilderness Act promised to “secure for the American people of present and future generations the benefits of an enduring resource of wilderness.” Yet, while the amount of land designated as wilderness has increased since 1964 by over ten-fold—from 9 million to nearly 110 million acres, 14% of which are in California—the wildness of those lands has not been well safeguarded. Human impacts from nearby development, population growth, climate change, and inadequate stewardship continue degrading wilderness values. Those manifold values include solitude and refuge from the sights and sounds of civilization in places where ecosystems remain undeveloped and intact, where natural processes unfold without direct human intervention.

When the Wilderness Act was signed into law, it was after years of effort building a broad public and political consensus about the “idea” of wilderness: that it is fundamental to our national character and must be protected. That consensus has eroded, even as pressures on our wild areas have increased from all sides.

Acknowledging these critical problems, leaders of the four federal agencies responsible for protecting the NWPS—the National Park Service, the National Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Bureau of Land Management—ceremonially signed a “2020 Vision” document setting interagency priorities for the next five years. The major themes are to: protect wilderness resources; connect people to their wilderness heritage; and foster excellence in wilderness leadership and coordination.

Energized and renewed by our experiences, several conference attendees from the Bay Chapter are collaborating to build on the momentum to improve and expand wilderness protection. Three current wilderness proposals in our area are:

  • Central Coast Heritage Protection Act. This bill would add roughly 300,000 acres of wilderness, scenic areas, and other protections and 159 miles of wild and scenic rivers in the Los Padres National Forest and Carrizo Plain National Monument.
  • The current Forest Plan process in Inyo, Sierra, and Sequoia National Forests, which could and should include Wilderness recommendations from the Forest (see “Help secure Wilderness designation for National Forest lands!” for what you can do to help).
  • Senator Diane Feinstein’s new California Desert Conservation and Recreation Act, a bill to be introduced in January when Congress reconvenes. According to the Senator’s website, “The bill builds on Feinstein’s historic California Desert Protection Act, which became law in 1994. The new legislation is designed to protect additional land and help manage California’s desert resources by carefully balancing conservation, recreation and renewable energy development.”

If you are working to mitigate climate change, encourage smart growth and effective public transportation, shift toward sustainable food and energy systems, and reduce our ecological footprint, then you are also working on behalf of wilderness. If you’d like to join the conversation and get involved more directly in wilderness advocacy work in our chapter, please contact Alan Carlton at carltonal@yahoo.com, Anne Henny at anneth16@sbcglobal.net, or Teri Shore at terishore@gmail.com.

—Anne Henny

Help secure Wilderness designation for National Forest lands!

The three National Forests in the heart of the High Sierra, Inyo, Sierra, and Sequoia, are revising their Forest Plans. As a part of this process, they are required to identify and evaluate lands that may be suitable for inclusion in the wilderness system and determine whether to recommend any such land for wilderness. The ultimate determination as to whether to recommend lands for wilderness designation is made by the Forest Supervisor. The Forests may also protect lands by other special designations.

Wilderness designation is the highest form of protection the government can give to a public land. No roads, vehicles or permanent structures are allowed in designated wilderness. A wilderness designation also prohibits activities like logging or mining.

The Sierra Club and other allied groups, including the Wilderness Society, the California Wilderness Coalition, and Friends of the Inyo, have determined that certain areas in these three Forests meet the criteria of the Wilderness Act and should be recommended for wilderness designation. The final determination on wilderness will of course have to be made by Congress. Other areas should be given some other special designation.

WhatYouCanDo

The recommendations will be made in the near future. Please contact the Forest Supervisors in these three Forests and ask them to recommend the following areas for wilderness or to otherwise appropriately protect them in the Forest Plans. The easiest way is to copy the relevant message below and email it to the Supervisor at the provided email address. Of course, a hand-written letter might be even better!

inyoInyo National Forest:
Ed Armenta, Supervisor
351 Pacu Lane Suite 200
Bishop, CA 93514-3101


I support the following Wilderness and other Special Designations in the Inyo National Forest: Wilderness, Blanco, Dexter Canyon, Excelsior, Horse Meadows, and South Sierra.

For Backcountry Management designation: Paiute, Benton Range, and Black Canyon.

For Zoological or Botanical Area designation: Soldier Canyon.

For Special Management Area designation: Coyote Plateau, Mono Craters, Mt. Olsen, and Glass Mountain.


Lake_of_the_Lone_Indian_JMWSierra National Forest
Dean Gould, Supervisor
1600 Tollhouse Rd.
Clovis, CA 93611


I support the following Wilderness and other Special Designations in the Sierra National Forest: Wilderness, Ansel Adams Additions, Cat’s Head Mountain, Devils Gulch, Dinkey Lakes Additions, Graham Mountain, John Muir Additions, Kaiser Additions, Monarch Additions, Mt. Raymond, Shuteye, Soaproot, and Sycamore Springs.

For Backcountry Management designation: Chiquito Creek, North Fork Kings River, Peckinpah Creek, and San Joaquin River.


Sequoia National Forest
3_1_1_The_Giant_Forest
Kevin Elliot, Supervisor
1839 South Newcomb Street
Porterville, CA 93257


I support the following Wilderness and other Special Designations in the Sequoia National Forest: Wilderness, Lucas Creek, Lightner Peak, Mill Creek, Oat Mountain, Cannell, Chico, Bright Star Additions, South Sierra Additions, Golden Trout Additions, and Domeland Addition.

For Backcountry Management designation: Saturday Peak, Sunday Peak, and Lumreau Creek.

On the brink: is it too late to save the salmon of Redwood Creek in Muir Woods?

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Photo of Redwood Creek via Flickr Creative Commons, www.flickr.com/giofusco.

The federal government is spending billions of dollars in an attempt to save the endangered coho salmon, but the Sierra Club is concerned that these efforts are ignoring the real source of contamination—and meanwhile, our salmon are inching closer to extinction.

In Marin, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) collected comprehensive scientific research on our two most significant spawning grounds, Lagunitas Creek in the San Geronimo Valley and Redwood Creek, which traverses Muir Woods to reach Muir Beach and the Pacific Ocean (you can find the full text of NOAA’s “Recovery Plan for the Evolutionarily Significant Unit of Central Coast Coho Salmon” online here). As part of the habitat restoration effort, 15 million dollars was spent to restore Big Lagoon and Muir Beach. Yet these efforts did not save the latest generation of coho.

Thirteen adult spawners were counted this year but apparently none of the hatched fry from five observed nests survived. Scientists from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife confirm that for the first time in Redwood Creek’s recorded history, the local extinction of this year’s coho has occurred.

Earlier generations, now 18 months and three years old, are in deep trouble too. In August, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the National Marine Fisheries Service “rescued” the remaining coho in Redwood Creek and Mount Tamalpais State Park. They found no babies, instead transporting the 105 smolt-sized fish that failed to migrate out to sea to the Warm Springs Fish Hatchery in Sonoma. Although some of the smolt found this year may survive to spawn, the trajectory is not looking good.  Scientists warn of an “extinction vortex” for coho. A recovery threshold of 272 fish is the minimum indicated for Redwood Creek in the NOAA Fisheries Coho Recovery Plan.

All this begs the question: What happened to the coho young this year?

Though the National Park Service and other agencies have spent over 15 million dollars on habitat restoration, they have failed to test the water in Redwood Creek for contaminants. Every year, an estimated one million visitors and several-hundred thousand vehicles use the road that runs alongside Redwood Creek, leading to Muir Woods. Along a four-mile stretch of that road, 15 of 43 culverts deliver contaminated storm water directly into the creek. Road runoff is a well-documented source of toxins in creeks, and water contamination could be a significant factor in the coho’s plight.

Car brake pads emit copper, a known neurotoxin. Government scientists have concluded that low levels of copper found in waterways harm sense of smell in young coho salmon, reducing their ability to avoid predators and confusing migration and spawning ability. Copper tests cost only 10 dollars.

Moreover, a 2013 study from NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Washington linked unidentified compounds in highway runoff to coho salmon death. In that study, toxic chemicals that washed into creeks in the rush of stormwater after a rainfall were found to be killing adult salmon before they could spawn.

coho salmon graph

Chart compiled by Laura Chariton.

According to a regional water board spokesperson, parking alongside Redwood Creek should not be allowed because of the known vehicle contaminants. Yet on any given day a mile-long queue of parked cars lines the county-owned road along the creek. The National Park Service has suggested adding a valet service and online registration system, which would only exacerbate the problem.

Many believe our government and agencies have failed in their responsibility to protect our salmon, favoring visitors over natural resources. This is an occasion for the County of Marin to step forward and do what the federal and state agencies are apparently incapable of doing; the county must follow up on the billions of dollars spent on plans and research and take active steps to save these fish. Marin County owns the roads and must manage them. If we want Muir Woods to continue in harmony with the legacy upon which it was founded, then we need to save its native wildlife from extinction.

The solution: give Muir Woods a break from individual cars. Clean the water and restrict use until we can begin to recover the two remaining coho populations that are on the brink.

—Laura Chariton

Read more about coho salmon in Marin in “Marin Supervisors pass toothless streamside ordinance–will our salmon survive politics?“.

Correction: an earlier version of this article incorrectly reported that 1.4 million visitors and 350,000 vehicles use the road that runs alongside Redwood Creek leading to Muir Woods. These figures are actually one million and several hundred thousand, respectively.

In Alameda, rare S.F. Bay harbor seal habitat at risk

harborsealPacific harbor seals have been coming to Alameda Point to find food, suitable breeding habitat, and resting area in recent years, taking up residence at a site adjacent to Enterprise Park and the Bay Trail. The seals have been using the Alameda Point Channel and Inner Harbor for feeding, hauling out, and even delivering pups. Rather than encouraging their homestead, the Water Emergency Transportation Authority (WETA) wants to kick them out. If WETA gets its way, it would be a permanent loss for the seals and a lost asset for the community of Alameda and visitors.

WETA’s plan for the Central Bay Operations and Maintenance Facility in Inner Bay Harbor—a ferry maintenance facility project—will have a profound impact on the marine ecosystem. One of its most prominent inhabitants, the harbor seals, have not been adequately addressed in the Incidental Harassment Authorization Level B permit application by WETA.

Following the end of Navy operations at Alameda’s Naval Air Station in 1997, the Navy’s recreational boating dock fell into disrepair. The simultaneous lack of maintenance and lack of human presence on the docks was ultimately fortuitous for the harbor seals that frequent the protected waterway. The dock itself, along with odd wooden structural debris that lodged against the dock, became an easy and inviting haul out for the seals, and an ideal spot to rear their pups.

Shoreline development is one of the primary reasons for harbor seal abandonment of San Francisco Bay. When haul-out sites are disturbed by nearby development or regular human presence, the seals are prone to depart for safer surroundings. In the case of the WETA ferry facility project, it is not a traditional natural shoreline that will be disturbed or destroyed.  But the dock’s demolition and replacement with an active berthing facility for 11 ferries will leave the harbor seals little choice but to move on.

The Sierra Club recommends that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS)—which will decide on WETA’s harassment authorization permit—apply additional mitigation measures to the project to compensate for the loss of harbor seal habitat. Given the geography of the Alameda Point Channel and Inner Harbor, the addition of a new haul-out dock nearby, possibly an anchored floating dock, should be evaluated as a mitigation measure to help retain the colony of harbor seals that find respite along Alameda Point’s shore.

It is unknown when NMFS will issue a finding on WETA’s petition application to move forward with its ferry project. NMFS could also call for going from an Environmental Assessment to an Environmental Impact Statement, which would undoubtedly involve a full-blown study of harbor seals at Alameda Point.

Before the project can begin, WETA will need a construction permit from the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC). It is unknown when they will apply for that permit, but likely after NMFS issues a decision on the harassment permit—probably early next year. BCDC can also require mitigation as a condition of issuing a permit.

WhatYouCanDo

Add your name to the petition asking WETA not to harass and displace the seals. For more information or to get more involved, contact Richard Bangert at alamedaptenviro-2013@yahoo.com. Look for future alerts calling on the BCDC to protect these precious marine mammals.

Marking the passage of the California Desert Protection Act, 20 years on

The Old Woman Mountains Wilderness in 1992, before the passage of the California Desert Protection Act.

The Old Woman Mountains Wilderness in 1992, before the passage of the California Desert Protection Act.

October 31, 1994! 

Why is that date special for California and the nation?

Sure, it was Halloween, but that happens every year. Twenty years ago, rather than ghosts or pumpkins, the highlight of the day was President Bill Clinton’s signing of the California Desert Protection Act, the largest single land-conservation measure ever to be enacted by the U.S. Congress for the lower 48 states.

Soon after then-Senator Alan Cranston introduced the bill into the U.S. Senate early in 1986, the San Francisco Bay Chapter began to play a leading role in advocating for this monumental legislation. The bill established 68 new Bureau of Land Management wilderness areas in the California Desert, established the new Mojave National Preserve, and expanded both Death Valley and Joshua Tree National Monuments and upgraded their status to national parks.

Previous desert activism had been concentrated in southern California, closer to the desert, which comprises fully one quarter of California’s land area. But Bay Area activists realized that in order to pass such a large land-preservation bill, all of California must offer support. The Bay Chapter’s Wilderness Committee persuaded the Sierra Club California/Nevada Regional Conservation Committee to establish a northern California Desert Task Force and began advocating for the bill. Their efforts took a number of forms.

County resolutions endorsing the bill proved to be a significant tool. In time, each of the Chapter’s four counties passed a resolution, led by local activists. Overall, 14 California counties (out of 58) endorsed the desert bill. While this may seem like a small minority, these were the counties with big urban populations, meaning that desert advocates could claim the support of 75 percent of California’s population.

In order to get people acquainted with the places we were fighting for, the Chapter led outings to some of the desert areas slated to receive protection. The Bay Chapter “adopted” three desert Wilderness Study Areas in the bill and designed a series of trips there. Numerous Chapter volunteers got their introduction to the beauties of the remote California desert through these trips.

Other strategies in the desert protection campaign included: helping run national phone banks at key moments in the congressional battle to get Sierra Club members in other states to contact their legislators; keeping northern California activists updated on events via regular meetings of the northern California Desert Task Force; taking part in several volunteer wilderness lobby weeks in Washington, DC to educate congressional offices on why the desert needed protection; and informing the Club’s general membership by running regular articles in  the Yodeler, which were then picked up by other Chapter newsletters.

Soon after the California Desert Protection Act was signed into law, the Club’s California/Nevada Regional Conservation Committee began partnering with the Needles office of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) (which had the most new desert wilderness area to manage), on a series of service trips to help the agency enhance wilderness values. This series continues to this day! The next trip with BLM, set for March 26- 29, 2015, is planned to the Old Woman Mountains. Trip leader Vicky Hoover will take sign-ups beginning in January. For more information, call Vicky at (415)977-5527, or email at vicky.hoover@sierraclub.org; the trip write-up appears in the December 2014 issue of the wilderness newsletter Words of the Wild; contact Vicky to be added to the electronic subscription list.

Twenty years after the passage of the California Desert Protection Act, it is time to reflect on the accomplishment and savor, once again, the newly protected areas in the California desert.

What is the attraction of the desert in a culture more accustomed to regard the colors “green” and “blue” as emblems of scenic beauty? Activist leader Elden Hughes used to say, “You must get over the color green.” That may take a while for some, but once that is accomplished the desert exerts a strong emotional pull. I know of no one who said it better than John Van Dyke, an early desert enthusiast, writing his prose poetry in 1901:

In sublimity — the superlative degree of beauty— what land can equal the desert with its wide plains, its grim mountains, and its expanding canopy of sky! You shall never see elsewhere as here the dome, the pinnacle, the minaret fretted with golden fire at sunrise and sunset; you shall never see elsewhere as here the sunset valleys swimming in a pink and lilac haze, the great mesas and plateaus fading into blue distance, the gorges and canyons banked full of purple shadow. Never again shall you see such light and air and color; never such opaline mirage, such rosy dawn, such fiery twilight. And wherever you go, by land or by sea, you shall not forget that which you saw not but rather felt — the desolation and the silence of the desert.

—John S. Van Dyke, The Desert, 1901

 Article by Vicky Hoover

Rain, snow, and fire on the John Muir Trail

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Teri Shore on the John Muir Trail.

It was my 14th day on the John Muir Trail when the early morning snowstorm hit me as I ascended the 12,130-foot mountain pass. I crouched down next to a boulder and tree for safety, while I decided what to do next: turn back, sit it out, or keep going?

Thankfully, a group of hikers from Oakhurst soon came up the trail behind me, and together we chanced it to the top. The snow, wind, and cold followed us up and over. After two hours of mayhem, we dropped down below tree line as the sun emerged. We made hot water and warmed up. Later I learned that anyone who happened to have been on a high pass that morning was pelted by snow—and survived. But the bad weather sent many folks home.

Anyone who backpacks regularly in the Sierra Nevada knows that sudden afternoon showers are a regular occurrence. But this summer, monsoon-driven rainstorms dumped far more than was usual. And snow falling at sunrise took everyone by surprise.

After leading backpacking trips for the Sierra Club San Francisco Bay Chapter for nearly 20 years, I decided to finally through-hike the John Muir Trail (JMT) this year in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. The JMT is an epic, 211-mile path through the Sierra Nevada Mountains from Yosemite to Mount Whitney—the tallest peak in the lower 48 states. Along the way, the Trail winds through three magnificent wilderness areas: Yosemite, Ansel Adams, and John Muir. It took me 21 days to cover 185 of the 211-mile JMT, starting in Tuolumne Meadows on July 7 and summiting Mount Whitney on July 27.

With food and water, my packed weighed about 30 to 35 pounds. I ate lots of oatmeal, Krave jerky and string cheese, and instant mashed potatoes. My food drops were at Red Meadows and John Muir Ranch, and I paid a packer to carry in my last resupply over Kearsarge Pass. Like most people who hike at high altitude, I lost my appetite and had to force myself to eat chocolate and nut butter, foods I usually wolf down.

I was impressed to see a number of solo women hikers like myself out on the trail. We all got the same questions before we left, such as, “Won’t you be scared?” and “What happens if you get hurt?” and even “Are you carrying a gun?” We all agreed that we felt safer on the JMT than walking downtown in any city.

After the terrifying snowstorm on Pinchot, my thoughts turned to the 13,152-foot Forester Pass still ahead. As with Pinchot, fellow travelers I met on the trail would help me over the pass—this time, Majoet and Denis from Quebec. And again, the ascent wouldn’t be without incident. As we approached, Denis spotted smoke. Then, hikers coming down the mountain told us they had seen trees going up in flames. First snow, now fire! Concerned, our small party continued climbing to get above tree line, where, at least in theory, there was no fuel for a fire to burn. Within an hour a state fire department helicopter showed up to check on the fire. We made camp short of the pass and eventually the small blaze died down, though we could smell smoke throughout the night. In the morning, we climbed three hours to get to the top of Forester Pass, where I said goodbye to my companions and went on toward Mount Whitney and home.

Teri Shore is an avid backpacker and wilderness advocate who has led Sierra Club backpack trips for the San Francisco Bay Chapter Backpack Section since 1996. She adores Yosemite, the Sierra Nevada and Trinity Alps. She has climbed Mount Shasta and many non-technical Sierra peaks over 9,000 feet including Mount Conness, Mount Dana, and Mount Hoffman. She has also completed long treks in Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

Read Teri’s trail journal and see more photographs from her trip online here.

Tirelesss wilderness advocate: the Bay Chapter’s Vicky Hoover

Vicky Hoover at Kugururok Camp, Alaska.

Vicky Hoover at Kugururok Camp, Alaska.

Q: What do Ansel Adams, Edgar Wayburn, William O. Douglas, Jacques Cousteau, David Brower, Wallace Stegner, Al Gore, Bill McKibben, and Vicky Hoover all have in common?  A: They all received the John Muir Award, the Sierra Club’s highest, honoring “a distinguished record of leadership in national conservation causes, such as continuing John Muir’s work of preservation and establishment of parks and wildernesses.” It was in 2004 that the Bay Chapter’s own Vicky Hoover received that honor, prompting Chapter Wilderness Committee colleague Alan Carlton to write in the Yodeler: “If anyone epitomizes the spirit of John Muir, it is Vicky Hoover. She is a legendary backpack leader, a tireless and extremely effective wilderness advocate, and a dedicated Sierra Club staff member.”

Fast-forward to 2014: it’s Vicky’s 28th year as a wilderness leader, and she is more effective and widely respected than ever. No longer on staff at Sierra Club (she retired in 2010 after 24 years of service), Vicky donates her prodigious energy full-time to protecting wild places. For the past four years her focus has been on using the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act as a catalyst to publicize and promote wilderness to a broader and more diverse American public. As co-chair of Wilderness50—a coalition of federal agencies and non-profit organizations—Vicky has organized events large and small across the country (You can find a list of events at www.wilderness50th.org, including the major National Wilderness Conference to be held this October in Albuquerque, New Mexico). Vicky has worked to ensure that every local Sierra Club chapter is involved in the anniversary celebrations. She has also helped raise awareness of the anniversary by working with the media and by pushing for official proclamations in many states, counties and cities across the country.

Vicky was born in Manhattan, in the heart of New York City, but spent most of her formative years in Washington, DC. Her family spent summer vacations in rustic cabins in state forests and parks in western Maryland or West Virginia, hiking and enjoying the great outdoors. Vicky moved west to attend college, earning her BA from Oberlin College and going on to earn an MA in economics from University of Michigan.

Vicky was a young wife and mother of two small children, Nathan and Frances, when she first got involved with the Sierra Club outing’s program in 1967. The family had moved to California in 1962 and quickly discovered the magnificence of high Sierra hiking. Soon, she and her husband Bill were climbing peaks and leading Sierra Club outings, starting with family-oriented burro trips.  Through years of training and practice, Vicky became an accomplished outdoorswoman and mountaineer, by 1981 climbing all 247 peaks on the Sierra Peaks Section list (for an account of those years in Vicky’s own words, see http://tinyurl.com/vickysclimbs, pp. 8-11). Over the years Vicky has led countless Club outings, mostly in the Sierra Nevada but also in places as far-flung as Alaska, Utah, and New Zealand.

Vicky’s training as a wilderness advocate began in 1985 when she moved to San Francisco and took a part-time job at the Sierra Club National office as staff assistant to Dr. Ed Wayburn. Under the mentorship of Dr. Wayburn, who had previously served five terms as Sierra Club President, Vicky “learned the ropes” of wilderness politics, grassroots organizing, and effective lobbying. As Vicky says, “Wilderness is a political thing.” In those early years Vicky was staff for the Alaska Task Force, mobilizing people in the lower 48 states to support wilderness protection in Alaska, particularly the Arctic.

Vicky had already been volunteering at the Bay Chapter’s Berkeley office for several years when, in 1985, she joined the Chapter’s Wilderness Committee. She would go on to chair the committee from 1987 to 1997. Influenced by her years of wilderness enjoyment, Vicky would become especially involved with forest planning and the new campaign for the California desert. With Vicky at its helm, the Committee was a leader in the successful eight-year campaign for the California Desert Protection Act. Vicky remembers a marathon lobbying trip to Washington, DC in which she and Elden Hughes “tramped the halls of Congress” for a solid week. Shortly after passage of that landmark legislation, she organized phone banks to help defeat the anti-wilderness Utah Public Lands Management Act. Vicky and the Wilderness Committee went on to participate in many other successful wilderness campaigns in California, Nevada, Utah, and Alaska.

In the late 1980s, to familiarize herself with areas being considered for protection, Vicky began leading trips to the Southwest desert, which she continues to do to this day. Her trips engage activists in repairing damage to wild places, doing mapping and inventory work, and building support for new wilderness designations. Among desert activists, Vicky is said to have a magic touch: if she visits an area being considered for wilderness designation, lo and behold, it becomes wilderness soon thereafter! Veteran wilderness activist Marge Sill of the Toiyabe Chapter writes, “To be a participant in one of Vicky’s trips is an experience to be cherished. Vicky Hoover is the outstanding representative of what is best in the Sierra Club.” Don Forman, longtime Yodeler editor recalls:

I recall going on several car camping trips Vicky led in the desert—Death Valley, Joshua Tree, East Mojave—and later realized that she was ‘learning the desert’ and helping build awareness of desert issues within our Chapter. At that point she already knew the Sierra Nevada like the back of her hand. Over the course of her career, Vicky has kept expanding her range, capacities and effectiveness as a wilderness advocate, not only at the Chapter and state levels, but nationally.

On top of all this, Vicky has chaired the Sierra Club’s California/Nevada Wilderness Committee since it was formed in 1997; written numerous articles for the Yodeler, the Desert Report, the Alaska Report, and other publications; and edits Words of the Wild, a quarterly Club newsletter focusing on wilderness. In the early 1990s, Vicky received two national Sierra Club awards: one for her outstanding work in the Sierra Club’s national and chapter outings programs, and the other a Special Service Award “for strong and consistent commitment to conservation or the Club over an extended period of time.”

As a leader, Vicky patiently educates and encourages others to care for wild places and work for their protection. She works methodically over months and years, building relationships with sympathetic federal agencies and legislative staff. Her goal is to connect and mobilize individuals and organizations that share her sense of urgency.  “Once harmed, once altered, the wild qualities of an area are lost and you can’t ever get it back,” says Vicky. “I’m alarmed every day as I see new developments being built and open space being torn up. I believe that every bit of roadless land that we have now should stay that way to compensate for all of the development.”

One secret of Vicky’s success is that she blends work with what to her is play: being in the wilderness. Her drive and tenacity come from her deep love of the earth’s wild places. As she puts it, “Mingling outings into conservation work has been at the essence of almost everything I do.” She is famous among desert activists for serving delicious, expertly-prepared wilderness breakfasts and dinners from the tailgate of her car. With her warm smile and gentle encouragement, Vicky clearly enjoys introducing new people, especially young people, to wild places.

Vicky often takes off into the wilderness (without a cell phone or computer). She has traveled widely on several continents, visiting Alaska over 30 times. She has traveled widely on several continents. At home she dotes on her three grandchildren, loves going to the opera, and enjoys hosting friends and family at her San Francisco “B&B.” And although she has driven thousands of miles in her “campaign car,” a Toyota 4Runner, she cycles to work daily and is a dedicated walker and public transit-user when in cities.

Of her ability to work on wilderness advocacy in a concentrated way over long periods of time, never appearing to get discouraged, Vicky says simply, “I don’t think of it as dedicating myself to a cause; the cause is not separate from me—it’s part of my life. It’s what I am.”

—Anne Henny

Wilderness Act 50th-anniversary celebrations in full swing

CA Wilderness_Killion poster 300x400

Get your very own copy of this Tom Killion poster. For details see end of this article.

Update (May 14, 2014): get your own copy of Tom Killion’s wilderness poster; Click here:

or see details at end of article.

Wilderness50, a coalition of 30 non-governmental organizations and federal agencies, is putting on dozens of wilderness-themed events across the U.S.A. this year to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act and the creation of the National Wilderness Preservation System. For a full listing see www.wilderness50th.org.

Outings

The Bay Chapter is front and center promoting wilderness. We’ll be sponsoring hikes, backpacks, and stewardship days in nearby wilderness areas, including the beautiful Phillip Burton Wilderness in Point Reyes National Seashore. For announcements of these events, watch the Yodeler and the Chapter Calendar on page A of every Yodeler or at http://sanfranciscobay.sierraclub.org/activities.

In this issue’s Calendar, note:

Sun., June 1–Point Reyes (strenuous 3C)

Sat., June 21–Point Reyes summer solstice (strenuous 4C)

Sat., July 12–Central Point Reyes loop (strenuous 3C)

Wed., July 23–Lioness of the Lake (strenuous 3C).

Most of our backpacks are to wilderness areas all over California. See the Calendar in this and following issues for lots of options.

“Visions of the Wild Festival”

September 3 – 6, downtown Vallejo.

Vallejo, known for its cultural and natural diversity and vibrant arts community, is holding the largest single Bay Area event celebrating the Wilderness Act. “Visions of the Wild” will include field trips, art showings, a film series, panel discussions, and more; see www.visionsofthewild.org.

Earth Day events

The Bay Chapter has participated in Earth Day events this year in Oakland, Berkeley, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Emeryville, Alameda, El Cerrito, Martinez, Antioch, and Mount Diablo. Chapter volunteers staffed Sierra Club tables and spoke with folks of all ages about wilderness, water conservation, clean energy, ending fracking in California, and other critical issues.

“Wilderness at the Library”

Tuesday, June 3 – Monday, July 7–Berkeley Public Library, Central Library, 2090 Kittredge Street (at Shattuck, near Berkeley BART), Berkeley.

We’ve created an exhibit at the Berkeley Public Library, highlighting the Wilderness Act, wilderness in American literature, and how anyone can get out into nearby natural areas without using a car.

Proclamations

We’ve been working with government officials to issue proclamations commemorating the 50th anniversary. The Berkeley City Council adopted a resolution on March 11, and San Francisco adopted one on April 29. California Assemblymember Anthony Rendon has authored Assembly Concurrent Resolution 90 to formally recognize the anniversary. The resolution has passed the Rules Committee and will soon have a hearing and go to the floor.

Lectures

Sierra Club executive director Mike Brune and associate executive director Bruce Hamilton are strongly promoting the 50th anniversary in their public appearances. Mike’s keynote address at the Bay Nature annual awards dinner on March 23 focused on the evolving concept of wilderness and the relevance of wilderness to metropolitan areas like the Bay Area. Bruce’s keynote address at the Earth Day/John Muir’s Birthday event at the John Muir National Historic Site on April 26 focused on Muir as a founder of the Sierra Club and as a vigorous proponent of the principles for preserving wild lands that ultimately led to passage of the Wilderness Act in 1964.

WhatYouCanDo

Come to any of our coming events. Even better, volunteer to help put them on. To volunteer, contact Anne Henny at anneth16@sbcglobal.net or Vicky Hoover at (415)977-5527.

Get your own copy of Tom Killion’s spectacular poster commemorating the wilderness 50th anniversary; see the reproduction above. Posters are available for $10 (tax included) at the Chapter Office, 2530 San Pablo Ave. in Berkeley. You can pay cash or check there, or pay on-line through the link at:

Shipping is available for an additional $7. Proceeds will go towards the conservation efforts of the Bay Chapter.

Join in 2014 anniversary celebrations

At trailhead for Arrowhead Canyon wilderness service day. Photo by Jose Witt, Friends of Nevada Wilderness.

At trailhead for Arrowhead Canyon wilderness service day. Photo by Jose Witt, Friends of Nevada Wilderness.

This year of 2014 marks two special anniversaries–the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, and the 90th of the Sierra Club San Francisco Bay Chapter.

Readers of the Yodeler already know a lot about the Bay Chapter and its ongoing work for the Bay Area environment. Less conspicuous in the paper in recent years, but no less dear to the Sierra Club’s heart, is our work for wilderness and wildlands in general.

When the Chapter was first founded, our focus was primarily in defense of wild places all around California and the nation. Over the decades we have added many local concerns such as stopping pollution and changing development and transportation patterns. In the last 15 years, energy and climate change have risen in prominence. But during all these years our Chapter Wilderness Committee has steadfastly kept the Chapter anchored in our original wilderness tradition.

So when the Wilderness Act was proposed, in the 1950s and early ’60s, the Chapter was there working for it, and we joined in the celebration when Pres. Lyndon Johnson signed it in 1964, creating the National Wilderness Preservation System, which today includes over 750 areas totaling nearly 110 million acres within our national parks, national forests, national wildlife refuges, and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands. We were there in the following campaign that led to the California Wilderness Act in 1984. We campaigned for many years for the California Desert Protection Act of 1994. Our efforts have not been just for California: we campaigned actively for wilderness in the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980, and we continue to work for smaller wilderness bills all over the nation and for other types of protection for the nation’s varied wildlands.

All of these bills establish federal wilderness areas, lands given the nation’s highest level of protection for public lands, where, in the words of the Wilderness Act, “the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”

We’re also celebrating new successes: on March 4, ending a five-year hiatus, Congress designated a new wilderness area: over 32,500 acres in Michigan’s beautiful Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. And on March 11 Pres. Obama added the Stornetta Public Lands along the Garcia River near Point Arena to the California Coastal National Monument (see http://theyodeler.org/?p=9196.

So help celebrate!

WhatYouCanDo

A coalition of some 30 non-governmental organizations and federal agencies, known as “Wilderness50”, is organizing a diverse array of events across the country to highlight wilderness. A key goal is to promote wilderness to a broader public, inspiring more Americans—especially young people and communities of color—to experience wilderness themselves and in time to join in protecting our remaining natural places from development. Learn more about the anniversary at www.wilderness50th.org and www.facebook.com/50thAnniversaryOfTheWildernessAct.

To volunteer here in the Bay Area, contact Anne Henny at anneth16@sbcglobal.net or Vicky Hoover at (415)977-5527.

The Bay Chapter too is organizing a series of events for its 90th anniversary. To help, contact Joanne Drabek at (510)530-5216 or joanne1892@gmail.com.

For word of the events as they are scheduled, see future Yodelers and the Chapter Calendar at http://sanfranciscobay.sierraclub.org/activities.

Ann Henny