June 29, 2016

Summer and Fall volunteer opportunities at Sierra Club backcountry huts

Work-party-001-e1425960702451June firewood cutting for the 2016-17 winter season at three huts had to be canceled because of late melting snow, though we did get seven people to Peter Grubb Hut last weekend for cleaning.

We have rescheduled the wood cutting to early in July, fire conditions permitting.  There will be work parties on July 9-10 simultaneously at three huts: Benson, Ludlow, and Peter Grubb.  See the schedule below for leader contact information.

If you can join one of the crews, your help will be greatly appreciated. You are especially welcome if you can bring a chain saw or have experience using one. There will be other chores such as painting, minor repairs, and clean up; so don’t hold back if sawing logs isn’t your favorite pastime. General information on work parties (what happens and when, what to bring, etc.) can be found here.

It is not to early to sign up for autumn work parties; note in the schedule below that two of the later work parties have already reached ‘wait list’ status.

Volunteers who participate in 2016 work parties receive priority when reservations for the 2016-17 season are handed out.

Firewood-cutting weekend, July 9-10:


Autumn work parties:

I look forwards to seeing you at one of the huts this summer or fall. Thanks for your help and continued interest.

–Dick Simpson, hut volunteer coordinator


Ranger and park advocate Mia Monroe to receive Edward Bennett Lifetime Achievement Award at 2016 David Brower Dinner

Muir Woods Site Supervisor Mia Monroe will be honored with the Edward Bennett Lifetime Achievement Award at the Sierra Club’s 2016 David Brower Dinner Gala: a celebration of the National Park Service centennial. The event will be held on Thursday, September 8th, 6 to 9 pm, at the Delancey Street Town Hall in San Francisco. To learn more about the event, and to purchase tickets or sponsorships, click here.

Photo by Paolo Vescia, courtesy Save the Redwoods League, http://bit.ly/28PJktv

Photo by Paolo Vescia, courtesy Save the Redwoods League, http://bit.ly/28PJktv

Mia Monroe took to the outdoors and stewardship early, from scouting to family sojourns in the Mojave. Conservation leaders on the Peninsula inspired her to organize a “walk to work/school”  event for the First Earth Day, in 1970, and to set up the area’s first recycling centers. It was only natural that when seeking a college internship she would turn to the Sierra Club. Becky Evans, a longtime Club activist and current Chapter chair, recommended Monroe to People for a Golden Gate National Recreation Area and introduced her to Amy Meyer, the “godmother of the GGNRA”.

Meyer forged Monroe’s commitment to the value of national parks near urban areas and the importance of park access for all. Meyer encouraged Monroe to help the Sierra Club’s Inner City Outings program (now Inspiring Connections Outdoors) get established. Monroe helped ICO grow into a national network, herself leading hundreds of ICO trips and serving as national ICO chair. She also led national trips for the Outings Program.

Mia Monroe shows kids the wonder of redwoods. Photo courtesy Save the Redwoods League, http://bit.ly/28OIjxb

Mia Monroe shows kids the wonder of redwoods. Photo courtesy Save the Redwoods League, http://bit.ly/28OIjxb

Early on, Monroe caught the attention of the fledgling GGNRA and was hired to bring youth to Fort Point National Historic Site as a park ranger. Her biological training seemed better suited for Muir Woods, and she transferred there in 1981. The old-growth forest and opportunities to steward, share, and educate in the Redwood Creek Watershed have become her life work.

Monroe is noted for being an early advocate of volunteerism, promoting the values of the natural soundscape, protection of endangered species, accessible parks for all (especially youth!), fostering collaborative work such as the Redwood Creek Vision, OneTam, and close cooperation with park partners such as Slide Ranch. Monroe is an avid hiker and gardener, and is often out watching for monarch butterflies.  She is a proud Life Member of the Sierra Club.



Betty Reid Soskin, oldest active national park ranger, to receive Trailblazer Award at 2016 David Brower Dinner

Betty Reid Soskin will be honored with the Trailblazer Award at the Sierra Club’s 2016 David Brower Dinner Gala: a celebration of the National Park Service centennial. The event will be held on Thursday, September 8th, 6 to 9 pm, at the Delancey Street Town Hall in San Francisco. To learn more about the event, and to purchase tickets or sponsorships, click here.

Photo courtesy of Nancy DeVille for Sierra magazine.

Photo courtesy of Nancy DeVille for Sierra magazine.

Although Betty Reid Soskin has recently received national attention as the country’s oldest active national park ranger, she’s not resting on her laurels: she’s still got important work to do, and she says she’s got little time to waste. Three times each week, Soskin, 94, interprets the country’s history at Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, California.

Soskin’s life has given her a unique view of history on the WWII “home front” and many other aspects of our national history. Betty Soskin (née Charbonnet) grew up in a Cajun/Creole African-American family that settled in the East Bay after the historic floods that devastated the City of New Orleans in 1927. Her parents joined her maternal grandfather, George Allen, who had resettled in Oakland at the end of World War I. The Allen family followed the pattern set by the black railroad workers who discovered the West Coast while serving as sleeping-car porters, waiters, and chefs for Southern Pacific and Santa Fe railroads — settling their families at the western end of their run where life might be less impacted by southern hostility.

Soskin attended local schools, graduating from Castlemont High School during the World’s Fair at Treasure Island. She can recall ferry-boat crossings at a time that precedes the construction of the bridges that span the Bay; and at a time when the Oakland International Airport consisted of two small hangars. She remembers Amelia Earhart’s departure and tragic loss as if it happened yesterday. She remembers the explosion at Port Chicago on July 17, 1944 and subsequent mutiny trials.

Soskin once told TV host Arsenio Hall, “I try to reinvent myself every decade”. From her first job in 1941 as a 20-year-old clerk in a Jim Crow-segregated union hall to serving as a West Contra Costa County field representative for two members of the California State Assembly, to becoming a National Park Service ranger at 85, Soskin views her trajectory as analogous to the country’s. In 1945 she and her young husband, Mel Reid, founded a small Berkeley music store called Reid’s Records, which still exists today. Betty also held positions as staff to a Berkeley city council member and as a field representative serving West Contra Costa County for two members of the California State Assembly: former Assemblywoman Dion Aroner and Senator Loni Hancock.

Soskin, who served as a consultant early on to help shape the Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historical Park, sees herself as a truth teller at heart. Though she never worked on a production line as a riveter, she views her history as relevant to the park’s mission, which is to explain the narrative of how the country hung together during the trying time of World War II. Soskin’s great grandmother was born a slave and died in 1948 at 102, and her mother lived to be 101. Soskin attended Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration with a photo of her great grandmother in her breast pocket, standing in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial.

“All of that American history, slavery through reconstruction, Plessy v. Ferguson, the Scottsboro Boys, and the First World War and through Black Lives Matter…all occurred within the lifetime of three women who were adults at the same time,” Soskin told Sierra magazine last year. She remembers how the country faced down the threat of fascism, and she believes those lessons can serve us today.

“I realized that we can use those years as a template to ensure our grandchildren will have a livable planet. I think we’re on the right track. I really do. I just wish I were going to be around longer,” she says.

Content thanks to Brad Rassler for Sierra magazine and Betty Reid Soskin.



Celebrate national historic designation for the John Muir Memorial Hut

Muir Memorial Shelter NPS Conference Poster (1)Local Sierra Club members are invited to attend a special celebratory gathering at the new Sierra Club headquarters in downtown Oakland on August 18th. What are we celebrating? The John Muir Memorial Shelter on the Muir Trail’s Muir Pass in Kings Canyon National Park is — at last — on the National Register of Historic Places.

WHAT: Celebration of historic designation for Muir Memorial Shelter
WHEN: Thursday, August 18, 5 pm
: Sierra Club headquarters, 2101 Webster Street, between Franklin and Webster, on the 13th floor. The closest BART station is 19th Street.
Please RSVP here!

This event is part of the Club’s yearlong celebration of the National Park Service Centennial, and a salute to the importance of Sierra Club history to America’s whole system of national parks. Early Sierra Club leader William Colby — who started the Club’s Outings program in 1901 — had the idea for a shelter at Muir Pass, about halfway along the length of the Muir Trail in Kings Canyon National Park. Colby saw the shelter as a specific tribute to John Muir and also as an emergency refuge for Muir Trail hikers. The 1930 stone building is the only structure built by the Sierra Club to honor our founder and environmental leader John Muir.

The gathering may also be the first chance for local Sierra Club members to experience the new Club headquarters, centrally located in downtown Oakland near Lake Merritt, two blocks from the 19th Street BART station.

Light refreshments will be available starting at 5 pm, just before the early-evening program: a presentation by legacy architect and Sierra Club volunteer Doug Harnsberger highlighting the history and unique architectural form of the octagonal stone hut. The structure was designed (on Will Colby’s request) by Bay Area architect Henry Gutterson, who was both a student and a colleague of Bernard Maybeck.

And we’re excited to report that we expect John Muir himself to grace this gathering by his presence.

A Sierra Club group of 15 will head up to Muir Pass for an August 25th ceremony to rededicate the Muir Memorial Shelter for its historic status. August 25th is the official National Park Centennial Day. The ceremony will include participants from the National Park Service, who will help install a new plaque for the Shelter. The plaque will be on display at the Sierra Club gathering in Oakland on August 18th.

There is no charge for this historic celebration, but a plea will be raised for donations to help keep in Sierra Club hands another historic Sierra Club structure in another important national park in the Sierra: namely, the former LeConte Memorial — now entitled Yosemite Conservation Heritage Center — in Yosemite Valley.

Chapter Chair Becky Evans encourages you to join us on August 18th for a happy celebration of history, parks, and Muir’s Range of Light.

Read more about Doug Harnsberger’s campaign get the John Muir Memorial Shelter on the National Register of Historic Places.



Meeting on High Sierra forest plans on June 29th in SF

Two bristlecone pines on the Discovery Trail in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, Inyo  National Forest.

Two bristlecone pines on the Discovery Trail in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, Inyo
National Forest.

The Forest Service has just released its Draft Environmental Impact Statement (Draft EIS) for the revision of the land-management plans (“forest plans”) for Inyo, Sierra, and Sequoia National Forests. These are the forests adjacent to Yosemite and Sequoia Kings Canyon National Parks in the High Sierra. Inyo includes the White Mountains. Together the forests include nearly 4.6 million acres of national forest system lands in the southern Sierra Nevada of California and parts of western Nevada. You can find the Draft EIS and other related documents here.

Each of the three forests has multiple wild, un-roaded areas eminently deserving and eligible for being recommended for wilderness designation: the highest level of conservation protection for federal lands. However, of four alternatives offered in the EIS, the one identified as “preferred” (Alternative B) contains NO additional wilderness recommendations for Sierra or Sequoia, and proposes only small additions to three existing wildernesses in Inyo — out of a dozen eligible areas deserving of wilderness protection. The wilderness recommendations in Alternative B are totally inadequate.

Alternative C is the most environmentally friendly alternative in the EIS. It contains a reasonable amount of additional wilderness and Wild and Scenic River recommendations. It emphasizes the role of natural processes in forest restoration and provides less acreage for timber production. It retains and adds prescriptive standards and guidelines to reduce potential short-term impacts to habitats for the California spotted owl, Sierra marten, and Pacific fisher.

The Forest Service is holding a public meeting on these proposed plans on June 29th in San Francisco. Please join us at this meeting to tell the Forest Service to fully protect our precious National Forests. We will provide further information prior to the meeting in front of the meeting room.

DATE: Wednesday, June 29th
TIME: 6 to 9 pm
LOCATION: Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture, Gallery 308, 2 Marina Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94123
RSVP here

You can also directly comment on the EIS for these forest plans online here, or by email to r5planrevision@fs.fed.us.

For further information, contact Alan Carlton at carltonal@yahoo.com.






You and your city can protect forests, water, and climate

Photo courtesy Sam Beebe on Flickr Creative Commons.

Photo courtesy Sam Beebe on Flickr Creative Commons.

So far San Francisco, Berkeley, Davis, Daly City, Monte Sereno, and Menlo Park have passed resolutions banning clearcutting. Saratoga and Sunnyvale have taken other supportive actions.

Why are a growing number of cities, where no clearcutting occurs, speaking out against the practice? “Given how critical water is to all Californians and how important healthy forest ecosystems are to California’s water production, we need to do what we can to protect water at its source,” stated Menlo Park City Councilmember Ray Mueller who initiated his city’s action.

What happens in the forests is important to California cities. Three-quarters of our water is captured, filtered, and stored in forested watersheds. In addition, US forests absorbed over 10 percent of US carbon dioxide emissions in 2004, according to EPA statistics. So even though the clearcutting takes place in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the North Coast, it impacts all Californians by degrading watersheds and reducing the amount of carbon dioxide that is sequestered in our forests.

Clearcutting is an ecologically destructive form of logging in which nearly all native vegetation is removed, soils are deep-ripped, and herbicides are applied across the landscape. It harms water quality, wildlife habitat, and exacerbates climate change. It replaces diverse forests with monoculture tree farms that can have a higher risk of catching fire.

Timber can be harvested using a less destructive method known as selective logging, which involves the removal of some trees while leaving the forest intact. Selective logging is the method used in San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, and Marin Counties.

Logging operations on private lands are determined by the governor and the state legislature. So the timber industry spends large amounts of money each year lobbying our legislators to maintain clearcut logging operations and weaken forestry regulations.

The Sierra Club and our coalition partners don’t have the money to hire legions of lobbyists, but we can educate the legislators and the public about the damage that clearcutting does to the environment. Passing resolutions to ban clearcutting in California cities provides us an opportunity to speak out and be heard.

Eight cities have supported the campaign so far. The more cities that pass our resolution, the more strength we will be able to demonstrate to legislators and the governor. We would like to get 20 cities pass a resolution calling for a ban on clearcutting by the end of the year.


Here are the steps to passing a resolution in your city.

  1. We supply the sample resolution.
  2. Attend a city council meeting or two to get a sense of how things work in your city.
  3. Make an appointment to talk to the city council member who is most likely to be supportive. Ask him/her to sponsor the resolution and ask what is the best way to proceed. Processes vary from city to city.
  4. Meet with other city council members as needed.
  5. If needed, get community groups to send letters to city council members in support of the resolution.
  6. Get the resolution on the city council calendar.
  7. On the night of the meeting, get 5-20 people to attend, depending on your estimate of how easy it will be to pass the resolution.
  8. Make sure your city council sends a copy of the resolution to their state legislators.

Should you decide to pass a resolution in your city, let us know. We can provide a sample press release and coach you through the process.

There are other ways to educate the public and let our legislators know we want an end to clearcutting such as gathering signatures on our petition to Governor Brown, writing letters to the editor about the importance of forests to climate and water, hosting a house party to show a forest video, asking organizations you belong to to support a ban on clearcutting California forests.

Contact Karen Maki at karenmaki@lomaprieta.sierraclub.org to find out more and get started!

—Karen Maki is the volunteer lead of the Sierra Club’s Stop Clearcutting California campaign.

Options for overnight accommodations in the backcountry may soon expand

The original White Rock Lake Hut.

The original White Rock Lake Hut.

Sierra Club huts have provided winter shelter for skiers and snowshoers exploring the backcountry between Sierraville and Echo Summit since the 1930s. The string of huts originally planned along the Sierra Crest was never completed, but the four that are operational today typically provide 3,000 visitor-nights of service per season (a fifth hut — the first built, at White Rock Lake — was apparently crushed by heavy snows in the early 1950s and removed). Ranger cabins in Yosemite and King Canyon and other buildings scattered through the mountains provide additional shelter, but the pool of overnight winter accommodations in the backcountry has remained relatively stable for decades. That may be about to change.

Renovations at the Peter Grubb Hut are nearly complete. The oldest of the Club’s four huts in the Tahoe/Donner region received steel reinforcements of roof rafters and floor joists in 2013. A new roof and seismic upgrades were added in 2014, and exterior mortar is being ‘repointed’ this year (primarily a cosmetic improvement). Once the repairs are finished, the Club will pursue plans to add a “mud room” on the north side, allowing more efficient use of the existing interior space. A slightly enlarged Peter Grubb Hut should soon be ready for another 50 years of service.

Volunteers at Peter Grubb Hut as structural repairs neared completion in November 2014.

Volunteers at Peter Grubb Hut as structural repairs neared completion in November 2014.

The Sierra Club has also entered into an agreement with the family of the late Paul Ward to study the feasibility of constructing a completely new hut. The family would provide funds for construction if a suitable site can be found, permits obtained, and the Club’s Board of Directors approves. A return to the White Rock Lake area is being explored with the U.S. Forest Service; private land held by the Truckee Donner Land Trust (TDLT) is being considered as a backup.

Separately, TDLT recently announced purchase of 455 acres on the north side of I-80 at Donner Summit. Although this acquisition does not by itself add huts, the Land Trust is well aware of the need for a new trailhead at this site for northbound hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail (and for improved winter access to Peter Grubb Hut and White Rock Lake). TDLT has also negotiated purchase of 1,320 acres in Carpenter Valley and Crabtree Canyon north of Truckee and views the property as a potential site for a “future backcountry ski hut”.

Finally, the Northern Sierra Partnership (NSP) — a collaboration of TDLT, The Nature Conservancy, The Trust for Public Land, the Feather River Land Trust, and the Sierra Business Council — has recently retained the services of two people who will develop a business plan for a potential system of huts in areas where NSP has interests, such as north of I-80.

The Sierra Club has been providing winter shelter for backcountry visitors for over 75 years. After half a century of maintaining the status quo, the Club is now embarking on upgrades of its existing facilities and expansion to new ones.  But the scene is changing and plans by the Truckee Donner Land Trust and the Northern Sierra Partnership may mean that the Club will soon have company in the hut business.

—Richard Simpson

Extend your backpacking to the most beautiful season of all with the Snowcamping Section!

photo(1)Have you always wanted to keep backpacking even after the warm weather ends, when you can experience true wilderness and solitude? Want to learn how to camp in the snow safely, comfortably, and with like-minded people? The Sierra Club Snowcamping Section’s annual training series, offered in Winter 2015 for the 47th year, has taught thousands of people the skills for winter navigation, shelter construction, how to stay warm, and other winter tips and tricks.

The training series teaches groups of either adults or families during a full-day classroom session in Emeryville, followed by two weekend trips (one two-day, one three-day) in the Sierras to practice what we’ve learned. Each group has at least two experienced co-leaders with years of experience and multiple assistant leaders to guarantee a small student-to-leader ratio.

Kids and snow are a natural match for big fun, so families with children eight and older have a special group that focuses on the unique challenges and joys of taking kids into the winter backcountry. There are also many alumni trips for graduates of the training series, since people bitten by the snowcamping bug can’t seem to stop. Youth groups may also be accommodated as space and staffing allow. This training is not for the complete rookie; all students must apply and we ask that all applicants be in good physical shape and have backpacking experience.

The early-bird application due date is November 30th; the final due date is December 20th. The full-day classroom training is January 9th. Trip dates vary by group. Sign up early to select dates that work for you and get the early bird discount. A limited number of scholarships are also available. For more information and to sign up, visit our web site at www.snowcamping.org or call Anne at (510)526-6792.

Safe harbor for Alameda’s seals — M.O.U. ensures replacement haul-out site

Photo courtesy Andrew Reding on Flickr.

Photo courtesy Andrew Reding on Flickr.

There’s great news on a project in the City of Alameda that could have left harbor seals homeless. As part of a project to construct a ferry-maintenance facility at Alameda’s Inner Bay Harbor, the Water Emergency Transportation Authority (WETA) plans to remove an abandoned dock that harbor seals currently use for feeding, hauling out, and even delivering pups. But following a backlash from environmentalists and other fans of the seals, WETA has signed a Morandum of Understanding (MOU) with the City of Alameda to build an alternate haul-out site for the harbor seals to replace the old dock.

According to the staff report, WETA will establish a $100,000 holding fund earmarked for planning, design, and construction of the new haul out. The location of the haul out will be determined in coordination with the City, but WETA will be the lead party responsible for permitting and building the haul out — construction on which must begin on or before August 2016 and prior to demolition of the existing haul-out site. If the City determines that WETA is unable to commence construction of the new haul out by that date, it has the right to take over the project and use the funds in the holding fund account. Once the haul out has been built, WETA will be responsible for keeping the structure in good repair.

As the WETA representative admitted at a recent City Council meeting, they’re already spending tens of millions of dollars on this project, so they wouldn’t not agree to spend a relatively small amount more in order to be able to move forward. Whatever the reason, we’re thrilled that the seals will have safe “harbor” in Alameda!

Caring for California’s natural treasures: support funds for State Parks

Mt. Tamalpais State Park. Photo via Flickr.com/photos/34186459@N00/3545531114.

Mt. Tamalpais State Park. Photo via Flickr.com/photos/34186459@N00/3545531114.

California State Parks have been underfunded for years, resulting in reduced operations, threatened closures, and lack of adequate maintenance.  State Parks are important state assets, providing protection for our natural resources, healthy recreation opportunities for our citizens, and economic contributions to the local economy from visitor spending.

The Governor’s ​2015-16 ​budget proposes to provide a very modest one​-​time increase of $16 million to the Department of Parks and Recreation to maintain current service levels at California’s State Parks. Th​is funding stability is essential to allowing park leaders to focus on the needed internal operations improvements recommended in the Parks Forward Commission report, the goal of which is to ensure the system’s long-term viability. The Sierra Club encourages the appropriation of additional funds that would allow the parks system to increase hours at some parks and restore some services at others.​       ​

The ​Governor’s proposed budget also includes $20 million to address the deferred maintenance backlog in State Parks. We support an even larger allotment​ for deferred maintenance, which will help protect these precious state assets from further damage. Last year’s deferred maintenance budget allotment was never enacted.


Please contact your local Senator and Assemblyperson to urge support for the State Parks Budget appropriations and increases therein. You can find out who your representatives are online at http://findyourrep.legislature.ca.gov. State Parks in the Bay Chapter include Mt. Diablo State Park, Angel Island State Park, China Camp State Park, Mt. Tamalpais State Park, McLaughlin Eastshore State Park, and Candlestick Point State Park. They are the gems of the Bay Area, and are all heavily used by Bay Area residents and visitors from all over the world. They must be kept open, accessible to all, and adequately maintained.

— Alan Carlton