May 31, 2016

Backpacking section’s Thomas Meissner receives Michener Award for outstanding outings leadership

Meissner (third from left in red)

Meissner (third from left in red)

Thomas Meissner, chair of the Bay Chapter’s backpacking section, is the 2016 winner of the Michener Award for outstanding outings leadership. Thomas has introduced many people to the joys of backpacking through the annual Beginners Backpacking course.

Congratulations, Thomas, and thanks for your commitment to getting Club members into the great outdoors with just a pack on their backs!

Elections coming for chapter Executive Committees — Candidate applications due September 5th

Be like Hermione. Volunteer to be a leader!

Be like Hermione. Volunteer to be a leader!

In November/December, the Bay Chapter will hold elections for the Chapter Executive Committee and its eight group Executive Committees. Members are encouraged to consider candidacy for themselves, nominate another member, or volunteer for the Nomination and Elections Committee.

Key responsibilities

Chapter and group Executive Committees represent Sierra Club members in setting local environmental policy, endorsing political candidates, and administering programs and activities: essential functions that require a sustained commitment from our volunteer leadership.

Each Executive Committee (ExComm) member is expected to be actively involved in some aspect of the chapter or group’s work — from administration and conservation to fundraising. ExComm members at either level must attend regular meetings and take an active part in helping the chapter or group function well. A substantial time commitment between meetings is the norm. This is not an entry-level role; some knowledge of how the Sierra Club works is essential.

Chapter Executive Committee

The Bay Chapter ExComm oversees a sizable annual budget and 10 full- and part-time staff, as well as facilitating the work of hundreds of volunteers. In addition to its administrative oversight, the Chapter ExComm sets priorities and policies on issues that impact the whole chapter area.

Group Executive Committees

Groups are the smallest geographic units of the Sierra Club, so group ExComms are important to making sure we keep an ear to the ground in our neighborhoods, parks, and streets. Group ExComm members work on issues within their geographic boundaries. They also organize meetings and activities.

We need you!

If you are a member with experience serving on another committee or with organizing, environmental issues, or fundraising, we could use your skills. The Sierra Club is a rare organization where members make key decisions. Success depends on the strength of our membership. It’s empowering and effective. Please consider stepping up to run for a position in the Chapter.

How to run

To be a candidate for the Chapter or a group ExComm, to nominate someone else, or to volunteer for the Nominations and Elections Committee, contact committee chairperson Matt Morrison at (925)413-6213; or e-mail the committee at

Candidate packets will be available on the chapter elections website on July 5th.

Candidates must be members in good standing of the Sierra Club’s San Francisco Bay Chapter. Candidates for group ExComms must be members in good standing of that group. Each Sierra Club member is automatically assigned to the group corresponding with their address, unless they have specifically requested otherwise.

To be considered for nomination, applications must be received at the chapter office, at:

2530 San Pablo Avenue, Suite I
Berkeley, CA 94702-2000

by 5 pm on Monday, September 5th. The Nominations Committee will respond to applications by Monday, September 12th. Candidate statements are due from all nominees by 5 pm on Friday, September 30th.

Candidates not nominated by the committee can run by petition. Petition forms and instructions are available at the chapter office or by contacting The deadline for receipt of petitions and candidate statements from petition candidates is 5pm on Monday, September 26th.

– Matt Morrison

Vacancy on Marin Group Executive Committee

Marin-County-126093The Marin Group is in the process of filling a vacancy on its 11-member Executive Committee: the governing body for the Sierra Club at the most local level. If you wish to be considered, please contact Marin Group Chair Max Perrey at

The Marin Group Executive Committee meets on the second Tuesday of each month. It oversees essential functions of the Marin Group, which consists of approximately 4,700 Club members who live in Marin County. All Club members who live in Marin County are  automatically members of the Marin Group — a regional group of the San Francisco Bay Chapter — and are eligible to serve on the Executive Committee.

Major Marin Group activities include:

  • Investigation of issues of importance to Marin’s environment.
  • Preservation of wild and open spaces, habitat, and wildlife in Marin County.
  • Public advocacy including lobbying city, county, and other officials on issues that affect Marin’s environment, including: development proposals, water supply, transportation, agriculture, parks, recreation, trails, wildlife protection, toxics, and environmental justice.
  • Interviewing candidates for elected office, researching ballot measures, and providing voting guides for our members.
  • Presenting informative and hands-on programs about local issues, habitat, and governmental process issues.

West Contra Costa Group holds a special election — New leaders encouraged to apply!

The West Contra Costa group is holding a special election this spring to fill two vacancies on our Executive Committee. If you want to get more involved in the Club’s work in West Contra Costa County — from refinery regulations to open space conservation, from promoting clean energy to hosting activities and events — consider running for a position on the group Executive Committee.

This election is on an accelerated timeline, so the process of running is quicker and easier than ever! Candidates must complete their application by April 25th. Check out our website for details about the election process and timeline.

Many other positions within the group are not necessarily filled by elected members. If you might be interested in upping your involvement without running for election, this webpage has information for you as well.

A Sierra Club love story — Remembering Bay Chapter hiking leader Louis Prisco

A note from Jeanne Halpern, Louis Prisco’s long-time domestic partner:

Louis and I met at the Hike Leaders’ Bash, the annual hike and potluck for hike leaders on Mt. Tam, in 1993. One thing people don’t realize is how much the Sierra Club brings people with like interests together. When we led the Valentine Lovers’ Hike the first time — which we’d expected would attract people who wanted to fall in love! — we stopped at the log where Louis and I had met. There we reenacted our meeting and then asked the thirty-one hikers to tell a little about themselves, maybe what attracted them to our hike. And we were amazed that almost all of them were couples who’d previously met on Sierra Club hikes! (The odd number was because Guy Mayes’ wife Nancy was home sick.) And I later learned that several couples had met on the Sierra Club hike I used to lead to movie filming sites in S.F. There, they had two things in common, a love of hiking AND of movies. The romance of the Sierra Club is not to be underestimated, but usually is.

Jeanne and Louis on Mount Tam in 1998

Jeanne and Louis on Mount Tam in 1998.

Louis Frederick Prisco, a gentle man with a strong social conscience, died at UCSF Medical Center on December 17, 2015, with Jeanne Halpern, his partner of twenty-two years, whispering to him and holding his hand.

Born in Providence, R.I., in 1939 to a large Italian family, Louis became the first of fourteen siblings and cousins to graduate from college, with a BA in Sociology from Providence College in 1961. He entered the army as second lieutenant, serving in France 1962-64, and was promoted to first lieutenant in 1963. He earned an MA in Comparative Literature from San Francisco State in 1972.

For the next twenty-six years, Louis worked for the San Francisco Department of Human Services, where he produced the first computerized “Child Welfare Handbook.” A staunch union supporter, he was active in the SEIU Local 535 as secretary, treasurer, and executive board member. He was also a long-time member of the IWW, Industrial Workers of the World.

An adventurous Sierra Club hike leader, Louis preferred 10-15-mile hikes on Mt. Tamalpais. Sitting on a log there one sunny day in 1993, he met fellow hike leader Jeanne Halpern, a meeting that changed their lives. To celebrate the pivotal role that the Sierra Club had played in their love lives, they created the Valentine Lovers’ Hike on Mt. Tam in 1997, the year they registered as domestic partners. It followed the route of the first hike on which they met, and at every picturesque turn, they read a love poem aloud for their followers. Jeanne’s favorite was “may I feel” by e. e. cummings, and Louis’ was “Symptoms of Love” by Robert Graves. The hike ended with a potluck dinner at the Alpine Club, at which Louis sang “Sweet Little Angel,” a song first recorded by B. B. King in 1956.

Jeanne and Louis at the Alpine Club after their their first Valentine Lovers' Hike in 1997.

Jeanne and Louis at the Alpine Club after their their first Valentine Lovers’ Hike in 1997.

Louis’ most popular city hike commemorated the 50th anniversary of the 1934 S.F. Waterfront Strike. Though it started as a ten-mile Sierra Club hike, he honed it to two miles and led it every July as part of LaborFest. The accompanying booklet he wrote, San Francisco Waterfront, impressed participants with its photos, thorough notes and bibliography; it was republished three times.

To complete his next writing project, a genealogy of the Prisco family from its roots near Mt. Vesuvius to its flowering in Providence, he and Jeanne moved to Naples, Italy, 1998-99. Through getting to know his “old world” relatives, he literally brought the two halves of his family together. Prisco’s from Italy and America have now made dozens of trips across the Atlantic to visit each other.

After Italy, Louis and Jeanne’s love affair with penguins led them to Antarctica in 2004, just before Louis was diagnosed with leukemia. Despite an amazing array of maladies since then, he basked in his favorite activities: walking, reading widely, writing about economic and environmental issues, enjoying movies and dinners with friends, talking hours on end with Jeanne, and listening to the Blues. Gatherings to celebrate his life were held in Providence and San Francisco in January 2016.

Donations in Louis’ honor may be sent to:


Nominations sought for Michener Award for outings leaders

2015 Michener Award recipient Ronald Ucovich. Photo by Barbara Hebert.

2015 Michener Award recipient Ronald Ucovich (center). Photo by Barbara Hebert.

Now is the time to nominate outings leaders for this year’s Dave and Pat Michener Outings Leadership Award. The Bay Chapter established the award in 2001 to commemorate the many years of volunteer service performed by the Micheners as editors of the Chapter Schedule (the predecessor of the calendar in today’s Yodeler and Chapter website) and to recognize superior leadership by Chapter outing leaders.

If you know of an outstanding leader, send in a nomination. Leadership criteria include concern for individual participants; activities skill and knowledge combined with a penchant for sharing them; the ability to forge links between the Club’s activities and its conservation values; the number/variety of outings; the educational content of their outings; and their involvement in recruiting, training, or mentoring new leaders. To qualify, nominees must be leaders who list outings in the Chapter Events and Activities calendar. Each nomination may include up to two letters of support.

Send nominations and supporting letters by Tue., April 19, to Steve Bakaley, chair of the Chapter Activities Committee, at: (preferred)
12 Calvin Court
Walnut Creek, CA 94595.

The winner will be selected at the May 2nd Activities Committee meeting and announced in the June-July 2016 Yodeler.

Oakland Tree Team ramps up activities with new grant from CAL FIRE

A Tree Team volunteer poses with a newly planted street tree. Photo by Kent Lewandowski.

A Tree Team volunteer poses with a newly planted street tree. Photo by Kent Lewandowski.

On Saturday, January 30th, the Sierra Club SF Bay Chapter’s Oakland Tree Team will be planting 31 elm trees at San Antonio Park, in our biggest event of the season so far. It will kick off the plantings under our new grant from CAL FIRE, to reduce greenhouse gases by planting trees in East Oakland over the next three years — a partnership among the Sierra Club Tree Team, Keep Oakland Beautiful, and Oakland Parks & Recreation Foundation. Find the details of the event on Meetup.

January has been a busy month for us. We have held plantings every weekend, including the 25-tree planting at Courtland Creek Park, and several pruning events.  After planting 13 more trees last Saturday and pruning 45 on Sunday, we’re up to 128 trees planted since November, and more than 150 pruned in a month.

We’ll have more planting and pruning events on weekends in February, and tree-planting scheduled each Saturday through June 18. Join us any time you’re free! You can check the calendar on Meetup.

As always, we supply the tools and the experienced team leaders to train and supervise any volunteers new to planting or pruning.

– Derek Schubert, coordinator, Sierra Club Tree Team

Chapter achievements of 2015: paving the way to a sustainable future

12308342_10153037484562723_6927232972750546933_nThanks to our dedicated volunteer leaders and loyal members, 2015 was a year of great progress for the environment in the Bay Area. The reality that climate disruption is happening now adds urgency to our campaigns to preserve our land, water, air, and wildlife for future generations — and you, our members, responded to that urgency by showing up at meetings, calling your representatives, signing petitions, planting trees, and taking action in so many other ways to protect and improve the environment of the Bay Area, California, and the world.

The Bay Area’s natural resources are increasingly threatened by drought, sea-level rise, wildfires, and heat waves: harbingers of a disrupted climate. This year, we made great strides in protecting our precious natural resources from these grave threats. We’ve gone toe-to-toe with some of the biggest fossil fuel interests in the world — and we’re winning, thwarting the encroachment of more highly polluting and carbon-intensive fossil fuels. We also went on the offense, championing renewable-energy solutions that position the Bay Area as a global leader in the transition to a clean-energy economy. Today, every county in the Bay Chapter area is either served by a Community Choice energy program or is actively moving toward that goal.

The Bay Area will be home to an additional two million new residents by 2040. This year, we continued to fight sprawl by advocating for complete, compact communities that are walkable, bikeable, and well served by public transit. To prevent displacement, we supported policies and initiatives that promote affordable housing and a higher minimum wage.
We want to thank every one of our members, partners, and supporters for making 2015 such a successful year for the Bay Chapter. None of the accomplishments listed below would have been possible without a membership ready and willing to answer our calls to action. These victories are your victories. We look forward to working with you in the new year and beyond!

Modeling the clean-energy transition

11100785_924402684278975_5166105356521844042_oCleanPowerSF is a go! After twelve years of diligent advocacy, we achieved a major victory for climate with the launch of CleanPowerSF. The City’s renewable-power program will roll out to customers in 2016, providing consumers with cheaper, cleaner power than the investor-owned utility, PG&E. Pre-enroll at to get cleaner power this spring!

Contra Costa looks to a clean-energy future. The county currently known for its fossil fuel infrastructure could soon reestablish itself as a hub of clean and renewable power. Contra Costa County is officially exploring joining or creating a Community Choice energy program, and cities are lining up to support the proposal.

MCE invests in local renewable-power infrastructure. California’s first Community Choice energy program, Marin Clean Energy, is creating jobs, economic investment, and energy independence by investing profits in local clean-energy production. Its newest “Solar One” project on a brownfield site leased from Chevron in Richmond will soon house 80,000 ground-mounted solar panels with the ability to power about 3,400 homes, all while creating more than 100 jobs for local residents. Read more here.

Proposed decision on net metering protects rooftop solar. The California Public Utilities Commission is updating the system that compensates solar-energy-system owners for the electricity they add to the grid. A proposed decision issued in December rejects the punitive fees proposed by the utilities to disincentivize solar. A final decision may come as soon as January 28th.

SF voters show up for clean power. On November 3rd, San Franciscans voted overwhelmingly for a clean-energy future by handily defeating Prop. G (designed by PG&E allies to undermine CleanPowerSF) and passing Prop. H (reinforcing fair standards for all energy providers). The Sierra Club also supported Aaron Peskin for District 3 Supervisor; his election victory will give CleanPowerSF and other green programs a boost at City Hall. Read more here.

Blocking fossil fuels

wonWesPac oil terminal defeated. California’s biggest proposed crude-oil project was stopped in its tracks by a hard-fought, community-led campaign. This means that 242,000 barrels a day of toxic and explosive extreme crude oil from the tar sands and the Bakken will stay in the ground, and off the tankers, oil trains, and pipelines WesPac would have built to bring this dangerous crude to Bay Area refineries.

Strong new wood-burning regulations enacted. New regulations on wood-burning devices by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District take aim at an the Bay Area’s largest source of wintertime air pollution. Read more here.

New refinery pollution controls. The Air District’s passage of three new emission rules is expected to reduce pollution from the Bay Area’s five refineries by 14%. The Air District also committed to voting on a rule capping refinery-wide emissions in 2016.

Mobilized opposition to Oakland coal exports. When we discovered a secretive plan to export up to ten million tons of coal out of Oakland each year, we helped mobilize a huge, diverse coalition against it. Community pressure forced the city council to hold a public hearing on the health and safety impacts of the proposal, at which hundreds of residents, activists, and experts spoke out against coal exports. The council has promised action in the new year, and we’ll be there holding them accountable. Read more at

Dirty power plant blocked. Strong community outcry helped push the California Energy Commission to terminate the certification of the proposed “Willow Pass” natural gas plant in Pittsburg. This is a big win for climate and public health in an area already overburdened by industrial pollution! Read more here.

Richmond takes a bold stand on coal and petcoke pollution. The Richmond City Council passed two important resolutions intended to protect local communities and the environment from the harmful impacts of coal and petroleum coke (petcoke) pollution. The first resolution prohibits exports of the fossil fuels from ports on City land. The second calls on the Bay Area Air Quality Management District to require all piles of coal and petcoke to be stored in enclosed facilities — action the Air District has promised to take in 2016. Read more here.

Richmond residents, social justice advocates, elected officials, and Chevron shareholders announced a Chevron shareholders resolution that would prevent the company from dumping money into the political cycle, as they did in the 2014 Richmond City Council elections.

Richmond residents, social justice advocates, elected officials, and Chevron shareholders announced a Chevron shareholders resolution that would prevent the company from dumping money into the political cycle, as they did in the 2014 Richmond City Council elections.

Championed Chevron shareholders resolution against dirty money. The Sierra Club helped put forward a Chevron shareholders resolution that would prevent the company from dumping money into the political cycle. The resolution followed an election cycle in which Chevron (unsuccessfully) spent more than $3 million on pro-refinery, anti-environment Richmond City Council candidates. Read more here.

Raised up youth voices for clean air. The Bay Chapter brought 50 Oakland fifth graders to Sacramento to testify in favor of stricter EPA smog rules. Read more here.

Protecting Bay Area parks and wildlife

Park expansion, not private development, at Alameda’s Crown Beach. Following a multi-year campaign, the East Bay Regional Park District will soon purchase vacant surplus federal property next to Alameda’s Crab Cove Visitor’s Center on Crown Beach. Read more here.

A fix for congestion at Muir Woods. After years of study and public input, the National Park Service finalized a Memorandum of Understanding with Marin County to address parking and congestion problems in one of our region’s most visited sites. The agreement includes Increased public transit, a reservation system, and additional parking enforcement, as well as storm-water management to reduce potential impacts from roadside parking along Redwood Creek, home to endangered salmon. Read more here.

The harbor seals of Alameda's Inner Bay Harbor will soon have a new haul-out dock. Photo courtesy of Richard Bangert,

The harbor seals of Alameda’s Inner Bay Harbor will soon have a new haul-out dock. Photo courtesy of Richard Bangert,

Safe harbor for Alameda’s seals. When a dock used by harbor seals in Alameda’s Inner Bay Harbor is demolished for the construction of a new ferry terminal, a new purpose-built haul-out site will be built nearby. The replacement structure — the first of its kind in the Bay Area, and possibly the entire West Coast — will be delivered early this year. Read more here.

Keeping an eye on the Bay Area’s National Parks. The Chapter formed a new Federal Parks Committee to work on issues in our region’s many sites of natural and historic interest managed by the National Park Service. To get involved, contact committee chair Alan Carlton at (510)769-3403 or

Sustainable Communities

10960004_10152483607957723_1186803203547787034_oPutting the “Explore” in “Explore, Enjoy, and Protect”. In 2015, the Bay Chapter’s outstanding volunteer outings leaders led over 700 trips to wild and beautiful places in the Bay Area and beyond. Visit to find your next adventure.

Building up Oakland’s “green lung”. The Bay Chapter’s Oakland Tree Team planted 364 trees and pruned 700 more last year. The program was also awarded new grants to fund tree-planting in 2016. Tree-planting season is in full swing and we need volunteers! Find out how you can get involved at

Composting for all in Oakland. Our Zero Waste campaign won a major victory this summer when Oakland rolled out green-waste bins to 3,500 multi-unit buildings where organics collection had not happened before. Read more here.

Developing sustainably in Berkeley. This summer, the Berkeley City Council finalized a package of community benefits that developers of tall buildings must provide. The benefits include affordable housing, improved and accessible public transportation, streetscape and open-space improvements, and labor benefits. Read more here.

Advancing sustainable shoreline development. As sea-level rise threatens our shoreline areas, the Bay Chapter advocates for wetlands preservation and restoration. This year we succeeded in protecting the Edgewater Wetland, originally proposed as part of the site of the 800-acre Coliseum City development on Oakland’s waterfront.

Zeke rides again! This summer, intrepid Berkeley teen Zeke Gerwein biked 4,334 miles from the Atlantic to the Pacific, raising $4,939 for the Bay Chapter. Zeke’s blog chronicled his journey and documented evidence of climate disruption.

Thanks again to every Sierra Club member — these are your victories!

Volunteer Coordinator needed for Inspiring Connections Outdoors

Panha and the Ninja TurtleAre you a people person? Do you love the outdoors? Interested in protecting the environment and making a difference in the lives of young people? Then this is the volunteer opportunity for you!

Inspiring Connections Outdoors (ICO) Rafting is volunteer-run outreach program of the Sierra Club. We provide people (primarily youth) with limited access to nature a safe and educational way to experience the outdoors through river rafting and camping. The goal of ICO is to promote self-esteem, teamwork and interpersonal skills through fun outdoor activities that encourage participants to respect and care for the environment, each other and themselves. Many participants leave ICO outings with a new-found sense of self-confidence, an expanded worldview and a more personal connection to – and concern for – nature and the outdoors.

ICO Rafting is currently seeking a Volunteer Coordinator. We are a volunteer-run organization, and we depend on our volunteers for every aspect of our operation, so the Volunteer Coordinator is essential to keeping our organization running smoothly. The person in this role will:

  • Coordinate/manage our existing volunteers
  • Recruit existing volunteers to fill a variety of leadership roles (annual raft guide training, PR/social media, fundraising, equipment maintenance, etc.)
  • Assist team leaders to staff rafting trips, events, fundraisers, etc.
  • This role could eventually expand into new volunteer recruitment as well

Interested in applying for the position? Contact Kate at Tell us a little bit about yourself, why you’re interested in the role of Volunteer Coordinator, and what relevant skills you have that make you a great fit for the position. Thanks!

Bay Chapter says goodbye to “superstar” organizer Jess Dervin-Ackerman

jessIf you engaged with the local chapter of the Sierra Club at any point in the last three years, you probably came across conservation manager Jess Dervin-Ackerman. Fiercely engaged, powerfully persuasive, and boundlessly energetic, Jess has been one of the chapter’s greatest assets. Jess seems to know everyone, and she earns the admiration and respect of everyone she meets.

In her three-year tenure here Jess has done an almost super-human amount of good. Here are just a few of her proudest accomplishments:

  • Launching an incredible, diverse, multi-sector campaign against coal exports through Oakland which has garnered over 14,000 petition signatures and engaged 2,000 individuals
  • Meaningfully engaging the Sierra Club in frontline fights against refineries and the Wes Pac oil terminal proposed in Pittsburg
  • Growing the movement for Community Choice clean energy in the Bay Area — CleanPowerSF is just a few months away from launching and the East Bay Clean Power Alliance is moving full speed ahead with an Alameda County program scheduled to launch in 2017!
  • Bringing recycling workers and environmental activists together to advocate for higher wages and more stringent zero waste policies, and expanding composting services to all Oakland residents
  • Coming together with social justice organizations and labor unions to elect progressive champions to local, regional, and state offices
  • Mentoring over 25 interns, many of whom have gone off to be involved in activism, politics, and furthering our causes through academia and research

Now Jess is, in her words, “taking a sabbatical to take care of myself so that I can continue to do this important work of fighting for climate justice for the long haul,” and “to have an incredible adventure with my partner who has supported me and my work at the Sierra Club.”

Jess has a message of thanks and a special appeal to “the inspiring community of activists” she has worked with at the Sierra Club:

“I’ve worked hard to advance environmental, social, and racial justice causes locally with the Bay Chapter and I would love nothing more than to see that good work continue in my absence.

Please consider making a gift in my honor to the Bay Chapter to support their grassroots campaigns to protect our air, land and water, advance a just transition to a clean energy economy, and encourage folks to get out and enjoy the beautiful natural places of the Bay Area. I will come back, and when I do I want to continue to work on climate issues. I believe it helps everyone involved to have the Sierra Club well-positioned and well-resourced to support and drive local fights for a better, more just, and more sustainable world.

Thank you to everyone for your support, encouragement, bravery, creativity and partnership over these 3 years. Probably my greatest personal accomplishment was creating so many amazing relationships with activists, organizers, elected officials, and many more folks that now engage with the Sierra Club and that I hope to work with for years to come.”

It’s been an honor to work with you, Jess. We will miss your energy, warmth, and passion. Enjoy your next adventure!