January 20, 2017

Our blog has moved! Bookmark www.sierraclub.org/sfbay/blog

The Yodeler blog has moved to a new home on the Sierra Club SF Bay Chapter’s website. Visit (and bookmark!) our blog at www.sierraclub.org/sfbay/blog.

This site will remain as an archive of past Yodeler content.

Don’t forget that members of the Bay Chapter receive a quarterly print version of the Yodeler. If you aren’t a member already, you can sign up here. Memberships start at only $15 per year.

Thanks for reading and for being an active friend of the environment in the Bay Area!


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.



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 elections@sfbaysc.org.

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 elections@sfbaysc.org. 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 mperrey@sfbaysc.org.

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:

slbakaley@lbl.gov (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