The Environment and Immigration
Fighting Racism in the Environmental Movement

I have received (March 18, 2004) a note from which tells of an attempt by outsiders to take over the Sierra Club for their own (IMHO racist and elitist) purposes.  MoveOn is not quite that blunt - here is how they put it:
Outsiders are trying to take over the Club by placing stealth candidates on the Club's board ballot this year.  This is driven by anti-immigration activists, and their tactics are underhanded -- they aren't declaring their real issue positions to members.   They hope that low participation and confusion will allow them to stack the board of directors.

You can stop this, but you must vote now in the Sierra Club board election. You probably have already received the ballot in the mail.

We've attached below an outreach from Groundswell Sierra -- a volunteer network of Sierra Club members working to defeat this threat. This outreach includes a list of endorsed candidates. We recommending printing this email and having it on hand as you fill out your ballot.

If you'd like more information on this threat, go to:

Thank you,

-Carrie, Joan, Noah, Peter, and Wes
The team
Tuesday, March 18th, 2004

P.S. You won't be hearing from the Sierra Club directly about this underhanded maneuver by anti-immigration activists. Sierra Club staff cannot speak out about board elections. It's up to us.

You can review an article on this attempted takeover by former Sierra Club President, Adam Werbach, at:

Hostile Takeover
Anti-immigration coalition seeks control of Sierra Club
By Adam Werbach | 3.9.04

Key excerpt:

"In 1998 the membership voted overwhelmingly to stay out of the immigration) issue, restating that the most effective way to deal with the impact of population on the planet is to reduce levels of American waste and to raise the global status of women."

P.P.S. You can vote on line, but only with your paper ballot in hand. For more information:


The Sierra Club has been targeted for a hostile takeover by anti-immigration, animal rights and other groups who are running petition candidates with no Sierra Club experience for the Board of Directors. Don't take our word for it: The Los Angeles Times, Santa Fe New Mexican, Denver Post, and Philadelphia Inquirer have all warned that the threat is serious. That's why Groundswell Sierra - a diverse group of Sierra Club volunteers who are working to defend the Sierra Club - is asking you to support five Nominating Committee-recommended candidates who have over 75 years of collective experience as Sierra Club grassroots activists and will put their loyalty to the Sierra Club above their personal agendas:

NICK AUMEN, Everglades restoration scientist and former
Sierra Club Treasurer and Vice President for Conservation.

DAVE KARPF, Recent Director of Sierra Student Coalition,
and Chair of the Sierra Club's Training and national EPEC field programs.

JAN O'CONNELL, Sierra Club Treasurer, former Vice President for Organizational Effectiveness, fundraiser in the Sierra Club's beat-Bush effort.

SANJAY RANCHOD, delegate to the U.N. Kyoto global warming negotiations and Chair of the Sierra Club's Sustainable Planet Strategy Team.

LISA RENSTROM, leader of the Harvard project to strengthen the Sierra Club's groups and chapters, former Director, former Foundation Trustee, and former Chair of the Sierra Club's fundraising efforts.

Nick, Dave, Jan, Sanjay, and Lisa have brought experience and dedicated leadership to the Sierra Club. They have led our conservation priority campaigns, the Sierra Club's EPEC program, help strengthen the Sierra Club's financial health, run the Sierra Student Coalition, and represented the Sierra Club at UN conferences on the Kyoto accord on global warming. (For information on these candidates, go to our website, )

At a time when the Sierra Club's own democratic process is being used against us, when our agenda and assets are targeted for takeover by outsiders, we are giving Nick, Dave, Jan, Sanjay, and Lisa our unqualified support. These are trusted leaders who have shown that they value the Club's mission and grassroots culture, and who believe only a united and strong Sierra Club can stop George Bush's assaults on our air, water, wild lands and wildlife.

Finally, we would be remiss if did not acknowledge the invaluable contributions former Board Directors Chad Hanson, Michael Dorsey and Ed Dobson have made to the Sierra Club's conservation work, and we wish them well in this election.

Please share this email with as many of your friends and other Sierra Club members as you can. Urge them to visit our website ( ), and when their ballots arrive in early March, please VOTE!

By circulating this to your personal contacts, you can help support the Sierra Club's democratic culture against outsider takeover.
Please don't spam; spam works against us.

Following the link provided by MoveOn, I found the following paragraphs at the Groundswell Sierra site.  
Outside organizations seeking control
Among the outside organizations seeking to intervene in this year's Sierra Club Board election are several associated with the right-wing anti-immigration movement. The website posted a call to action by SUSPS leader Brenda Walker, describing the Sierra Club's grassroots leadership as "the Treason Lobby"(8) and urging VDARE's readers to join the Sierra Club in order to vote for Lamm, Morris, and Pimentel; other fringe publications followed Walker's lead, including (White Politics Inc.).(9)

Earlier indications of involvement from such groups prompted the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil-rights organization widely known for exposing and countering hate groups, to address the Sierra Club's current Board of Directors. In an October 2003 letter to Sierra Club President Larry Fahn, SPLC warned: "Without a doubt, the Sierra Club is the subject of a hostile takeover attempt by forces allied with ... a variety of right-wing extremists. By taking advantage of the welcoming grassroots democratic structure of the Sierra Club, they hope to use the credibility of the Club as a cover to advance their own extremist views. We think members should be alert to this."(10)

After independently researching outside interests seeking to intervene in the Sierra Club's internal democracy, the Sierra Club's Board voted, in late January, to append an Urgent Election Notice to this year's ballot. Citing "an unprecedented level of outside involvement and attention to the Club's Board of Director's election" from "non-environmental organizations," the Notice calls on members to "cast your vote in this year's election as a means of demonstrating to outside groups that they cannot influence our organization. Vote for candidates whose positions reflect your values and vision for the future of the Sierra Club."
Sierra Club democracy
The Sierra Club is unique. The nation's oldest and most effective grassroots environmental organization, our Club is built on volunteer participation, and our Board of Directors is tasked with stewarding our participatory decision-making. At its best, the Board enables our volunteer membership to direct the organization year-round.

Yet this welcoming culture of democratic involvement isn't guaranteed. Now our organization is threatened by the ambitions of outside interests promoting candidates for our Board of Directors -- candidates with no experience in the Sierra Club, who view our organization not as their top priority but as merely a vehicle for their narrow ideological agendas.

If these interests are able to elect 3-5 Directors in 2004, they will have control.

I am a 40 year member of the Southern Poverty Law Center, (I hope you will join me) and can attest to their dedication in tracking and fighting racial prejudice and the activities of right wing hate groups, so the SCLC warning is both credible and frightening.  I know the Dick Lamm name as well, after three terms as the Democratic Governor of Colorado that basically destroyed the Democratic party there - it is still attempting to rebuild - he moved even further to the right, and was involved in the Reform Party campaingn against the US's last elected president, President Clinton, during the 1996 elections.  In a June 10, 1996 interview with Jim Lehrer on Lehrer's "News Hour" he  talked about cutting Medicare by 10 times the amount currently proposed over the next decade, as part of his run for president on the Reform Party ticket.

I believe the election of the additional "Sierrans for U.S. Population Stabilization" (SUPS) directors to the Board of the Sierra Club will destroy that organizations credibility due to SUSPS elitist and racist program, and to the flight of membership from the organization in protest against the conversion of its mission and agenda from environmental protection to racist and elitist anti-immigration policy advocacy.   If you are a Sierra Club member you must vote now in the Sierra Club board election to avoid this takeover.  You probably have already received the ballot in the mail.

Jim Pivonka
PO Box 751
La Crosse, KS 67548

But a question, where is Morris Dees coming from? I see he is on the ballot as a "petition" candidate.
Morris Dees is the head of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and known as a civil rights, not an environmental activist.   I assume that he is there because of the controversy over the anti-immigration slate, in some way.   It may be that membership other than the folks at Groundswell Sierra who were involved in the controversy over the anti-immigration members already on the board (Zuckerman) petitioned for his inclusion as a candidate.

For SPLC's October 21 2003 letter to the Sierra Club, which is a good indicator of where they are coming from, you can see

And if you look at the list of outside organizations on the "URGENT ELECTION NOTICE", you can see why Morris Dees might want to be candidate, and why the SPLC might want to be a counterbalance to many of the other organiztions seeking to influence the election.

Morris Dees' presence as a petition candidate let him do what the Sierra Club board could not, initially, do:  Use a candidate statement to call the attention of membership to the nature of the - putting it plainly - attack on the Board.  I am inferring this from description at the Groundswell site
Take-over Slate's Ex-Lawsuit
Fearful of having to pay the Sierra Club's legal fees should they lose their questionable lawsuit, takeover candidates Richard Lamm, Frank Morris, and David Pimentel dropped their claims against the Sierra Club, it's President Larry Fahn, and its Executive Director Carl Pope on Wednesday, February 18. The short-lived legal action had sought to muzzle Fahn's right to comment on the election and remove the statements of three other petition candidates from the ballot.
That's at 

Researching this note, I found
The Truthteller candidates (Berry, Dees, Herz) on the Sierra Club ballot ran because of concerns the takeover candidates would downplay their outside loyalties. They wanted to be sure the voters had complete information. Like Dennis Kucinich they are running not because they expect to win, but because they have an important message for the voters to consider. A quick review of the takeover candidates ballot statements demonstrates the wisdom of the Truthteller's decision. Neither Dick Lamm nor David Pimentel make any mention of their long-standing leadership roles in multiple anti-immigrant organizations while Frank Morris mentions only one of his connections. Without the Truthteller candidates there would be virtually no mention of the hostile takeover ambitions of Lamm, Morris, and Pimentel.

We are not talking about joining here.  We are talking about joining shortly before an election for the organization's Board, and then running for membership on that Board with the concealed purpose of diverting its resources to ugly policies having nothing to do with the environmental mission of the organization.

All the efforts to keep secrets have been by the outsiders, especially the abortive lawsuit to prevent the current board from disseminating information about the outsider takeover effort, and to force the withdrawal of other petitioner candidates' statements from the ballot.