Another opportunity to influence the Sierra Club to STOP advocating for deforestation and pesticide use

On February 8, 2016, letters were sent to members of the Sierra Club in San Francisco from another Club member.  That letter is available HERE:  Letter to Sierra Club members.  The letter contained a postcard petition on which members were invited to express their opinion of the Club’s support for deforestation and pesticide use in the San Francisco Bay Area.  That petition is available HERE:  Letter to Sierra Club members – postcard petition.

The author of the letter reports that she has received 380 postcard petitions from Club members in San Francisco, indicating their opposition to the Club’s policy on these issues.  Only ONE postcard expressed support for the Club’s policy.  The letter was sent to 6,252 members, but undeliverable letters resulted in a net of 6,216 letters received.  This suggests that at least 6% of Club members in San Francisco are opposed to the Club’s policy.  Here are some (not all) of the comments that members wrote on their postcard petitions to the Sierra Club:

“SF native is windy sandy hills with poison oak!”

“Should the Sierra Club continue with its current position, I will cancel my membership” [several similar comments]

“If this native plant bullshit continues I’ll donate my dues to save the eucalyptus grove”

“I am strongly opposed!! (and have been for months)”

“Sierra Club member since 1975.  The idea to destroy our trees is absurd.  What would Golden Gate Park be without trees?  Sand Dunes!”

“These people would cut down every tree on SF streets & Golden Gate Park”

“Fanatical purists!  Should we plant more poison oak?!”

“If you want to go back to the habitats before get rid of people, buildings & cars.  Chop down & poison those instead of plants that were here before you were born.”

“I read your arguments for supporting this senseless destruction, and found them anachronistic and short-sighted…a 19th Century approach to conservation.”

“This same kind of “restoration” has been tried on a pilot basis in Glen Canyon, near my home, and has failed miserably.”

East Bay Hills
This antique postcard of the Claremont Hotel shows the treeless landscape of the East Bay Hills that the Sierra Club demands be recreated by destroying all non-native trees.

The author of the letter intended to send her letter to all members of the San Francisco Bay Chapter of the Sierra Club.  The Bay Chapter includes Alameda, Contra Costa, and Marin Counties, in addition to San Francisco City/County.  Unfortunately, the staff of Sierra Club did not understand the composition of the Bay Chapter and therefore her letter was initially only sent to members in San Francisco.  It took one month to correct that error.

The letter was sent to over 20,000 Club members in Alameda, Contra Costa, and Marin Counties on March 8, 2016.  We will report the response to the letter in April.

What you can do to influence the Sierra Club

Meanwhile, there is something Sierra Club members can do to influence the Club’s policies.  The national Sierra Club is conducting its annual election of Board Members now.  Ballots have been sent to all Club members with the roster of candidates.  The roster of candidates and an electronic ballot are also available HERE.  You must vote by April 27, 2016.  If you are a Sierra Club member, we suggest that you look carefully at the qualifications and opinions of the candidates before making your choice.

To help you make the best choice, a member of our team has asked all candidates the following questions:

  • What is your opinion of destroying non-native trees?
  • What is your opinion of pesticide use in public parks and open spaces?

Here are the replies that were received from the candidates:

Susana Reyes

What is your opinion of destroying non-native trees? “Just the mere thought of cutting a tree upsets me greatly. I can’t offer a position about destroying non-native trees without considering the different factors that may come into play – like climate conditions, types of landscape, threats to biodiversity, invasive or not, fire threats – just to name a few. It also depends on the land management practices in the areas where non-native trees exist. There ought to be other options to destroying non-native trees. I would think very carefully about destroying non-native trees especially if only a fraction display traits that harm or displace native species and disrupts the ecological landscape”

What is your opinion of pesticide use in public parks and open spaces?  “I strongly oppose pesticide use in our parks and open spaces. I am all too familiar with herbicide “Roundup” for example and its use to stop unwanted plants. Another one is rodenticide which is used to kill rats in parks/open spaces. In Los Angeles, our beloved mountain lion, P22, who calls Griffith Park home, was sickened last year with mange as this poison worked its way up the food chain. Many of the chem Research has shown links to certain types of cancer, developmental disorders, and physical disabilities. Pesticides end up in our drinking water, watersheds, and rivers/lakes. The use of toxic pesticides to manage pest problems has become a common practice around the world. Pesticides are used almost everywhere and therefore, can be found in our food, air, and water.”

Robin Mann

“Let me just note that I am running for reelection to the Board because I believe I can contribute to the Club’s progress towards its major goals for the environment and for ensuring a strong and effective organization into the future. 

Being a strong and effective organization, in the case of the Sierra Club, requires among other things ensuring a broad and engaged grassroots presence everywhere.  And we know that strong grassroots engagement necessarily means people coming together to resolve local issues that often have competing considerations.  Our policies and our approach generally allow some latitude to ensure the local context is being taken into account.  I wouldn’t want to try to dictate the solution for all situations. 

My understanding from my work with the Club’s efforts to strengthen resiliency in the face of mounting climate change impacts is that restoring native vegetation is desirable, and can contribute to restoring greater ecological balance.  And my understanding from my work on the ground with organizations doing habitat restoration is that sometimes HERBICIDES are needed as a last resort to enable newly planted natives to become established. 

If you are speaking of herbicides being used in public parks and open spaces, my view is they generally should not be used for maintenance purposes as non-toxic alternatives are available.  For habitat and vegetation reestablishment I would defer to those designing the project with the expectation that herbicides would be minimized, used responsibly, and any exposure to park users avoided. 

If you are speaking of pesticide use for insects or other “nuisance” species, I expect that in most instances a non-toxic management alternative is available, and so the burden should be on the public entity to justify use of a pesticide for maintenance purposes.”

Luther Dale:

“I have to say I do not know the context of these issues nor knowledge sufficient to give you a good answer. There are so many environmental issues and I accept that I can’t be knowledgable about them all. I do know a lot about some issues and know how to listen and learn about issues new to me. Thanks for your passion about these and other environmental problems and for your work to care for the earth.”

Mike O’Brien:

What is your opinion of destroying non-native trees?  “I have strong concerns about invasive species crowding out and changing native ecosystems in detrimental ways.  That said, we have already made significant and irreversible impacts to many ecosystems.  I don’t believe a policy of eliminating all non-native trees simply because they are non-native makes sense at this point.  Rather, it should be taken on a case by case basis where we consider what the impacts are of the non-native species and any work should typically be done in conjunction with a plan to restore native trees and habitat.”

What is your opinion of pesticide use in public parks and open spaces?  “Strong preference to zero use of pesticides. There have been occasions where serious threats from invasive species have proved practically impossible to overcome without targeted use of pesticides, but this should be a rare exception as opposed normal operating” procedure.

Judy Hatcher:

“As you probably noticed from my candidate profile, I’m the ED of Pesticide Action Network, so I’m not in favor of pesticides–especially highly hazardous ones–in public spaces or anywhere else. I think the issue of non-native trees is specific to particular contexts and environments. But it’s unfortunate that the damage non-native plants and animals cause lead communities to demand increased use of pesticides and herbicides, which have negative consequences for human health as well as for the natural environment.

PAN focuses on industrial agriculture, so we don’t do a lot around non-native plants except for how they impact farming (hello, RoundUp!).”

If there are other environmental issues of concern to you, you can also ask the candidates questions:

Susana Reyes,

Robin Mann,

Joseph Manning,

David Scott,

Luther Dale,

Mike O’Brien,

Judy Hatcher

PARTICIPATE in democracy!

As the presidential primary election rages on around us, we are reminded of how important it is to participate in our democracy.  When we don’t participate, we are handing our power to those who do.  Our country and our environment are in peril.  Please step up and exercise your rights by voting in the election of the national Board of the Sierra Club if you are a member.

One thought on “Another opportunity to influence the Sierra Club to STOP advocating for deforestation and pesticide use”

  1. Hello, Million Trees :
    I want to share with you my letter to the Sierra Club Chapter Director. I sent a similar one to Michael Brune, Sierra Club Exec. Director. If you wish to post it in your comments, please do so. (I couldn’t figure out how to do it.). Best wishes, Kathleen Ramos
    PS: I sent Cc’s to the appropriate honchos at:
    City of Oakland
    UC Berkeley
    Sierra Club California
    Oakland Tribune
    Mary McAllister

    To: Michele Myers, Director
    SF Bay Chapter
    Sierra Club

    Dear Ms. Myers:

    I strenuously protest the Sierra Club’s participation, in partnership with the City of Oakland, EBRPD, and UC Berkeley, in the devastating tree eradication program on public land in the East Bay Hills.

    Many environmental organizations have eloquently articulated the rationale and reasons for their opposition, and the harmful immediate as well as long-term consequences to that thriving environment. See detailed list of objections in “Death of a Million Trees” at

    The Club’s position statements are unconvincing and at times misleading. You have even filed suit to permit ADDITIONAL areas of deforestation in the Oakland hills, over and above the 2,000 acres currently projected under the FEMA DEIS.

    Fire prevention is crucial, but your solutions (mass clear-cutting and extensive herbicide and pesticide use) are demonstrably counter-productive and ecologically destructive (all at huge taxpayer expense). There are other approaches, including selective thinning, as originally proposed by FEMA.

    Your salvo that low, scrub level “native plants” will somehow grow in to replace the long-established arboreal habit you are now tearing out is unacceptable. It will be non-native grasses (“weeds”) that will grow in the barren cleared land, as anyone who has ever cleared out any land knows (even us gardeners). Even the eucalyptus trees are integral to the habitat as erosion protection, windbreak, home to birds & other critters, not to mention the aesthetic factor of having an established forest rather than weed scrub.

    I was shocked to learn that you have refused requests from Chapter protest petition organizers, including Mary McAllister, to meet with you to discuss this project. Furthermore, you will not even print Mary’s letter in the Yodeler.

    After some 40 years as a life member, I regretfully can no longer support or contribute to the Sierra Club.


    Kathleen Ramos
    [address redacted]
    San Francisco CA 94110
    [phone number redacted]

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