It is amazing how fast time flies when you love your job! Before joining this amazing grassroots organization, I had no idea that the Sierra Club was so multifaceted in its approaches to promoting sustainable environmental policy. Not only do they spearhead many grassroots campaigns, but they also: lead many local, state, and inner city outings programs; advocate for and work to elect public officials who will vote to protect natural resources; and collaborate with numerous organizations that are actively interested in environmental advocacy.
The Maryland Chapter of the Sierra Club was formed in 1994, but the group was officially introduced into the area in 1950 as the Atlantic Chapter. Group membership has grown from 150 members in the 1950 Atlantic Chapter to over 22,000 members in the Maryland Chapter today. The Maryland Chapter currently consists of ten local groups: Anne Arundel Group, Greater Baltimore Group, the Eastern Shore Group, the Montgomery Group, the Catoctin Group, the Howard Group, the Prince George’s County Group, the Harford Group, the Southern Maryland Group, and the Western Maryland Group.
Growing with the membership, the group’s activities have extended to enable involvement at the local, state, and national levels to accommodate each member’s interests. Upon the creation of the Atlantic Chapter, the group focused on promoting outings events such as nature walks, hikes, luncheons, socials, and seminars. Much of the Maryland Chapter’s current work is politically oriented. Members monitor legislation on the local, state, and national levels, and inform the public of the potential impact of the new laws. The Chapter also endorses political candidates who support environmental legislation, and then publishes the voting records of current political office holders on environmental issues. Among the legislative issues in which the chapter is interested are recycling, air, water, land, and noise pollution, and alternative energy sources. If you are interested in learning about National’s mission statement, purposes and goals, then follow this link: http://sierraclub.org/policy/
Currently, the Maryland Chapter is working on campaigns that focus on retiring several local coal plants, supporting off-shore wind energy projects, passing the mandatory Maryland Department of Agriculture Nutrient Management Plan, revising the 2006 Charles County Comprehensive Land Use Plan to include less commercial development, and strengthening the Prince George’s County Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) plan. All of these campaigns also support building capacity between local Sierra Club Groups and its members.
This is where I focus most of my work at the Maryland Chapter Sierra Club Office. As the Outings Intern, I promote the importance of Maryland conservation campaign goals and strengthen the Maryland Chapter conservation outings program. Originally, the main focus of founder John Muir’s vision for the Sierra Club was to “explore, enjoy, and render accessible” important ecological areas through leading and participating in outings. Sierra Club outings are events that get people outside to familiarize themselves with the importance of natural lands and resources, what current threats face them, and what solutions exist to help protect these areas.
“Few are altogether deaf to the preaching of pine trees. Their sermons on the mountains go to our hearts; and if people in general could be got into the woods, even for once, to hear the trees speak for themselves, all difficulties in the way of forest preservation would vanish.”
– John Muir, “The National Parks and Forest Reservations,” Sierra Club Bulletin, v. 1, no. 7, January 1896, pp 271-284, at 282-83.
Most of my days are filled with research, planning, and plenty of meetings surrounding a few different campaigns in the Maryland Office. So far, we have planned and held numerous successful outings for the Water, Energy, Nutrient Management, and Stewardship Campaigns. On our Charles County Water Outings, we have taken members on kayak trips along the Mattawoman Creek in Indian Head, MD, to display the pristine but sensitive ecosystem that local legislation is currently threatening to disturb and pollute. For Beyond Coal Outings, we have taken members on kayak trips on Dundee Creek near Baltimore to look at the CP Crane coal plant and talk about the impacts of air pollution on the surrounding communities. This weekend, we have an 8-10mile hike planned at Gunpowder Falls State Park to discuss Maryland Department of Environment’s (MDE) water offset policy proposal with members. For the upcoming weeks, we are planning Nutrient Management outings to discuss the new Maryland Department of Agriculture’s (MDA) Nutrient Management regulations. In addition, we are planning a Prince George’s County Bike trip to discuss the County MS4 Plan with members in the community. Although my responsibility is to research, plan, facilitate, and delegate for these outings, they would not be possible without the hard work of other interns and staff, dedicated members, and collaborating organizations. The passion that they have for the environment endlessly fuels their accomplishments with the Sierra Club and it is so inspiring!
Here is the OARS calendar that outlines all of the upcoming events affiliated with the Maryland Chapter…
This motivation is reflected in my short term and long term goals for this internship. My goals are focused on research & education, capacity building, and membership growth. Researching the issues and providing solutions about conservation concerns that are important to each Maryland Sierra Club group is essential for me as the outings intern. It is just as important for me to advocate and educate others through meetings and outings. Becoming familiar with Sierra Club online tools, like CLUBHOUSE, HELEN, WILD, MDSIERRA gmail, CONVIO, LISTSERV, LEADERS, OARS, and social media facilitates this education. Capacity building through strengthening existing relationships within and outside of the Sierra Club is essential in my internship as well. Supporting current outings leaders by participating in their events and holding my own events in their communities helps strengthen these relationships. Membership grows after helping groups with outreach for outings, being diligent with follow-ups and thank-yous, and encouraging others to become official Sierra Club outings leaders.
I cannot wait to explore more of Maryland, defend its natural areas, and advocate for better legislation that will protect these amazing places! It looks like everyone else loves their internships as well! See you all in January! Stay cool BCEP!
“When we contemplate the whole globe as one great dewdrop, striped and dotted with continents and islands, flying through space with other stars all singing and shining together as one, the whole universe appears as an infinite storm of beauty.”
– Travels in Alaska by John Muir, 1915, chapter 1, page 5.