The Sierra Club

Read this brief description and history of the Sierra Club, founded by John Muir in 1892. How important do you believe non-governmental organizations, such as the Sierra Club, are in driving forward issues and trying to influence the government to make changes?


The Sierra Club is one of the oldest and largest environmental groups in the United States. The Sierra Club promotes anti-coal, anti-natural gas, and anti-oil campaigns, under the theory that human activity is causing significant and dangerous global warming and promotes the strict regulation of government resources. The Sierra Club has a large membership that it keeps informed through a twice-monthly email newsletter, its more than 12 blogs, and its Sierra magazine.


History and Mission

John Muir founded the Sierra Club in 1892. As of March 2013, the Sierra Club claimed a membership of over 1.4 million. On its website, the group states: "[s]ince 1892, the Sierra Club has been working to protect communities, wild places, and the planet itself. We are the largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization in the United States".



The Sierra Club works on six main programs: Beyond Coal, Beyond Oil, Beyond Natural Gas, Resilient Habitats, Protecting America's Waters and Youth and Diversity. The Sierra Club explains that the goal of these projects is "to reverse global warming and create a clean, renewable energy future. Working with some of the world's top climate scientists, engineers, and energy experts, the Sierra Club has developed a Climate Recovery Agenda -- a set of initiatives that will help cut carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, create a clean-energy economy, and protect our natural heritage, communities, and country from the consequences of global warming".


Views on Technology

Former Sierra Club President David Bower once declared: "All technology should be assumed guilty until proven innocent". According to Discover the Networks, under Brower, "[t]he Sierra Club became a foe of development, portraying any new construction initiative as a greed-driven effort to exploit natural resources".



The Sierra Club has used the legal system as a tool to achieve its goals.

  • In March 2010, the Sierra Club filed a lawsuit to halt the building of a shopping center in Lake County, California. The elected officials of the County approved the project, but the Sierra Club objected and demanded an environmental impact study.
  • According to Activist Cash, in 2000 and 2003, the Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity "sued the U.S. Department of the Interior to force ranching families out of the Mojave National Preserve. These ranchers actually owned grazing rights to the preserve; some families had been raising cattle there for over a century. No matter. Using the Endangered Species Act and citing the supposed loss of 'endangered tortoise habitat,' the Club was able to force the ranchers out".
  • As of March 2013, according to the Sierra Club, its legal efforts have "helped stop the construction of 150 proposed coal-fired power plants".



The Sierra Club has received funding from the following groups: the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Joyce Foundation, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the Blue Moon Fund, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Energy Foundation, the Turner Foundation, and the Tides Foundation and Tides Center.

In November 2011, the Los Angeles Times reported that green-energy investor David Gelbaum has donated over $100 million to the Sierra Club in recent decades. Additionally, in July 2011, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's charity announced plans for a $50 million dollar donation to the Sierra Club's "campaign to shut down coal-fired power plants".

In 2011, the Sierra Club had total revenues of $97,757,678.


Leadership Change and Internal Strife

In November 2011, the Los Angeles Times reported that Sierra Club Chairman Carl Pope was stepping down amid internal discontent and dwindling membership. Michael Brune, an activist who previously worked with Greenpeace and the Rainforest Action Network, replaced Pope. The Los Angeles Times reported, "[t]he departure of Carl Pope, 66, a member of the club for more than 40 years, comes as the nonprofit group faces declining membership, internal dissent, well-organized opponents, a weak economy and forces in Congress trying to take the teeth out of environmental regulations".

Source: National Center For Public Policy Research,
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Last modified: Tuesday, January 12, 2021, 1:00 PM