Longtime Sierra Club member and activist Tom Hodges has died.

In spite of many years of failing health, Tom was an effective leader in the Chapter and was the driving force establishing the Coastal Alabama Group.

His leadership and dedication in lobbying for protection of natural habitats on the Fort Morgan peninsula leave a legacy that future generations can enjoy.

He will be fondly remembered by those of us privileged to serve with him.

Reserve the Dates!

Oct 31-Nov 2, 2014
Sierra Club Annual Retreat

Lakepoint State Park
near Eufaula

Environmental Speakers, Hikes, Boating, Fishing
Birding and Wildlife Viewing at
Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge

For more information, contact
David Norwood – 334-315-6081 or dn355@bellsouth.net

Bob Hastings – 334-324-1071 or bhastings@knology.net

NEW Donate to the Alabama Chapter of the Sierra Club Online

Click the donate button below to make a secure, online donation using PayPal. You don't need a PayPal account to use this option

Note: Contributions, gifts, and dues to the Sierra Club-Alabama Chapter are not tax deductible. They support our effective, citizen-based advocacy and lobbying efforts here in Alabama. Thank you in advance for supporting the Sierra Club's conservation programs in Alabama.

Rivers of Alabama Day

Alabama is the home for the most aquatic biodiversity and navigable miles of rivers and streams in the US, and there is a special day dedicated to celebrating them. Rivers of Alabama Day is the second Tuesday in April. In addition to celebrating Alabama's waterways on this day, the Alabama Rivers Alliance encourages all Alabama citizens to celebrate the vital network of grassroots groups that fight to protect them.

Rivers of Alabama Day was established in 2007 when the Alabama State Legislature passed a resolution establishing the second Tuesday in April as Rivers of Alabama Day.

Supported by both houses of the legislature, the purpose of this day is “to recognize the many valuable assets rivers bring to the State of Alabama.” According to the resolution, Alabama's rivers are a blessing to the state since they provide habitat to high quality freshwater fish, mussel, snail, and crawfish species; supply the water essential to agriculture and and industry; and support the state's multimillion dollar tourism industry.

On April 8th, 2014, Rivers of Alabama Day, the Alabama Rivers Alliance will lead a flotilla of boats (canoes, kayaks, fishing boats, etc…) across the Alabama River and march up to the capitol to let our legislators and the governor know we need a comprehensive water plan. We need hundreds of concerned citizens to help us make a big splash this Rivers of Alabama Day and let our state leaders know that clean, flowing water is important to the people of Alabama. To find out more and to join us on this important day of action, contact the Alabama Rivers Alliance at 205-322-6395 or info@alabamarivers.org.



Many thanks to Margo Rebar, Roe Hyche, Bob Hastings, and Peggie Griffin for agreeing to be the new newsletter committee. The newsletter is put together monthly, and material for the newsletter should be sent to plgriffin@comcast.net, with a subject line of "For the Editorial Board" no later than the 15th of the month. Group newsletter editors may continue sending group meeting information and calendars of events to Joe Watts at joe@joewatts.com, no later than the 25th of each month.

Guidelines for Material: The newsletter committee is seeking articles about Alabama environmental issues, articles highlighting Alabama’s special beautiful places, and engaging write-ups about group and chapter activities. Articles should be originally written for the Alabama Sierran, factual, and timely. A link to another publication should only be used rarely, but if a link is to be used, a full summary of the information (at least a paragraph long) should be written, with the link provided for more detailed information. The newsletter committee has the right to make any changes, so that material will meet these guidelines.

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National Sierra Club Elections are Underway - VOTE!

The annual election for the Club's Board of Directors is now underway. Those eligible to vote in the national Sierra Club election will receive in the mail (or by Internet if you chose the electronic delivery option) your national Sierra Club ballot in early March. This will include information on the candidates and where you can find additional information on the Club's web site.

The Sierra Club is a democratically structured organization at all levels. The Club requires the regular flow of views on policy and priorities from its grassroots membership in order to function well. Yearly participation in elections at all Club levels is a major membership obligation.

Members frequently state that they don't know the candidates and find it difficult to vote without learning more. You can learn more by asking questions of your group and chapter leadership and other experienced members you know. Visit the Club's election web site:

This site provides links to additional information about candidates and their views on a variety of issues facing the Club and the environment.

You should use your own judgment by taking several minutes to read the ballot statement of each candidate. Then make your choice and cast your vote. Even if you receive your election materials in the mail, please go to the user-friendly Internet voting site to save time and postage. If necessary, you will find the ballot is quite straightforward and easy to mark and mail.

Ballots must be received by no later than election day, April 16, 2014.

Earth Day April 27 on
Monte Sano

Come celebrate the 44th annual Earth Day in Monte Sano State Park on Sunday, April 27. As always there will be plenty to see, do and hear. Stay tuned for details.

Wilderness First Aid Training

The weekend of May 30th, the North Alabama Sierra Club is offering a comprehensive two and a half day first aid course that will teach you the wilderness medical skills you need to handle backcountry emergencies. From the Patient Assessment System through traumatic, medical, and environmental emergencies, we will cover a wide variety of topics designed to prepare you to act if an accident occurs when you are out on the trail.

This is a 20 hour course over two and one half days. The course begins at 6:00pm on Friday, May 30 with Adult CPR/AED certification. The class will resume at 8:00am Saturday and Sunday and runs through 5:00pm both days. There will be both classroom time and hands-on practice scenarios.

Practice scenarios may take place outside in various weather conditions; be prepared for inclement weather. Participants will have to pass both a written and a practical test. Red Cross CPR certification is a prerequisite for this course. Successful completion of this training results in an American Red Cross Wilderness & Remote First Aid certification valid for two years. The cost is $80 which includes both CPR/AED and WFA certification.

For applicants possessing a current Adult CPR/AED the cost is $60 and training will be Saturday and Sunday only. Proof of CPR/AED certification must be provided in advance. Lunch will be provided onsite each day. For further information contact Tom Burley at tdburleyhiker@bellsouth.net


April 2014

Comments from the New Chair:

Robert W. Hastings

At the March 9 meeting of the Chapter Executive Committee, I was elected to replace Margo Rebar as Chair of the Chapter. We are all sorry to see Margo leave the state, but wish her the best in her move to Michigan. I would also like to praise Margo for her outstanding service to the Chapter during the past few years. She has been an excellent Chair and a “tough act to follow”. I will try!

I would like to begin my tenure as Chair with an appeal to our membership. We have about 3300 members in the state, but fewer than 100 activists. We need more members to get involved. There are many significant environmental issues in the state that need our attention. If you are not already involved, please become involved. Attend meetings of your local Group. Participate in Group outings and other activities. Find out how you can help your Group. Encourage your friends to become members of the Club. Read our newsletter regularly to learn what is happening in the state. Plan now to attend our annual Retreat scheduled for October 31-November 2 at Lakepoint State Park near Eufaula. Also consider making a monetary donation to the Club through our March Appeal (you can read the highlights by clicking on the link) that you should have received recently. We have outstanding natural environments in the state that we all need to “explore, enjoy, and protect”.

And if you have any questions about what the Club is doing, feel free to contact me at any time (bhastings@knology.net).

Sabal Trail Pipeline

by Robert W. Hastings, Alabama Sierra Club Chair

Seems like everyone wants to build a pipeline these days. I’m sure almost everyone has heard about the Keystone XL pipeline, and our Mobile Group has done a good job of publicizing their opposition to the oil pipeline to be constructed through a major water supply area for the city of Mobile.  But there are several other pipelines being proposed for Alabama. One of these is the so-called Sabal Trail Pipeline that would carry natural gas extracted through hydraulic fracturing from Pennsylvania and Texas through Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. The new pipeline would begin in Alexander City, where it would join with the existing Transco pipeline (which extends from Texas to New Jersey and Pennsylvania), and continue approximately 460 miles through southeast Alabama, southwest Georgia, and Florida, to supply natural gas to power companies in central Florida. Additional branches and expansion of the Transco pipeline make the total project about 650 miles long. This includes the Hillabee Expansion of the existing Transco pipeline in Alabama, from the state line in Choctaw County, through Autauga, Chilton, Coosa, and Tallapoosa Counties. Its purpose is to expand the capacity of the Transco pipeline by adding approximately 44 miles in eight pipe segments, or loops, adjacent to the existing pipeline. Several new pumping stations would also be constructed along these pipelines.

The Alabama Chapter of the Sierra Club has joined with the Georgia and Florida Sierra Club Chapters to oppose the Sabal Trail Pipeline. Since the purpose of the Hillabee Expansion project is to supply gas to the proposed Sabal Trail Pipeline, we also oppose the Hillabee Expansion project, and consider it undesirable and not needed. 

The proposed pipelines would cut a wide swath through pristine lands with resulting negative impacts on endangered species, critical wildlife habitat, invaluable wetlands, longleaf pine forests, the fragile and irreplaceable Floridian Aquifer, streams, rivers, and springs, and private property rights. If approved, the pipeline companies would attempt to acquire easements through private property in the path of the pipeline, and could use condemnation proceedings through “eminent domain” to force unwilling landowners to provide easements.

Furthermore, the Sierra Club and other environmental organizations are also opposed to the hydraulic fracturing process by which natural gas is extracted for transport in these pipelines. Although natural gas is promoted as a cheap source of energy, its true cost is not revealed. It is a fossil fuel that increases global warming, and has a high environmental cost for production. Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”, is a destructive process of drilling for and fracking of shale deposits that contaminates drinking water resources in nearby communities, and requires excessive amounts of water, which has become a precious limiting resource in many areas. Fracking has also been linked to birth defects in peer-reviewed studies. Thus the true cost of producing cheap natural gas is not paid by the drilling companies, but is passed on to local communities which suffer from degraded environments, water quality, and property values. And much of the fracked natural gas is exported to other countries. For these reasons, many environmental organizations, including the Sierra Club, have called for a total ban on fracking.

Another concern is that the pipeline companies involved with these projects have poor records for safety and environmental violations. Spectra Energy and its related companies have been fined repeatedly for safety and environmental violations throughout the United States including one fine of $15,000,000. Williams Partners, Inc., owner of the Transco pipeline, has a poor record of pipeline safety, and has had at least 35 reportable accidents since 2006, including the pipeline rupture and explosion on December 3, 2011, near Linden in Marengo County, Alabama. Fortunately this explosion, which devastated 65 acres of forest land, did not occur in a populated area where loss of life could have been tragic. Williams Partners and other pipeline companies should focus on upgrading the existing pipelines for improved safety rather than expanding capacity. Florida, which will be the sole recipient of the fracked natural gas to be transported through the Sabal Trail Pipeline, should expand energy efficiency measures and solar power capacity rather than increase its dependence on natural gas. And rather than approving construction of new pipelines, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) should be promoting increased use of renewable sources of energy, such as solar and wind power, and should also encourage improved energy efficiency measures.

Additional information regarding these pipeline projects may be obtained at www.sabaltrailtransmission.com and www.ferc.gov

16th Annual Alabama Water Rally A Success

The 16th annual Alabama Water Rally was held on March 7-9 in Montgomery, AL.

The conference opened with an Alabama Water Policy Symposium at Troy University Montgomery Campus followed by a day of educational sessions at the Embassy Suites Montgomery and then a day of educational, team-building field trips and fellowship.

We had about 120 participants representing over 60 different organizations ranging from local community groups like Black Belt Citizens Fighting for Health and Justice to national organizations like American Rivers and international organizations like Waterkeeper Alliance.

Organizations represented different causes from river recreation to environmental concerns and land preservation to public health and human rights. Participants ranged in age from people in their teens to their eighties. These included conservation professionals, state agency employees, college students, educators, concerned citizens, students, attorneys, public health professionals. Read more about the event on My Green Montgomery.

U.S. Forest Service Defies Public Comments, Closes Lake Chinnabee Campground Permanently

By Glynn Wilson, Alabama Sierra Club's Political Chair

photo courtesy Glynn Wilson

After considering public comments, mostly against the closing of one of the best little primitive campgrounds in the state and the country, the Talladega Alabama division of the U.S. Forest Service has made the decision to close the Lake Chinnabee Campground permanently.

Even though this decision was opposed by the Alabama Sierra Club, the Alabama Scenic River Trail non-profit group and others, Talladega District Ranger Gloria R. Nielsen recently announced the permanent closure anyway.

The Lake Chinnabee Recreation Area will reopen annually from sunrise to sunset daily from March 1 through November 30 each year, according to the press release announcing the campground's closing.

The decision was made due to some flooding in the area and campground during a heavy rain event on May 18, 2013.

"(The) Lake Chinnabee Recreation Area is loved by many people because of its beauty, serenity, and peacefulness," Nielsen said in the letter announcing the campground's closing. "The Forest Service is responsible for trying to reduce high risks at developed recreation sites where we provide oversight and monitor public safety. Our goal is to provide the safest facility possible for Forest visitors. The only way to ensure public safety is to not allow overnight camping in a designated flash flood zone."

By way of partially responding to some of the public comments suggesting alternatives to closing the campground, the Forest Service, a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, detailed what happened on May 18 and indicated why it rejected suggested alternatives.

The National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning at 3:15 a.m. that day. The first 911 call that visitors were located at Lake Chinnabee was received at 3:47 a.m.

"Unfortunately, the flash flood event was not predicted in advance by the National Weather Service or other meteorologists," Nielsen said. "We do not have Forest Service employees patrolling after sunset; and if we were alerted of the flash flood event, it would take us a minimum of one hour or more to notify visitors."

She also said there is no Internet or cell phone coverage at Lake Chinnabee, "which makes it a high risk area to visitors."

She indicated it is unknown whether the use of portable, battery operated radios to access weather reports is a way to alert visitors, "but in this case it would have been little benefit."

Flash Flood Area signs have been posted at Lake Chinnabee since 2010, she said, when it was determined the recreation area was in a flash flood zone. The federal Forest Service had issued a policy directive requiring all recreation areas within a flash flood zone to delineate floodplains.

The government paid the URS Corporation to draft a floodplain delineation map, which was sent to the regional office in Atlanta, Georgia on May 29, 2013, just days after this flash flood event. The maps reflect the now known high water marks. (The map has still not been released to the public, nor has the cost of the study been released to the press).

In the public comments, Nielsen indicated, they received questions about the spillway and access road at Lake Chinnabee, and whether they could be modified to prevent flooding. In response, she said the dam is a solid concrete structure and spillway that allows water from the lake to flow over the top. She did not address whether it could be modified to enhance the release of water to the creek that drains the lake when it overflows.

She said the access road meets Forest Service standards and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials standards for low volume roads, but she did not address whether the road could be raised by the boat launch to further prevent flooding.

More than 99.9 percent of the Talladega Ranger District, totaling about 115,000 acres, is open to public use at all times, she said, primarily via foot travel.

"Visitors may camp anywhere in the national forest outside developed recreation areas at any time, except during hunting season when they must stay in a designated hunter camp, camping area or get a camping permit from our office," she said. "Visitors will still be able to hike, canoe, bird watch, fish, observe nature, have weddings, observe fall colors and wildflowers, visit Devil’s Den and any number of activities that they participate in while visiting the area. The only activity limited, which was allowed before, is overnight camping."

Not long after announcing this decision, the U.S. Justice Department indicated it would dismiss a ticket citation against Locust Fork News-Journal Editor and Publisher G.lynn Wilson for allegedly entering the posted area while it was closed. That decision along with a minor warning against future alleged violations was announced in a letter from U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance and Assistant U.S. Attorney Chinelo Dike-Minor to Birmingham Attorney Justin K. Forester, who represented Wilson, on March 13.

We reported on this issue extensively back in November, with photos and video.

2014 Alabama Trails Conference

The 2014 Alabama Trails Conference, “Celebrating 75 Years of Service of Alabama State Parks” will be held April 10 – 11, 2014 at the beautiful Lake Guntersville State Park Lodge located in Guntersville, Alabama. The conference is the third trails conference highlighting Alabama’s top trails from the initial development through the entire growth process.

You will learn how trails have become successful all the way from the Red Mountain Park in Birmingham, AL to the nationally known Hatfield-McCoy Trails in West Virginia. Learn more and register online by visiting www.landoftrails.org or by following on facebook.

Sierra Club Outings

Spring is here! It's time to get out! Take a great hike. Or just enjoy gathering with friends to discuss environmental issues!

Come join us on the trail or just out for a stroll in the city! Great outings and meetings from North Alabama all the way to the Gulf! more>>>