A Few Words from the Chair
Writing a letter to the editor does get results … even if limited. In mid-January on behalf of the members of the Alabama Chapter, I submitted an opinion piece about the status of the water plan for Alabama. I specifically requested that Governor Bentley release the findings of the committee he appointed and charged with developing a plan to manage our state waters. This committee, Alabama Water Agencies Working Group (AWAWG), submitted their report December 1, 2012.
After al.com published my letter, Governor Bentley's office did respond to let me (and now you) know that the report is under review but he is waiting to release the report until after he has been briefed by the AWAWG. Senator Orr's office also responded to the op-ed telling me that he, as a member of the Joint Legislative Committee on Water Policy and Management, was not pleased because he had yet to see the report.
We as stakeholders in this process need to continue to urge the Governor to release the findings and to take the next steps toward a comprehensive water plan. Why is a plan needed? Why is input from the public essential? Our current system of water distribution, referred to as "common law riparian rights," dates back to colonial times. If your property touches a source of water, then you may withdraw that water for any "reasonable use" with little concern for any impact to downstream landowners. You do not have a legal right to distribute the water to anyone else, including a neighbor in need. Under this system, if enforced, a water utility does not have the right to provide you with water. Without a plan, we have no recourse in the courts if any of our neighboring states withdraw water that is essential for our agriculture, our transportation, our fisheries, or our aquatic species. Without a plan, who has priority during times of drought? We need to have our voices and preferences heard. So many potential economic, social, and ecological problems can arise without a good plan. And a good plan requires transparency and public engagement.
As a Chapter, we will continue to support water symposia designed to keep stakeholders engaged in the process of developing a well-balanced plan that provides equitable distribution to all of us as well as protection of our aquatic habitats. The next symposium is Friday, March 7, in Montgomery. The symposium is free and open to everyone. Additional details are available at alabamarivers.org
Soon, each Sierra household should be receiving our annual March Appeal letter (see below for more information). Here is an opportunity for you to support our efforts in Alabama to protect our natural resources, to fight attempts to despoil our waters and lands, to inform you about environmental issues, to conduct hikes throughout the state, and to sponsor programs that educate and expose our youth to being good stewards of our natural world.
We operate as a completely volunteer organization. I thank all of you who do volunteer in whatever capacity your volunteerism takes. Please consider a donation so we all can continue our work toward a cleaner and safer environment.
And be sure to spend some time outdoors so you live the paraphrased Sierra Club motto: enjoy and explore that which you have helped protect.
Chair, Alabama Chapter
YOU CAN HELP PROTECT THE FUTURE OF ALABAMA.
The assaults on our environment seem to be without end. The priorities of the Alabama Chapter of the Sierra Club focus on protecting our drinking water and waterways, advocating for lands that provide wildlife habit and opportunities for recreation, making the public aware of the environmental issues of our state, and encouraging more of you to be outdoors on a hike or other outing.
How much we accomplish depends upon you. You can help by donating $20, $50, or more so our volunteers can address environmental issues, protect our waters, and provide more educational and outing opportunities for you.
Here are just a few things that your financial support will help us with in Alabama:
Water Protection and Water Education
In Alabama, you are seldom far from a waterway. Water is the life blood of our state, its industries, tourism, recreation, agriculture, energy production, and biodiversity. How do you protect over 77,000 miles of streams and rivers? Will Alabama win the next “water war” with Georgia or Florida? Is your access to drinking water protected? The answer to all three: develop a comprehensive water management plan for our state.
Governor Bentley has taken only a first step toward a water plan, but your donation of $20,
$50, or $100 is necessary for the next steps. The Alabama Chapter, in partnership with other concerned organizations, is increasing public awareness and encouraging stakeholder input through a series of water symposia that will continue in 2014.
Thousands of fourth graders (perhaps your child) participate in the Water Festivals Program; hundreds participate in the Alabama Coastal Cleanup; untold numbers of you attend Earth Day activities, join hikes or kayak to waterfalls; and maybe you’ve been to an evening program offered by your Sierra group. All of these educational activities are in part sponsored by your Alabama Chapter. Please consider donating to help maintain and expand these programs.
Get Kids Outdoors!
Can you imagine growing up without opportunities to be outdoors finding insects, climbing trees, splashing in a stream? This situation is all too common among the youth in our urban settings. ICO Sierra Club volunteers take youth for hikes in our state parks, for water adventures in our beautiful streams, to educational programs about wildlife, and for creek clean-ups. Are experiences like these why you care enough about preserving our environment to be a member of Sierra Club? If so, please consider a donation so this program and other Sierran programs that introduce your youth to the great outdoors can continue and expand.
Enjoy, Explore, and Protect Our Wild Places
No matter where you live, you are welcome to join any of our hikes and outings across the state. Do give it a try! From night hikes in Huntsville to trail maintenance on the Pinhoti National Recreation Trail to birding on the coast, there is an outing for you. Check out the schedule in the Alabama Sierran at alabama.sierraclub.org.
Clean-up Our Gulf
Many of the restoration efforts to alleviate the damage caused by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill are volunteer intensive and require funding. In2014,Alabama Sierrans will again participate in the Coastal Clean-up Campaign and in building artificial oyster reefs. Please help these efforts to improve and protect our valuable shoreline and its wildlife.
Thanks to the financial support and involvement of people like you, the Alabama Chapter is making a difference, yet we have a lot more to accomplish in 2014. Every dollar of your gift, whether $20, $50, $100 or more, stays in Alabama helping protect our natural resources, advocate for safe and clean water, and provide outdoor activities for all of us.
Chair, Sierra Club Alabama
P.S. All advocacy on behalf of clean and safe water and protection of our wild places is entirely volunteer. The Alabama Chapter values you, its members, and only asks for funds once a year. Please use this opportunity to give generously to our work here in Alabama. Every dollar you give stays right here in Alabama working to protect the things we love.
Click the donate button below to make a secure, online donation using PayPal. You don't need a PayPal account to use this option. Or, respond via mail using the package that you'll be receiving shortly. You can mail a check to Sierra Club, Alabama Chapter, c/o Margo Rebar, 4625 Dolly Ridge Road, Birmingham, AL 35243. Contributions and gifts to the Sierra Club are not tax-deductible; they support our effective, citizen-based advocacy and lobbying efforts.
Alabama Water Rally
The Alabama Sierra Club is a title sponsor of this year's Water Rally, sponsored by the Alabama Rivers Alliance. The 16th Annual Alabama Water Rally will be March 7-9, 2014 in Montgomery. For over sixteen years, this event has brought over a hundred individual attendees from a variety of backgrounds together to share, network, and learn. This is the largest gathering of environmental advocates in Alabama.
This year's Conference will feature:
- Alabama Water Policy Symposium on Friday
- Educational workshops and training sessions by local and regional experts
- Keynote by Scot Duncan, author of Southern Wonder, an exploration of Alabama's amazing biological diversity, the reasons for the large number of species in the state, and the importance of their preservation
- Unsurpassed networking opportunities with conservation professionals
- Accomodations at the Embassy Suites Montgomery Hotel & Conference Center
- Annual River Celebration Awards Banquet
- Saturday night entertainment featuring live music by Ed Pickett
For more information and to register please check the following links:
Alabama Water Rally (general info): www.alabamarivers.org/events/conference
Conference Registration: www.alabamarivers.org/events/conference/register-online
Conference Agenda: www.alabamarivers.org/events/conference/2014-alabama-water-rally-schedule
Your State Income Tax Refund Can Help Alabama’s Nongame Wildlife
CONTACT: Mark Sasser 334-242-3469
If you’re one of the fortunate Alabama tax payers who receive a state income tax refund, you could turn all or part of that refund into helping nongame wildlife. Your tax-deductible donation can help one or more of the 900-plus wildlife species in Alabama classified as “nongame” or illegal to hunt. You can play a major part in ensuring that wildlife in our state continues to flourish for the enjoyment and education of generations to come by simply opting to Checkoff for Wildlife on your Alabama state income tax return using Form 40 with Schedule DC.
Giving to the Nongame Wildlife Program helps increase the chances of survival of many wildlife species, including once threatened or endangered wildlife such as the majestic bald eagle, eastern bluebird, and gopher tortoise. In fact, donations and money from the checkoff system helped fund the successful Bald Eagle Restoration Project and the Bluebird Restoration Project in the early days of the Nongame Wildlife Program. Since then, more programs have been added, including a project to increase the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker population in Alabama.
The Nongame Wildlife Program, administered by the Alabama Department of Conservation’s Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division, receives no money from the General Fund budget. It is partially funded by the citizens of Alabama through tax-deductible donations and federal funds through the Pittman-Robertson Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act (P-R Act). The P-R Act is an excise tax on sporting firearms, ammunition, archery and other outdoor equipment earmarked for wildlife restoration and management. The sales of hunting licenses also provide funding for the conservation of all of the state’s wildlife species, meaning Alabama hunters provide the primary sources of funding for Alabama’s Nongame Wildlife Program. But those dollars are simply not enough.
Since 1984, the Alabama Nongame Wildlife Fund checkoff box has been included on the state income tax form, providing concerned citizens a way to donate all or a portion of their state tax refunds for the benefit of wildlife. These donations are matched on a three-to-one federal cost share. This means that for every $1 you donate, the state receives $3 in federal matching funds. Your $5 donation means $20 for nongame wildlife conservation. Your $100 donation means $400.
More than 1 million Alabamians receive a state tax refund each year; if only one out of four people donate just $4, it would mean over $1 million dollars for nongame wildlife conservation in Alabama.
Won’t you make a commitment to help? If you use a tax accountant or preparer, please direct them to check the box for the Alabama Nongame Wildlife Fund. If you do not receive a state income tax refund, you can still make a direct donation. Send your check to the Nongame Wildlife Program, Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries, 64 North Union Street, Montgomery, AL 36130. Remember, your tax-deductible donation will be tripled through available federal funds.
This year, give something back to wildlife for all the enjoyment it has given you. It is our responsibility to help preserve this treasured resource for future generations. For more information contact the Nongame Wildlife Program, Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries, 64 North Union Street, Montgomery, AL 36130; 334-242-3469; or visit www.outdooralabama.com.
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.