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Don't Forget to Vote for Alabama Sierra Club Leaders!

Ballots were mailed last week, along with information about Forever Wild and the upcoming Annual Retreat. Please take a moment to vote and mail your ballot back in!

A Book of Interest

It's Even Worse Than It Looks:  How the American Constitutional System Collided with the New Politics of Extremism
by Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein
Basic Books, New York
226 pages (2012)

The authors have decades of experience in observing the U.S. Congress.  They commented on their observations in a 2006 book, The Broken Branch.  That message did not have the desired outcome, so they tried again.

Mann is a senior fellow at The Brookings Institution and Ornstein is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.  Among their concerns is the political climate in our Nation's Capital, especially in the Congress.

Here's some of their conclusions:  Especially after the majority status changed in 1995, "both [political] parties, seeing higher stakes, changed their fund-raising strategies to put a high priority on redistributing resources from the many safe districts to the few remaining competitive ones. . . . Regular order in the legislative process--the set of rules, practices, and norms designed to ensure a reasonable level of deliberation and fair play in committee, on the floor, and in conference--was often sacrificed for political expediency.

In improving the government, the authors offer "bromides to avoid":   a third party centrist candidate, a constitutional amendment to balance the federal budget, term limits, and public financing of elections.

Some helpful measures they propose include modernizing voter registration, rejecting moves  to restrict voting, opening polls for several days, fining non-voters, reforming the redistricting process, adopting open primaries, disclosing completely campaign contributions, prohibiting contributions by lobbyists.

More broadly we must change the political culture by such as restoring public shame by denouncing bad political behavior, re-creating the public square of civil discourse, engaging the citizenry in the political process.

The authors close with:  "We end where we began:  it is even worse than it looks.  But we  are confident that if the worst has not yet hit, better times, and a return to a better political system, do indeed lie ahead."

Submitted by David Newton

Stop Shell Oil

Shell wants to make up for lost time on their drilling lease—by asking the government for more time to drill!

Shell’s oil drilling plans were delayed due to dangerous sea ice and problems with their oil spill response vessel—the ship that is supposed to help prevent a disaster like the one in the Gulf Coast. Yet they have persisted in preparatory drilling along the sea floor. And now they want more time to drill for oil in the Polar Bear Seas! Donate to help Stop Shell today!

We must keep pressure on the Interior Department to deny Shell’s petition. The Beaufort and Chukchi Seas are home to 20% of the world’s polar bears—they are also teeming with fish, seals and whales who would suffer from Shell’s destructive drilling. We can’t afford to let oil drilling endanger this pristine environment.

With your support, we will fight to keep this region safe from oil companies who are out to profit at the expense of our country’s wild places. Help us Stop Shell from drilling for oil in the Polar Bear Seas for good. (from National Sierra Club)


Smart people in Florida are just not into the latest idea of fracking up their state with natural gas drilling.

"It's a horrible idea," said Jon Ullman, Everglades coordinator for the Florida Sierra Club. This man speaks the truth!


Nationwide, wind energy capacity has doubled since 2008 and now generates more than 50,000 megawatts, or enough to power 13 million homes.

Federal and state policies have helped create a wind boom in the U.S., and families and businesses are reaping the rewards in the form of cleaner air, new jobs, and less carbon pollution that disrupts our climate. Visit the Talking Points section on Clubhouse.


Alabama Trails Conference

Get a foot up on some of Alabama’s top trails and their evolution during the second Alabama Trails Conference Nov. 1-2, 2012 at Jacksonville State University (Jacksonville, AL) at the Houston Cole Library. Open to the public for registration and for all types of trail enthusiasts throughout the U.S. The conference offers something for everyone with an interest in trail planning, development &enjoyment of recreational trails in Alabama.

The conference theme is DREAM, PLAN, BUILD. Planning a trail? Building a trail? Building consensus in the dreaming stages of a trail? YOU NEED TO ATTEND!

Conference highlights feature several sessions and panels involving using volunteers, trail promotion, economic and related benefits of trails and funding opportunities. The conference includes vendors and exhibits demonstrating the latest trends and equipment in outdoor adventures and trail development and maintenance.

Registration, agenda, and conference details available on the website! Register at


November 2012

Sierra 2012 Retreat


Hosted by: Mobile Bay Group Sierra Club

If you haven't come to an annual Alabama Sierra Club Chapter retreat before, then you've missed out on a weekend of fun outdoor activities, meeting great people, learning from inspiring presentations, and having a memorable time.

Open to the public and Sierra Club members alike, the 2012 annual retreat will take place at beautiful Camp Beckwith on Weeks Bay in South Baldwin County, near Fairhope, Alabama. Nature trails wind through 82 acres of tall pine forests and landscaped open spaces along the estuary waters of Weeks Bay. The bay is teeming with wildlife and over 100 different species of birds.

This annual Chapter retreat is whatever you want it to be. While there is a structured schedule of presentations, discussions, outdoor activities, and more, we encourage you to enjoy the weekend in your own way. This is a great opportunity to get outdoors and join interesting people and fellow Sierrans for a celebration of fall and the return of cool weather on the coast.

Some of the areas of focus will be:

  • Alabama Water Policy / 40th Anniversary of the Clean Water Act / Sierra Club Water Sentinels
  • Beyond Coal / Beyond Oil / Beyond Natural Gas / Clean Energy campaign
  • Environmental Documentary Filmmaking in Alabama
  • Environmental Justice
  • Alabama Sierra Club Statewide Activities
  • Importance of Estuaries / Weeks Bay Reserve / National Estuarine Research Reserve Boat Tour
  • Boardwalks and Nature Trails including Weeks Bay Pitcher Plant Bog Boardwalk Trail to Fish River
  • Awards Banquet and Celebration of Fall with live music and a visit from the “Reverend Dave”
  • Sierra Club Power Fall Lottery Prizes throughout with Finale at Lu Lu’s Luncheon
  • Alabama Sustainable Agriculture Network
  • Post BP Oil Crisis, Natural Resource Damage Assessment, Restore Act, Coastal and Marine Restoration Projects
  • Tar Ball Scavenger Hunt and a visit to the Gulf of Mexico beaches

Starting with a Bar-B-Que at the Bayfront Pavilion on Friday at 5:30 p.m. and closing with Sunday Lunch at Lu Lu’s Homeport at 12:00 noon, the retreat will feature great sessions and presentations on state and national environmental issues, as well as lots of waterfront outdoor fun. Individuals can pick and choose among a variety of activities. Learn more and download the registration packet here.

Forever Wild Vote This November 6

Dear Alabama Sierra Club Member:

On November 6, the voters of Alabama will decide if the purchase of lands for the Forever Wild Land Trust will be continued for another 20 years. Your help is needed to encourage voters to vote YES.

As a member of the Alabamians for Forever Wild Coalition ( your Chapter needs and wants your participation in this campaign.

Your help is urgently needed in encouraging Alabama voters to approve the Constitutional Amendment 1 to continue this very successful program that purchases lands from willing sellers. From the Alabamians for Forever Wild Coalition, here’s a summary of major points about the Forever Wild Land Trust program.

The Forever Wild Land Trust:

    • Provides access to land for public recreation like hiking, biking, fishing, hunting, horseback riding, & canoeing.
    • Helps protect Alabama’s water and air quality to benefit all citizens.
    • Draws visitors to Alabama by preserving the beauty of pristine natural areas.
    • Contributes directly to the annual $2.2 billion dollar outdoor recreation and tourism industry in Alabama.
    • Is funded by earnings on fees paid to the state by natural gas companies who drill off Alabama’s coast. NO funding comes from taxes.

The proposed constitutional amendment will be number one on the backside of the November 6 ballot. It reads: “Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, relating to the Forever Wild Land Trust, to reauthorize the trust for a 20-year period.” Beginning NOW and continuing until November 6, please encourage voters to vote “Yes” on this amendment.

You should have recieved several mailings sent to all Sierra Club members. In these mailings are materials that will help you in this important work. 1) Fact Sheet on the Forever Wild Land Trust, 2) Participants in the Alabamians for Forever Wild Coalition; 3) Post cards for you to mail to voters (family, friends). More information is at

Please mail the post cards to your friends and family without delay and continue to urge voters to vote YES on Constitutional Amendment 1 on November 6.

Thank you for your help.

Want to learn more about Forever Wild? Check out these links:

Forever Wild Facts
Forever Wild FAQs
Forever Wild Interactive Map with Recreational Opportunities
Forever Wild Land Purchases List
Alabamians for Forever Wild Coalition List - updated 5.12.12
Forever Wild Powerpoint
The Forever Wild Land Trust Report
Forever Wild Land Trust Homepage


download a series of 3 postcards you can print yourself to mail to friends.

A Disturbing Piece of News Shared by David Underwood

If an asphalt company gets its way, Mobile may become one on of the first Gulf Coast destinations handling oil-rich tar sands imported from Canada.

While the Keystone pipeline already delivers tar sands to destinations in the Midwest, an expansion of the pipeline that would carry tar sand oil to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast has become a political hot potato this election season.

You Don't Miss Your Water...

When 40 years ago this year Congress passed the Clean Water Act, no one had to ask why we needed it. Memories were still fresh of seeing Ohio's Cuyahoga River actually catch fire, and many of our national waterways were filthy. In the four decades that followed passage of the Clean Water Act, things improved a lot. So much so, in fact, that we're now in danger of taking clean water for granted. That would be a mistake because even though the threats to our water are not as obvious as they were 40 years ago, they're still deadly serious.

Although Cuyahoga hasn't caught fire lately, communities across the U.S. are still discovering that their water supplies are being contaminated by industrial and agricultural pollutants like nitrates, perchlorate, and hexavalent chromium. Natural gas fracking, which could contaminate entire aquifers, is rampant and poorly regulated. (read the full blog post from Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune's Coming Clean blog.)

9 Must-See Natural Rock Formations

(This article sparked by the naming of Chimney Rock as a National Monument on Sept 21.) A large percentage of our planet is made out of rocks. While some rock formations have changed little over the years due to their geography and amount of exposure to various elements, others have been drastically altered to reveal a timeline of earth's physical history. We encourage you to take a cross-country trip through the United States to hike, climb, or photograph these amazing natural rock formations. Publicly accessible, they will remind you of just how small you are, and just how astonishingly large the world really is. We've included some all-time favorites and a few unique destinations, which you might not have heard of before. They're not listed in any particular order — each formation should inspire you to head outdoors and get stuck between a rock and a hard place. But not in the 127 Hours way, of course. (read the full article on Sierra Club's blog)

Silent Spring Turns 50

A global effort to protect the environment was sparked 50 years ago, on September 27, 1962, by the publication of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring. When Carson died two years later at the age of 56, she left a substantial bequest to the Sierra Club, including royalties from future sales of Silent Spring.

Her legacy also led the Sierra Club to create the Rachel Carson Society, designed to honor and recognize individuals who make a commitment to the environment by including the Sierra Club or the Sierra Club Foundation in their estate plans. Find out how you can help continue Carson's legacy.


Hurricane Isaac has served up a sad reminder that impacts from the BP Oil Disaster are still far from over. In 2010, BP dumped 2 million gallons of toxic oil dispersants into the Gulf of Mexico, and now the storm has churned up the sunken oil and tar balls on beaches across the Gulf Coast.

These unwelcome discoveries reinforce the fact that many questions remain regarding the "clean up" of the oil disaster -- including the impacts of the toxic dispersants and the need for EPA to create standards to protect public health and the environment.

Tell EPA you've had enough and want to see these toxic chemicals properly regulated!

We know this issue is important to Gulf Coast residents. In the past year, more than 5,000 Sierra Club supporters from across the region have sent messages to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson urging the agency to test these toxic oil dispersants and put proper standards in place.

To reinforce this widespread concern and because EPA has been slow to act, we've upped the ante by filing a lawsuit. This legal action will help hold EPA accountable for protecting the health and environment of our coastal communities -- but your voice is still crucial.

Tell EPA Administrator Jackson you want EPA to start testing toxic oil dispersants right away!

We know that EPA can be a champion for protecting our health and environment -- over the past year they've led the way on 54 mpg fuel efficiency standards for new vehicles and the first-ever limits on mercury emissions for coal-fired power plants. But, grassroots support is key to empowering EPA to set standards that protect people, not polluters like BP and Big Oil.

Your message will help push EPA across the finish line by showing them once again that these standards are important to Gulf Coast communities.

Send your message to EPA Administrator Jackson now!

(message from National Sierra Club)

Sierra Club Outings

FALL is Here!! 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 down the mountain! more>>>