Two Sierra Club Leaders Share Their Inspiration with Chapter Members
Two Sierra Club leaders who have made a great impact on the national environmental scene brought their inspiration and ideas to Hoosier Chapter members during separate visits to Indiana.
Recently retired Sierra Club chairman Mike McCloskey and current Sierra Club president Chuck McGrady visited with members, answered questions, and left us all feeling more inspired.
Environmental pioneer Mike McCloskey visited with Hoosier environmentalists at a casual dinner on Oct. 22. Recently retired from his position as Sierra Club chairman, his career spans 38 years. It took him from being the Club’s first paid field staffer to executive director and then to chairman.
Recruited by David Brower in 1961, McCloskey began his career with the Sierra Club as a grassroots organizer in the Northwest. He served as executive director beginning in 1969, and then became the Club’s chairman in 1985.
McCloskey’s many accomplishments include his roles in establishing North Cascades National Park and Redwood National Park. He is credited with building support and ending opposition for the Wilderness Act. McCloskey’s legal skills, combined with his ability to rally support, have had profound effects on environmental policy.
McCloskey initiated the Mineral King litigation in 1969, which resulted in U.S. Supreme Court decisions to ease rules for lawsuits based on environmental grounds. He was a major force leading to the passage of the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires the federal government to review environmental impacts of federally funded projects.
Mike McCloskey has worked alongside environmental leaders such as Ed Wayburn and Ansel Adams. During his visit with Hoosiers, he recounted some of his work with Ed Wayburn. Together, Wayburn and McCloskey persuaded the International Union for the Conservation of Nature to include wilderness in its categories of protected areas.
After dinner, McCloskey spoke eloquently and answered questions. Many of the questions Hoosiers asked centered around his deep-seated understanding of the nature and mechanics of the Sierra Club itself.
“The success of the Sierra Club has been in its ability to compartmentalize and break big issues into smaller pieces that can be worked on to obtain larger goals. The Sierra Club needs both pragmatists and visionaries. Without pragmatists, we couldn’t get the work done. And without visionaries, pragmatists would have no direction,” he said.
Whether McCloskey is a pragmatist or visionary remains to be determined. He speaks like a visionary with a track record of accomplishments indicative of a persistent pragmatist.
Chuck McGrady is the Sierra Club’s 47th president. In his role, McGrady chairs the board of directors and is responsible for oversight of all activities of the Club and its over 600,000 members.
McGrady is leading the Sierra Club in campaigns to curb urban sprawl, to preserve our water and wildlands, and to elect a Congress that will protect America’s environment for our families and our future. As a Republican, McGrady is especially interested in securing bipartisan support for strong environmental protections.
In 1997, he was appointed to the Sierra Club’s board of directors. He was reelected in the spring of 1998.
He has held many national positions for the organization and has led numerous environmental campaigns for the Club.
McGrady has worked extensively to build bipartisan coalitions and to encourage Republican conservationists to develop more effective environmental agendas.
McGrady has held the post of chairman for the Sierra Club’s North Carolina and Georgia chapters, as well as for the Sierra Club’s National Political Committee.
After dinner with Chapter members on Oct. 30, McGrady discussed the state of the Sierra Club as he “stands in John Muir’s shoes” for two years.
“The Sierra Club has one of the most credible voices,” McGrady said. “We are perceived by political people as having the power to make change and make things happen. I’m really upbeat in this regard.”
He said the Club is “in good shape right now in many measures. The picture I want to paint is that we are financially in good shape, members are happy with us, and we are able to cause change. The organization you belong to is solid and sound.”
He said now is the time to take the opportunity to look at the Sierra Club’s internal structure and make the club even more effective.
McGrady said that politicians are seeing that they can “lose because of environmental issues. We’ve got to hold them accountable.”
He said that Republicans are being “thrown out of office” on the sprawl problem, because it is viewed as a quality-of-life issue and not seen solely as a tree-hugger issue. “Sprawl is the hottest environmental issue the Club is working on now.”
McGrady closed by reminding Hoosiers that “The greatest thing about the Club is its ability to empower people. You can make a difference.”
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