Sierra Club


The Sierra Club is a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the planet. It is one of the largest grassroots organizations in the United States.


The Sierra Club was developed to help people explore, enjoy, and protect the planet. It promotes responsible use of Earth's ecosystems and natural resources in order to protect the environment and develop a sustainable future for the planet.

John Muir, May 29, 1912.

John Muir, May 29, 1912.
(The Library of Congress)


The Sierra Club is one of the nation's foremost conservation organizations and has worked for over 100 years to preserve “the wild places of the earth.” It has a total of 64 chapters in the United States, including one in each state and Puerto Rico, with the exception of California, which has 13 chapters. There are also two Sierra Club chapters in Canada, organized under the Sierra Club Canada. Although the Sierra Club is involved with many environmental issues, main goals for 2012 included, Beyond Oil, Beyond Coal, Beyond Gas, Protect America's Waters, and Resilient Habitats.

Michael Brune is the executive director of the more than 3-million member organization. In addition to members, the Sierra Club has around 600 paid staff members who work in the club's national headquarters in California or the club's lobbying office in Washington DC. The Sierra Club also publishes the bimonthly magazine for members Sierra Magazine and produces a weekly half-hour radio show Sierra Club Radio.


The Sierra Club was founded in 1892 by author and wilderness explorer John Muir, who helped lead the fight to establish Yosemite National Park. Muir was elected the group's first president and led the group's first goal, to preserve the Sierra Nevada mountain chain. Since then, the club has worked to protect dozens of other national treasures.


The club has helped secure many conservation victories. The preservation of Mount Rainier was one of the Sierra Club's earliest achievements, and in 1899 Congress made that area a national park. The group also helped to establish Glacier National Park in 1910. The Sierra Club supported the creation of the National Park Service in 1916 and in 1919 began a campaign to halt the indiscriminate cutting of redwood trees.

The Sierra Club also worked to create such national parks as Kings Canyon, Olympic, and Redwood, national seashores such as Point Reyes in California and Padre Island in Texas, as well as the Jackson Hole National Monument. Additionally, the club campaigned to expand Sequoia and Grand Teton national parks. In the 1960s, the Sierra Club helped to secure such legislative victories as the Wilderness Act in 1964, the establishment of the National Wilderness Preservation System, and the expansion of the Land and Water Conservation Fund in 1968.

By 1970, the Sierra Club had 100,000 members, with chapters in every state, and the group took advantage of growing public support for the environment to accelerate progress toward conserving the U.S. natural heritage. The National Environmental Policy Act was passed by Congress that year, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was created. Later, the club helped defeat a proposal to build a fleet of polluting supersonic transports, and it organized the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund. In 1976, the club's lobbying efforts sped passage of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Organic Act, which increased governmental protection for an additional 459 million acres (185 ha).

One of the most important victories for the Sierra Club came in 1980, when a year-long campaign culminated in passage of the Alaska National Interest Conservation Act, establishing 103 million acres (41.6 million ha) as either national parks, monuments, refuges, or wilderness areas. Superfund legislation also was enacted to clean up the nation's abandoned toxic waste sites.

The decade of the 1980s, however, was a difficult one for conservationists. With James Watt as secretary of interior under President Ronald Reagan and Ann Gorsuch Burford as EPA administrator, the Sierra Club was placed in a defensive position. The group focused mainly on preventing environmentally destructive projects and legislation—for example, blocking the MX missile complex in the Great Basin (1981), preventing weakening of the Clean Air Act, and stopping BLM from dropping 1.5 million acres (607,030 ha) from its wilderness inventory in 1983. Despite government interference, pressure from the public and from Congress helped the club continue its record of positive accomplishments.

In 1990, after years of grassroots lobbying, a compromise Clean Air Act was reauthorized, strengthening safeguards against acid rain and air pollution. Projects in the first decade of the twenty-first century included protecting the remaining ancient forests of the Pacific Northwest; preventing oil and gas drilling in the 1.5-million-acre (607,030-ha) Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska; securing wilderness and park areas in California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, South Dakota, New Mexico, and Utah; and campaigning for energy conservation and reducing carbon emissions to combat global warming.

General acceptance

The Sierra Club had an estimated 3 million members in 2018. It was considered one of the “big ten” U.S. conservation organizations. An extensive professional staff is required to operate this complex organization, and members tend to have little influence over club policy at the national level. Some radical activists have criticized mainline organizations of this kind for being too conservative, too comfortable in their relationship to established powers, and too willing to compromise basic principles in order to maintain power and prestige. Supporters of the club argue that a spectrum of environmental organizations is desirable and that different organizations can play useful roles.

See also Acid rain ; Air pollution ; National park ; Nature deficit disorder .



Goldstein, Natalie. John Muir. New York: Chelsea House, 2011.


Barringer, Felicity. “Q. & A.: Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club.” (accessed October 30, 2012).

Sierra Club. “The Goals of the Sierra Club's Climate Recovery Partnership.” (accessed October 30, 2012).

Sierra Club. “Sierra Club Chapters.” (accessed October 30, 2012).

Sierra Club. “Sierra Club History.” (accessed October 30, 2012).


Sierra Club, 85 Second St., 2nd Fl., San Francisco, CA, 94105, (415) 977-5500, Fax: (415) 977-5797,, .

Sierra Club Canada, 412-1 Nicholas St., Ottawa, Canada Ontario, K1N 7B7, 1 (613) 241-4611, 1 (888) 810-4204, .

Lewis G. Regenstein
Revised by Tish Davidson, AM

  This information is not a tool for self-diagnosis or a substitute for professional care.