'It's a natural thing'
by MARK ST.J. COUHIG
The 800-plus Sierra Club members living on the peninsula now have their own local organization.
In September, the national and state Sierra Club organizations formally recognized the new North Olympic Group, automatically enrolling all Clallam and Jefferson County Sierra Club members into the local group.
While granting local members more authority over their activities, the arrangement ensures the locals retain the backing and the resources of the Sierra Club, which nationwide has more than 1.3 million members. The local group will continue to report its financial activities and advocacy actions to the national organization.
Local organizers say the Olympic Peninsula "once ranked among the richest of the earth's great ecosystems. But the cumulative impacts of past activities have seriously degraded that ecosystem."
The growing concern of the Sierra Club members living on the peninsula led to the formation of the North Olympic Group, said Bob Lynette, co-chairman.
Discussions regarding the formation of the local group have been ongoing for more than a year. Lynette said members have long expressed an interest in having "both the conservation aspects and the social aspects" of a local group. Members previously operated under the aegis of the Cascade Chapter of the Sierra Club, which is based in Seattle.
Lynette noted that with 800 members on the peninsula, creating a new group was "a natural thing."
"Having that many members," he added, "that's a powerful thing." Lynette expects the new group will have an immediate impact on local conservation efforts and local politics.
The group is a subset of the national Sierra Club, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization. Under that Internal Revenue Service designation, the local group can engage in political activities. The North Olympic Group has jumped in with both feet, endorsing several candidates for office in the Tuesday, Nov. 2, elections, including John Miller, candidate for Clallam County director, Department of Community Development. The local group also is endorsing Patty Murray, candidate for U.S. Senate, and Norm Dicks, who is hoping to retain his seat in Congress.
Discussing the issues
The local group also is distributing information on the Nippon biomass incinerator that has been proposed for Port Angeles.
"We're not against it," Lynette said. "We just believe people should understand it."
Lynette noted the incinerator will release "particulates and VOCs. These are damaging and they're not controlled by the EPA," he said. "It will also release enormous amounts of CO2. People should ask, 'Is this in the best interest of Port Angeles?'"
The North Olympic Group also is promoting the Wild Olympics Campaign that is working to protect wild forest and river watersheds on the Olympic Peninsula.
If successful, the effort would add additional acreage to wilderness areas, add some small "critical" areas to Olympic National Park and redesignate some of the rivers as "wild and scenic." That would ensure they never could be dammed.
Lynette said the organization also is working against the construction of a proposed shooting range at Sadie Creek. "We need a shooting range," he said, "but not at Sadie Creek."
Other efforts receiving support from the North Olympic Group include a stormwater management plan for Clallam County, a water allocation rule for the Dungeness Valley and a clean-up of the Port Angeles Harbor followed by "sensible development."
Annual membership dues are $25, but for a short time the dues are just $15. For more information, contact Lynette at email@example.com.
Reach Mark Couhig at firstname.lastname@example.org.