The Sierra Club is a nonprofit, member-supported public interest organization that promotes conservation of the natural environment by influencing public policy decisions. In addition, the Sierra Club organizes participation in wilderness activities for its members, including mountain climbing, backpacking, and camping. It is the oldest and largest nonprofit, grassroots environmental organization in the world, with more than 700,000 members. In mid-2003, the Sierra Club consisted of the national organization, located in San Francisco, California, 65 chapters, and approximately 365 local groups.
The organization was founded on June 4, 1892, by a group of 162 California residents. The Sierra Club's first president was John Muir, a pioneer in the promotion of national parks and the protection of the environment. Muir involved the club in political action, leading a successful fight to preserve Yosemite as a national park. Muir and the club also lobbied for the creation of national parks at the Grand Canyon and Mt. Rainier in the late nineteenth century. The Sierra Club drew national attention during the administration of President THEODORE ROOSEVELT, when Muir got the president interested in creating more national parks.
The Sierra Club did not seek members out-side of California until 1950, when membership stood at 10,000. Membership has increased dramatically since that time, due in large part to the club's intense interest in protecting the environment. Since 1970 the club has played a major role in gaining legislative support for many federal environmental protection measures, including the establishment of the ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the passage of the ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the National Forest Management Act, and the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. The Sierra Club has also campaigned for similar state legislation.
During the 1990s, the Sierra Club filed lawsuits seeking to require the federal government to enforce provisions of the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Air Act. The organization also protested global trade that did not include adequate environmental protection controls. In the early 2000s the Sierra Club also advocated for the cleanup of toxic wastes, resolving the problems of solid waste disposal, promoting sustainable population and family planning, and fighting to reverse ozone depletion and global warming. In 2003 the Sierra Club highlighted the evasion of state and local POLLUTION controls by many of the nation's "animal factories," sprawling establishments where thousands of animals are produced and housed in strict confinement before being transported to slaughterhouses.