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Carla Cloer Receives John Muir Award

Sierra Club's Highest Award Honors Kern-Kaweah Chapter Activist

Carla Cloer,  
Recipient of Club's John Muir Award

On September 23, 2000, Carla Cloer, a Kern-Kaweah Chapter activist from Porterville, received the Sierra Club's highest honor, the John Muir Award, for her 20 years of efforts saving the Sequoias, culminating in the Giant Sequoia National Monument which was proclaimed by President Clinton in April, 2000. The Award was given to Carla during the Sierra Club's annual awards dinner held at the Argent Hotel in San Francisco.

The Giant Sequoia National Monument came after years of litigation, proposed legislation, lobbying, and appeal after appeal.

Carla Cloer's efforts have gone far and beyond the standard work of any Club activist. She has been the expert on Sequoia National Forest issues for the Sierra Club since 1980; she has toiled in the trenches, written the timber appeals, filed the lawsuits, produced the slide shows, wrote the legislation, and most recently has seen her years of effort culminate in the Giant Sequoia National Monument proclamation.

In 1985, Carla and other forest activists discovered logging in Giant Sequoia groves while looking at proposed timber sales. In the 1970's these groves had been designated for preservation of natural processes under U.S. Forest Service Region 5 Guidelines. However, Carla discovered that the local Sequoia National Forest was allowing logging of six-foot diameter Sequoias in the Converse Basin and smaller young Sequoia in the Black Mountain grove. Carla began a campaign to stop the logging in Giant Sequoia groves and to prevent future commercial logging within Sequoia groves. Her efforts included petition and letter writing campaigns, the Forest Service administrative appeals process, court battles, countless interviews, field trips for influential people, negotations, congressional oversight hearings, walking the halls of Congress, and finally to the White House. Carla wrote the first draft of Representative George Brown's Sequoia Preservation and Recreation Act legislation.

In 1992, Carla gave a presentation as an invited speaker at a U.S. Forest Service-sponsored Giant Sequoia Symposium, in which she insisted

"Concerned citizens both in and out of the traditional environmental community will not be satisfied until all of the naturally occurring Giant Sequoia groves, along with a generous portion of the forest which has sustained them for countless generations, are protected. Protection by more agency policy is too temporary and too subject to the winds of political change; there are too many budgetary and other financial incentives pressuring for commodity production. These ancient treasures deserve the full protection of federal law."

Eight years later, we finally have a Giant Sequoia National Monument, but we all know we still have much work to do to fulfill Carla's vision. The details for management of the Monument will be developed through a management plan, and anti-environmental interest groups are already jockeying to weaken the Monument. As John Muir said, "the battle for the forests is part of the eternal struggle between right and wrong, and we can never expect to see the end of it."

Robbie Cox, Sierra Club President, Carla Cloer, Joe Fontaine at Podium

The southern Sierra (more so than many regions in the country) historically has reflected a tremendous imbalance in favor of the timber industry against recreation, wildlife, and natural values in Forest Service management. Carla forcefully exposed this imbalance, reaching out to anyone who would listen. Over the years, she wrote dozens of timber sale appeals trying to convince the Forest Service that they had something special here that deserved protection. She gave slide shows not merely in our region, but in southern and northern California. She organized field trips for congressmen and decision-makers, and other influential people.

Carla's campaigning led to the Sierra Club Club's appeal of equoia National Forest's Land and Resource Management Plan (LMP) that came out in 1988. Some 20 other organizations, including the timber industry, appealed the plan as well. The Forest Service invited these parties to negotiate. To the USFS, the Sierra Club was the most important party to those negotiations because it had almost two years worth of timber locked up in administrative appeal because of the Forest Service's blatant noncompliance with NEPA. Because so many organizations appealed the Plan, a Mediated Settlement Agreement was worked out a compromise among all the Forest stake-holders. Carla was never in favor of the MSA and predicted that agreeing to it would come back to haunt us. She was right, as our opponents have repeatedly said no Monument or other protection was necessary because of the MSA despite its gaping loopholes and lack of permanent protection.

Carla continued to write newsletters and timber-sale appeals, and pushed the Sierra Club to develop legislation to protect the forest since the MSA compromise had done so little. She was appointed in 1994 by the Joint California/Nevada RCC to chair the newly created Sequoia Task Force, and continues to lead the Task Force to this day.

Congressman Mel Levine introduced legislation to establish a Sequoia National Monument, and later Congressman Brown introduced legislation to create a National Preserve. The later legislation was re-written by Carla. Unfortunately, with the Republican-controlled Congress, the legislation that Carla and others drafted never got much further than Congressman Brown's introduction of it over several sessions. Nonetheless, during this time Carla indefatigably worked on timber sale appeals, trying to save what she could until Congress's complexion changed.

Most recently, beginning in November of 1999 (before it was even a glimmer in the public's eye), Carla began working on the Giant Sequoia National Monument proposal. This was a coalition effort with NRDC and the Sequoia Task Force.

Carla brought to bear her first-hand knowledge and acquaintance with the forest to affect many substantive provisions, dealing with boundaries, identification of values such as fur-bearer wildlife as well as the Sequoias, and the impact of forest management operations over the years.

Shortly after the President's announcement in February of 2000 that he was examining the possibilities for establishing a Sequoia National Monument, Carla drafted and published a detailed 4-page Sierra Club alert/newsletter that was sent out throughout California. Importantly, this document was not merely a call to arms, but a very striking rebuttal of the myths our opponents were using to try to stop the Monument. Carla quickly and forcefully debunked the many anti-Monument myths being promulgated by the timber industry, off-road vehicle groups, inholders, and others in the extremely antagonistic local "wise use" movement, which as we speak continues to rally against the Monument designation.

Robbie Cox looks on as Carla 
holds John Muir Award

Carla exemplifies the best of Sierra Club activism - she doesn't engage in "preaching to the choir" but has always been actively involved in speaking out to the decision-makers.

All of this has been accomplished with great personal sacrifice. She has been nearly ostracized in her local community for the stand she has taken in favor of protecting the Sequoia National Forest. The booing, taunts, and jeers she suffered from people who had virtually no understanding of either a natural forest or a national monument at the March, 2000 Sequoia Monument hearings in Visalia and Fresno are only the most recent examples of the local abuse she has had to suffer.

When representatives from national environmental groups like the Wilderness Society and the Sierra Nevada Protection Campaign at the Fresno Sequoia Monument hearing, there were a few grumblings from the hostile, anti-environmental crowd, which had been agitated before the hearing itself by a wise-use Rally. But the crowd reserved the loudest and most abusive of their wrath for Carla Cloer. Why? Because she, like many of them, is a native fourth-generation local resident, a horse owner and rider, and a property-owner inholder in the National Forest. Representatives from other environmental groups were dismissed as mere outsiders by this extremely hostile crowd. Our opponents had largely been taking the position that all locals, all backcountry horsemen, and all inholders were adamantly against the Sequoia Monument proposal. But Carla, who was all three of these things, could not be so easily dismissed. Here was a forceful, articulate speaker on behalf of Nature, against all their beliefs that logging and motorbikes were the only deserving uses of the forest - and - aghast - SHE WAS ONE OF THEM! She was repeatedly interrupted in her testimony, with boos and jeers that no respectable person should have to endure, with little intervention from the Forest Service representatives. She just continued her presentation, forced to pause at times when her voice was drowned out by the yelling; she finally said in her best school-teacher voice, "your yelling says more about you than it does about me." Her calm demeanor under these excruciating conditions have even been recognized and lauded by Senator Barbara Boxer's staff.

Carla's personal story is one that goes miles to debunk the myth (one that is unfortunately widely accepted in California's central valley) that only "wealthy, elitist urbanites" support the environmental movement.

We simply cannot ask for anyone better to exemplify the Sierra Club's grassroots activism, to prove the point that an individual really can make a difference, and that as the new Sierra Club poster says, "You work for the planet because you belong to it."

Carla Cloer with John Muir Award

Of course we all recognize that volunteers throughout the Sierra Club and in many other organizations have contributed to the campaign each in their own way, but Carla Cloer was and is the shining light of inspiration and dedication.

Carla's contribution to the conservation movement must by any standards be termed simply of "historical proportions." Yes, we are talking about John Muir's Giant Sequoias here! John Muir said in an essay in 1901 that an area from the Kings River to the Kern River is needed to protect the Giant Sequoias. That is exactly what we got through the Giant Sequoia National Monument! Carla Cloer is someone who has literally completed John Muir's dream to protect all the Giant Sequoia groves. In the history of the Sierra Club, the Sequoias of the southern Sierra have always been of primary importance. It has taken more than 100 years to accomplish this dream, and Carla Cloer has been the leader in this Sierra Club battle.

The Kern-Kaweah Chapter is proud that one so deserving - and one of our own - has received the John Muir Award!




Carla Cloer Keeps On Fighting! Read Carla's Comments on Giant Sequoia National Monument 15 Months Later


For questions about this website, contact Kern-Kaweah Chapter Webmaster, Harold Wood at: harold.wood@sierraclub.org


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Last updated: 9 December 2000

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