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The collection documents the day-to-day work of the Sierra Club's Atlantic Chapter over three and a half decades.
29 cubic ft.
English .
Preferred citation:

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Identification of specific item, series, box, folder, Sierra Club, Atlantic Chapter Records 1964-1999 (APAP-130). M. E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University at Albany, State University of New York (hereafter referred to as the Sierra Club, Atlantic Chapter Records).


Scope and Content:

The collection documents the work of the Atlantic Chapter over three and a half decades. The earliest item is from 1964, but continuous records begin in 1967 and run up to 1999, with the large bulk of the materials dating from the 1980s and 1990s.

Topics that are extensively documented in the collection include: the Storm King Mountain controversy, the Westway Hghway, low-level radioactive waste, land use in the Adirondack Park, New York State compliance with the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water/Clean Air Bond Act of 1996, the electric industry in New York State, environmental attitudes of New York State politicians, the recycling of beverage containers, the use of sludge in agriculture, Long Island drinking water contamination by pesticides, the James Bay controversy, financial problems in the 1980s, and wildlife and habitat preservation. The collection also contains records from the national Sierra Club organization, and documents from other environmental organizations such as the Citizens' Environmental Coalition, the Environmental Planning Lobby, Hudsonia, the League of Conservation Voters, the National Audubon Society, the New York State Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), and Scenic Hudson.

Biographical / Historical:

The Sierra Club (http://www.sierraclub.org) is a national environmental organization founded in California in 1892 by naturalist and explorer John Muir with the mission to "explore, enjoy and protect the wild places of the earth" [Sierra Club. Accessed May 11, 2005 [http://www.sierraclub.org]. The Atlantic Chapter is responsible for the Sierra Club's membership and activities in New York, and deals with a variety of environmental issues in the state, such as land use controls, pollution, recycling, and endangered species and habitat protection. First formed in 1950, the Atlantic Chapter originally spanned the entire eastern seaboard, but several new state organizations were formed in the 1960s and early 1970s, and from 1972 on, the name "Atlantic Chapter" was restricted to just New York [Information on the early Atlantic Chapter is found in S. Ogilvy and J. Nunn, "Sierra Club expansion and evolution: The Atlantic Chapter, 1957-1969", in Sierra Club History Committee, The Sierra Club Nationwide: Interviews. San Francisco, CA: Sierra Club History Committee, 1983]. Further information about the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter can be found at http://newyork.sierraclub.org. This collection contains the records of the Atlantic Chapter from the mid-1960s through the 1990s.

The Atlantic Chapter, headquartered in Albany since 1978, has devoted much of its energy to battling what it regards as environmentally unsound development projects, and to cleaning up or eliminating pollution. In the late 1960s and 1970s the chapter fought the proposed nuclear power plant at Storm King Mountain on the Hudson River and the proposed Westway Highway in Manhattan, was involved in the exposure of the toxic contamination at Love Canal, raised concerns about construction at the Lake Placid Olympic site, and issued warnings about PCBs in the Hudson River and acid rain. The 1980s was a mixed decade for the Chapter. It racked up a number of successes, such as taking part in the petition drive to remove James Watt as U.S. Secretary of the Interior, lobbying for beverage container recycling, supporting the election of Mario Cuomo as New York governor (though later disagreeing with him on a number of issues), fighting to protect the Lake Minnewaska/Shawangunk Mountains area, and successfully campaigning for passage of the Environmental Quality Bond Act of 1986. But the Chapter also suffered financial and ethical problems. Expenses early in the decade far exceeded income, resulting in a debt of $60,000 by 1983, which forced the national organization to put the Chapter into trusteeship in 1987. The Atlantic Chapter was also plagued by infighting, accusations of rigged elections, and the embarrassing discovery that the Chapter's delegate to the Sierra Club Council, Walter Blank, had been illegally dumping toxic chemicals from his pest control business. The Chapter recovered in the 1990s and undertook some of its most intense activity ever, pushing for passage of the unsuccessful Environmental Quality Bond Act of 1990, urging environmentally sound land use policies in the Adirondack Park, and taking part in the widespread opposition to the James Bay hydroelectric project. The Chapter opposed the candidacy of George Pataki for New York governor, but later developed an uneasy working relationship with him after his election. The Chapter supported Pataki on some issues, while opposing him on a number of other initiatives such as regulatory reform and budget and personnel cuts at the Department of Environmental Conservation.

Based upon chapter directories from 1988-1993, the Atlantic Chapter in the early 1990s was structured as follows. The statewide organization was headed by four officers: the chair, vice-chair, secretary, and treasurer. Chairs of the Atlantic Chapter have included Alfred Forsyth (?-1972), Ted Hullar (1972-?), Irven Rinard (?-1978), Samuel Sage (1978-1984), Pam Woywood (1984-1986), Al Hauser (1986-1987?), Jim Carr (1987-1988), Rich Fedele (1988-1991), Don Young (1991-?), and Ken Baer (?-Present). There was also a Board of Governance consisting of twenty-seven members, eighteen of whom represented particular regional groups, while nine were at-large members. Nine members of the Board of Governance made up the Executive Committee. Four people served as delegates to larger Sierra Club bodies: three to the (Northeast) Regional Conservation Committee, and one to the Sierra Club Council. The state organization further consisted of administrative committees and conservation committees. The eighteen administrative committees handled the various operational concerns of the chapter. These committees were: Archives, By-laws, Compliance Officer, Computer, Consumer Education, Elections, Environmental Education, Financial Affairs, Fundraising, Honors and Awards, Legal, Newsletter Editor, Nominating, Office and Personnel, Outings, Political, Publications Rep, and Training Coordinator. The sixteen conservation committees dealt with specific environmental issues at the state level. These committees were: Adirondacks, Catskills, Energy, Great Lakes, Industrial Pre-Treatment, International, James Bay Defense, Ozone, Pesticides, Population, Public Lands, Solid Waste, Toxics/Radioactive Waste, Transportation, Water Resources, and Wildlife/Wilderness, plus a Conservation Chair and Vice-Chair.

The Atlantic Chapter divided New York State into eleven regional groups, which dealt with local environmental issues, possessed their own internal organization, issued their own newsletters, and sent representatives to the state Board of Governance. The regional groups in 1993 were: Finger Lakes, Hudson-Mohawk, Iroquois, Long Island, Lower Hudson (aka Westchester/Putnam), Mid-Hudson, New York City, Niagara, Ramapo-Catskill, Rochester, and Susquehanna.

The Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter, as of 2005, consists of three paid staff members-the chapter legislative director, the chapter legislative associate, and the chapter coordinator-and the volunteer leaders, of which there are five officers (chair, vice-chair, secretary, treasurer, and conservation chair) and twenty-four conservation issue chairs. The chairs cover the following issues: Air Quality, Airports, Adirondacks, Biodiversity/Earth Diet, Energy, Environmental Education, Environmental Justice, Farm and Food, Global Warming, Great Lakes, International Population, Legislative, Open Space, Shawangunks, Sprawl, Sterling Forest/Highlands, St. Lawrence Cement Plant Task Force, Superfund/Brownfields, Sustainable Forestry, Solid Waste, Toxic Waste, Wetlands, Wildlife and Wilderness. The Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter currently possesses a membership of about 40,000.

Acquisition information:
All items in this manuscript group were donated to the University Libraries, M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives, by the Sierra Club, Atlantic Chapterin April 2002. An accession of .4 cubic ft. was received in February 2004 from the Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley, which is the official repository of the Sierra Club.
Processing information:

Processed in 2005 by Ted Hoppenstedt.

Box and folder list assistance by Mindy Groseclose, Armadei Moore, Lakeisha Swaby.


The collection is arranged into eight series.

Physical location:
The materials are located onsite in the department.



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Access to this record group is unrestricted.


The researcher assumes full responsibility for conforming with the laws of copyright. Whenever possible, the M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives will provide information about copyright owners and other restrictions, but the legal determination ultimately rests with the researcher. Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be discussed with the Head of Special Collections and Archives.


Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Identification of specific item, series, box, folder, Sierra Club, Atlantic Chapter Records 1964-1999 (APAP-130). M. E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University at Albany, State University of New York (hereafter referred to as the Sierra Club, Atlantic Chapter Records).

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