How Sierra Club Activism Re-Established Itself on the Olympic Peninsula
By Ben Greuel, Public Lands Organizer, and Bob Lynette, North Olympic Group Executive Committee
Historically, the Washington Chapter had an active group on the Olympic Peninsula. But it had long fizzled out in the late 80s and early 90s, despite the fact more than 1,200 Sierra Club members call the Peninsula home.
That all changed with the informal creation of the Washington Chapter's North Olympic Group in early 2008. We began outreach in the forms of member meetings, presentations, and outings, where interpersonal communication between members was both a possibility and a goal. Through these interactions bonds were made, issues identified and leaders emerged.
The result of the events and outreach was the creation of the North Olympic Group –- the newest Sierra Club group in Washington State. The Group’s creation has greatly benefited the Washington Chapter by building volunteer leadership in a geographical location where the Club previously did not have an organized presence. Further, the Club’s growth on the Peninsula has added additional capacity and strength to the local environmental community and has provided both support and leadership within a number of campaigns.
This accomplishment could not have happened without strong volunteer leadership. We were lucky to work with seasoned and savvy volunteer leaders who had been involved within the Sierra Club in the past and were willing to give it a second go. Without the engagement and hard work from those volunteer leaders, creation of the Group would not have taken place.
The key to creating a new group is finding leaders who are interested in not only conservation work, but the nuts and bolts of administrative work that comes with ensuring a group that is viable and organized. It was an initial challenge finding local leaders to take responsibility for managing the group. Another challenge was the large geographical area we were working within. A challenge solved through the recruitment of Ex-Comm members representing each of the three largest population centers.
The Group received formal approval from the National Sierra Club in 2010, and it now represents the largest grassroots organization on the Olympic Peninsula. Further, the group has been a founding member and leader within the Wild Olympics Campaign – a coalition of conservation and recreation organizations working to protect the Peninsula’s ancient forests and wild rivers.
Since its formation, the North Olympic Group has rapidly become a respected and affective voice for conservation on the Olympic Peninsula.