The 1971 creation of the Sierra Club's Legal Defense Fund propelled the organization into the modern environmental movement. The fund essentially established a firm of lawyers to litigate for the club's initiatives. Around the same time, the Sierra Club expanded its conservational mission to include national environmental issues.
Over the decades, the organization has fought cutbacks of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Superfund law; supported the closure of commercial nuclear reactors and helped create laws that regulate toxic chemicals and radioactive materials. Today, the Sierra Club pursues three primary conservation initiatives.
To combat the effects of global warming and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the Sierra Club advocates Smart Energy Solutions. It encourages utility companies and states to adopt renewable energy sources and clean up coal-fired power plants. Power companies often allow customers to add a small charge to their monthly energy bill in order to receive a certain percentage of power from green sources. The Sierra Club hopes the United States will run on at least 20 percent renewable energy by 2020 [source: Sierra Club]. The club also lobbies for stricter standards on new car emissions.
To promote its Safe and Healthy Communities initiative, the Sierra Club encourages stricter state and local legislation regarding air, water and chemicals. The organization helps develop solutions to sewage and storm water runoff and resists the EPA's consideration to reduce the scope of the Clean Water Act. The Sierra Club also helps identify communities that are at a high risk for toxic emissions.
The Sierra Club also continues its original conservation initiative: preserving America's Wild Legacy. The club encourages strict enforcement and generous funding for the Endangered Species Act and the full protection of already designated wildlands.
The Sierra Club, unlike many environmental organizations, makes a conscious effort to enjoy the wildlands it protects. In the next section, we'll find out how the Sierra Club's outings helped shape the organization.