Utah branch gives Sierra Club trouble

Wednesday, December 4, 2002

SALT LAKE CITY -- The Sierra Club is threatening to disband its southern Utah chapter for speaking out against the Bush administration's push toward war with Iraq.

The San Francisco-based 700,000-member environmental organization said its 175-member Glen Canyon chapter violated Sierra Club policy in publicly taking its own stand on the issue.

In November, the national organization's board of directors approved a resolution in favor of stripping Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction. It said: "The Sierra Club is concerned about the global dangers presented by possible Iraqi aggression and about the dire environmental consequences of war."

At the same time, the national organization warned that Sierra Club policy "does not authorize individual members, leaders or club entities to take public positions on military conflicts as they arise."

The Glen Canyon chapter's leaders decried that as a "gag order" and issued a news release Nov. 26 asserting their right to speak out.

Glen Canyon vice chairman Patrick Diehl said in the news release: "The present administration has declared its intention to achieve total military dominance of the entire world."

In response, Sierra Club executive director Carl Pope threatened to dismiss the four Glen Canyon officers. In a recent e-mail, Pope said: "I would leave dissolving the group as a means of last resort if acting against individuals who won't adhere to club policy fails to resolve the situation."

The Glen Canyon chapter was formed in 2000 and supports the draining of Lake Powell on the Utah-Arizona line and the banning of cattle grazing on public land.

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