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by Josh Tulkin | 2012

I’m writing this column at the end of August, and it will appear as autumn approaches, almost a year since I started as Director of the Sierra Club Maryland Chapter. But it already feels like a lifetime.

Cliff-Notes for the Sierra Club


By Josh Tulkin—I’m writing this column at the end of August, and it will appear as autumn approaches, almost a year since I started as Director of the Sierra Club Maryland Chapter. But it already feels like a lifetime.

Let’s be honest: the Sierra Club is a complicated organization. As an outsider, I witnessed the amazing work of the Club. It seemed no matter where you went, no matter what issue, Sierra Club volunteers were there in force, and always with a title or committee that made me wonder, “Are you a volunteer or do you do this full time?”

Now, I DO this full time, and I am still confused at times. We accomplish a lot, but our process is not easy to navigate. As I approach my anniversary, I want to share a few thoughts and insights. I hope they will help others to more easily understand how our Chapter works, and to find ways to explore their passion for the environment, help protect Maryland’s natural beauty, and keep our air and water clean.


How We’re Structured

Let’s start with our structure. If you are receiving this, you probably know that Sierra Club is a democratic organization run by its members. These members—you—elect a state (chapter) executive committee (excom), which determines the direction of the organization, from campaigns to staff hiring. I’d like to think they do a good job . . . they hired me. The excom makes many big-picture decisions, like those concerning budgeting and staffing. But to help set our direction, you don’t need to run for office or get elected; you can just get involved. We have issue committees, local groups, and campaigns that offer many ways for volunteers to shape what the Sierra Club works on and how.


How the Chapter Is Staffed

Next, I want to introduce the staff. Many of you know Laurel Imlay, our Chapter Coordinator and veteran staff member. Thanks to some excellent work by our fundraising committee and other support, we’ve been able to add four additional staff members, including myself, focused on conservation and outreach. Claudia Friedetzky coordinates our clean water and Chesapeake Bay cleanup efforts. If you want to protect your local creek or help with statewide cleanup, she is your first point of contact. Christine Hill coordinates our climate and energy work. In partnership with the Energy Committee led by Rich Reis, we launched a campaign to retire Maryland’s oldest coal-fired power plants. Vidal Hines, the newest addition to our team, is a grassroots organizer extraordinaire, focusing specifically on outreach in Prince George’s County for offshore wind.


Our Local Groups

Last but not least, our Groups (with a capital G) lead Sierra Club’s local efforts. Sometimes they advance the local aspect of a statewide campaign, such as lobbying a local representative on wind or water. But many groups pursue local issues, such as protecting local forests or cleaning up waterways.

The beauty of Sierra Club is that it’s not just an organization; it’s a tool. But as we grow, the system can get complex, and we want to make sure it doesn’t scare folks away. Just remember we are here to help. If you want to get involved with one of our campaigns, if you have an idea or project you’d like to start, or if you want to get involved but don’t know where to start, we are here. Call us, send us an email, or just drop by the office. Take the first step; we’ll help with the rest.

I’m looking forward to another exciting year with the Club, and hoping we can make it just a little bit easier for everyone else to find a way to help.  


Josh Tulkin,, is the Director of the Maryland Chapter. The Chapter office number is 301-277-7111.


> 2012 Table of Contents


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