Sierra Club Members Say No To Immigration-Limit Policy

Sierra Club members say no to immigration-limit policy

By Kim Curtis

April 26, 2005

SAN FRANCISCO Sierra Club members yesterday rejected a change in the group's immigration policy that would have advocated reducing migration to the United States as a way to lessen the environmental consequences of population growth.

The proposal was defeated by nearly 84 percent of the 122,308 members who voted, the club announced in a statement. About 16 percent of the club's more than 750,000 members cast ballots during voting that began in early March.

“We would rather focus our attention on the Bush agenda for so-called free trade or getting back to a sane energy policy, protecting against Arctic drilling, curbing sprawl all around the country,” President Larry Fahn said shortly after the results were announced.

Members also elected five new directors to the 15-member board, which sets policy and oversees the club's $100 million annual budget.

Sierrans for U.S. Population Stabilization, a network of club activists seeking to limit immigration, backed five candidates and pushed a “yes” vote. None of the group's candidates won.

Initiative supporters said Americans are the world's largest consumers, and when immigrants come to this country they adapt quickly, significantly increasing consumption.

They said the U.S. population, about 300 million, is expected to more than double this century if nothing is done to slow its growth. Advocates also said overpopulation has led to a variety of environmental problems, including exploitation of resources, the erosion of wilderness areas and species extinction.

“I think there's a lack of understanding of the sheer magnitude of the problem,” Dick Schneider, a supporter of the immigration proposal, said yesterday after the ballots were counted. “The connection between population and environmental degradation is so clear-cut that it's a natural issue for the Sierra Club to be involved in.”

Opponents, including many current and former club leaders, argued that wading into the politics of immigration would alienate allies, such as labor unions and civil rights groups, and won't slow population growth worldwide. Fahn said it was time to get back to basics.

“Our members have once again displayed great wisdom and made their views perfectly clear,” he said in a statement. “Now we can put our focus back where it is needed most, into strengthening communities and building alliances to protect our environment for our families and our future.”

The tally against the immigration question was 102,455 to 18,998. Some members voted for directors but didn't cast votes on the proposal.

Schneider said it was unlikely the immigration issue would be put to voters again next year.

The club, founded by famed conservationist John Muir in 1892 and based in San Francisco, has debated its position on immigration for years and in 1998 voted to remain neutral.

Last April, a record number of members 171,616 out of 757,058 voted on the contentious issue and elected club-endorsed candidates to all five open seats.