The Arkansas Chapter of the Sierra Club was established in 1982 as the state chapter of the national Sierra Club. Its mission is to explore, enjoy, and protect the planet; to practice and promote the responsible use of the earth’s ecosystems and resources; to educate and enlist humanity to protect and restore the quality of the natural and human environment; and to use all lawful means to carry out those objectives.
The Arkansas Chapter of the Sierra Club traces its origin to the Ozark Headwaters Group (OHG) of the Ozark Chapter of the Sierra Club in Missouri. In 1972, Barry Weaver, then the chair of the Highland Chapter of the Ozark Society, proposed that Arkansans with Sierra Club membership form a group in the state to assist the Ozark Society in protecting the Buffalo River from being dammed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Art Evans, Glover and Cherry Partee, and Robert Batson joined Weaver to form the OHG in northwest Arkansas. Evans served as the first chair. Within two years, central Arkansans with Sierra Club membership formed the Central Arkansas Group (CAG).
In 1978, the OHG and CAG joined a lawsuit filed by the Newton County Wildlife Association (NCWA) in 1975 against the U.S. Forest Service to stop the use of herbicides 2,4,5-T, Silvex, and Picloram in the Ozark National Forest; to cease all aerial applications of herbicides; and to stop species conversion from hardwood to pine. OHG, CAG, and NCWA sought a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction against the use of herbicides in the forest. A temporary restraining order was granted in June 1975. The lawsuit was dismissed in February 1979 when the U.S. Forest Service issued its ten-year timber management plan in September 1978 and abandoned the aerial application of herbicides and the use of any herbicide containing the contaminant dioxin TCDD.
In 1982, upon receiving designation as the Arkansas Chapter of the Sierra Club, the OHG and CAG separated from the Ozark Chapter of the Sierra Club in Missouri. In 1984, the Arkansas Chapter successfully lobbied the U.S. Congress for passage of the Arkansas Wilderness Act of 1984. The act, co-sponsored by Senator Dale Bumpers and Senator David Pryor, designated 96,000 acres of land in the Ozark and Ouachita National Forests as components of the National Wilderness Preservation System.
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the Arkansas Chapter continued its efforts to protect the Ozark and Ouachita National Forests. It led a successful campaign to establish “wild” and “scenic” designation for nine streams in the Ozark and Ouachita National Forests; worked to establish Special Interest Areas inside the Ozark National Forest to prevent further logging and road building in approximately 50,000 acres; filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service in 1995 to stop logging in sensitive areas of the Ozark National Forest; and led an effort to set aside 93,000 acres in the Ouachita and Ozark National Forests as roadless areas under the Roadless Area Initiative initiated by President Bill Clinton.
Today, the Arkansas Chapter of the Sierra Club consists of two groups and one section. The OHG includes the northwestern part of Arkansas, while the CAG represents southeastern Arkansas. In 2010, the group formed a section called the Young Sierrans of Arkansas, whose mission it is to bring together young environmentalists to discuss environmental issues and organize for successful activism. They also plan social activities and trips to the state’s natural areas.
For additional information:
Arkansas Chapter of the Sierra Club. http://www.arkansas.sierraclub.org (accessed March 18, 2011).
Bass, Sharon M. W. For the Trees: An Illustrated History of the Ozark-St. Francis National Forests, 1908–1978. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southern Region, 1981.
Little Rock, Arkansas