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The Big Sky Club


Experience Information

Employer: Sierra Club
Job Title: Sierra Club, Montana Chapter, Intern
Major: Natural Resource Management
Received Credit?: Yes
Paid?: No

Description of the Organization

Inspired by nature and sustained by the green hearts of America, the Sierra Club, founded in 1892 by John Muir, is the largest, most influential grassroots environmental organization in the United States (like the McDonalds of the environmental movement). Its mission to explore, enjoy and protect the wild places of the earth is the warrior cry of its members. Employees, volunteers and supporters unite to educate the public on current local, regional, national and world environmental concerns. By practicing and promoting the responsible use of Earths fragile resources, the Sierra Club fights to restore the quality of the natural and human environment.

Description of the Tasks/Projects Completed

To get acquainted with grassroots environmental organizing, I participated in weekly conference calls with members of several other organizations including the National Wildlife Federation, Montana Conservation Voters and Montana Audubon to discuss public outreach opportunities. I was asked to research several local and regional news websites twice a week for current energy and climate change postings and report my findings to my internship supervisor. For several weeks I tabled within the community of Missoula, Montana and collected postcards signed by supporters of the EPAs Clean Air Mercury Rule and entered their general information into the Sierra Clubs member database for future contact. I participated in a senate office drop-by to deliver several hundred of the collected postcards to the Missoula offices of Senators Baucus and Tester during a cordial visit to show public appreciation for their support of the Clean Air Act in Congress. I visited several Billings and Great Falls neighborhoods to distribute door-hangers supporting Senator Jon Testers positive actions to improve air quality. I attended a meeting with my internship supervisor, representing the Montana Chapter of the Sierra Club, and the Missoula Art Museum to discuss a potential partnership for an upcoming exhibition featuring Ansel Adams, a Sierra Club supporter, and a visionary figure in nature photography and wilderness preservation. I also volunteered my time with the Great Burn Study Group to help eradicate knapweed from the beautiful basins of Cache Creek in the Great Burn Wilderness as well as explore many other scenic landscapes in western Montana.

Skills/Knowledge Gained Through The Experience

As a Sierra Club intern, I was awarded the opportunity to meet some of the most inspiring, local environmental activists. Though their voices may have only been heard within western Montana, they were genuine and effective. The community respected them and in return, the town was a friendlier, less-stressful place. My supervisor in particular was well-liked and well-known in Missoula and a great deal of his popularity derived from his community involvement outside of the environmental movement. He was approachable and kindhearted. I learned that it is essential to educate and encourage rather than preach and protest when seeking public support.

Favorite Part of the Experience

Protecting the wild places of the earth is usually accomplished from within the office or on public sidewalks, however, success in exploring and enjoying the wild places of the earth must include a sturdy pair of hiking boots, a fixed daypack and a grand destination in mind. I appreciated the backpacking trips not only for the magnificent backdrop that ensued, but because the opportunity never crossed paths with my suburban self. The skyscrapers are the mountains of the Chicagoland area and the crisp pine scent is only inhaled near a car air freshener. I will always cherish the blood-pumping climb up my first peak and the complete body shock I experienced from an accidental foot slip into a cold, rushing creek. My five senses have never been so rewarded.

How the Experience Influenced Future Career Goals

This experience has strengthened my desire of becoming a woodland defender, a guardian of forest dwellers and a clean air and water escort. I would make myself at home in any organization fighting the good fight. They do not pay very well to save the world, but a stable sense of personal worth far outstretches the almighty dollar. I cannot thank the generous folks in Montana enough, especially my internship supervisor. Under the big sky I became a part of a special club; a club that exists to make the mountains glad.

All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of GVSU.

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