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Washington State Chapter Activist Don Parks Wins Prestigious John Muir Award

For those of us who are lucky enough to know Don Parks, this year's annual meeting of Chapter Delegates and the Sierra Club's Board of Directors in San Francisco in August was special. The meetings concluded with the annual awards banquet where we saw Don get the Sierra Club's highest volunteer honor, the John Muir award, presented by Club President Allison Chin and Executive Director Michael Brune.

Don has been an instrumental volunteer leader within the National Sierra Club and the Washington Chapter across a span of almost 40 years. Don's accomplishments as a volunteer leader extend deep into many critical elements of the Sierra Club both locally and nationally. His commitment and service to the Club's organizing efforts as well as his wise volunteer leadership within the conservation arena were justly recognized with the John Muir Award.

Don's achievements both locally and nationally exceed the limitations of this article but include efforts important leadership roles he has played in:

  • The creation of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness in 1976, one of America's most visited wilderness areas.
  • The Washington Wilderness Act of 1984, the successful effort to protect over 1,000,000 acres of National Forest wildlands in Washington State.
  • The multiyear effort to protect regional old-growth that resulted in the adoption of the Northwest Forest Plan in 1994 that protected over 20 million acres of spotted owl habitat, on 19 national forests and 7 BLM Districts in Western Washington, Oregon, and Northern California.
  • The Wild Sky Wilderness Act of 2008, the first Forest Service wilderness area in Washington State to be signed into law since 1984.
  •  Alpine Lakes Wilderness Additions, legislation first introduced on August 8th of 2007 by Representative Reichert to expand the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. Senator Murray later introduced a companion bill that added an additional Wild and Scenic River designation to the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie and Pratt rivers.
  • As a result of the Wild Olympics Campaign, on June 21st, 2012 Congressman Dicks and Senator Murray introduced a Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers bill for Washington's Olympic Peninsula. The bill includes roughly 126,000 acres of new Forest Service wilderness, 19 Wild and Scenic River designations comprising 464 river miles.

Don's focus on the wildlands and roadless areas of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest has had a profound impact on the landscape. His efforts have helped shoulder a 30+ year-long effort to permanently protect these high quality roadless lands. Don has followed the National Forest planning process so closely that he has become one of the Club's leading experts on the topic which he has used to help author the Club's new National Forest Plan Guidebook that is designed to help organizers across the nation working on forest plan revisions.

Don has served at many levels within the Washington Chapter including, chairing the Chapter's Wilderness Committee in the 1970s and has provided leadership in many areas, including several terms on the Chapter's Executive Committee, decades on the National Forests Committee and active participation in the political program. He also serves at both the National and local levels on the Club's Resilient Habitats Campaign which seeks to protect our wildlands in a climate changing world. He is the volunteer co-lead, overseeing the National Campaign and was instrumental in guiding its development from the beginning. He also serves locally on the Puget Sound Eco-region team, which focuses on efforts to protect Puget Sound, the Eastern Cascades and the Olympic Peninsula.

Don was the volunteer Co-Lead of the Building Environmental Communities program in the mid to late 2000's and served on its predecessor, the Environmental Public Education Campaign. These programs built our volunteer capacity across the country and developed our organizing model that is still heavily used today to win concrete conservation victories at the local level. He was also a member of the national steering committee for the Environmental Voter Education Campaign in the 2000 cycle.

Don Chaired the National Board of Directors Nominating Committee in 2010 interviewing and recommending quality candidates to run for the Sierra Club National Board of Directors. And in the years just prior to the Sierra Club reorganization, Don served admirably on the Club's Conservation Governance Committee, the body reporting directly to the Board of Directors on conservation matters.

This is but a sampling of the efforts Don has been a part of across the Club for many years. It was truly a pleasure to see Don get this important Sierra Club recognition for a lifetime's work for the environment of Washington State.