On 28th May 1892, a group of Yosemite enthusiasts including John Muir, artist William Keith, attorney Warren Olney, University of California professors Joseph LeConte, J Henry Senger, and Cornelius Beach Bradley, and Stanford University President David Starr Jordan met in Olney’s office in San Francisco. The purpose of the meeting was to draw up articles of incorporation for an alpine Club for Yosemite. The Club was named ‘The Sierra Club’. John Muir was inducted as the Club’s first President, a role he would keep until his death in 1914.
The men were united by a fascination by Yosemite Valley and wanted a way of promoting it as an area for recreation, and area for study and were looking for a way of conserving it for future generations. As they put it “to explore, enjoy, and render accessible the mountain regions of the Pacific Coast; to publish authentic information concerning them,” and “to enlist the support and cooperation of the people and government in preserving the forests and other natural features of the Sierra Nevada.”
John Muir had first arrived in Yosemite in 1868. He secured work as a shepherd for a few months, originally planning to move on after that time. How ever he became so entranced by the area, which he called ‘the range of light’, that no matter where he travelled, it always drew him back.
Initially, the Sierra Club had 182 charter members, mostly scientists many of whom threw themselves into photographing, charting and studying flora, fauna and geology of the area. The very first Sierra Club Bulletin was produced in 1893.
Successful campaigns over the years by the club have seen plans for dams in the Grand Canyon, Dinosaur National Monument and Glacier View defeated, while they were one of the big lobbyists for the Wilderness Act, finally passed by Congress in 1964.
Today the Sierra Club is one of the most influential grass roots conservation organsations in the USA, with over 3.8 million members. Current campaigns highlights the imminent Climate Emergency, with one of their main focusses being on clean energy and decommissioning of solid fuel power stations. John Muir and his colleagues from that meeting would be astounded at how their ‘alpine club’ had grown 128 years later.