Meet Oregon Sierra Club’s volunteer and activist extraordinaire Jennifer Haynes

August 28, 2017

Jennifer Haynes didn’t start out as your trademark activist. The Many Rivers Group Executive Committee member describes herself as an “introverted scientist,” and for many years she resisted joining volunteer leadership or campaign efforts, thinking she didn’t fit the mold.

Jen Haynes 2Jennifer joined the Sierra Club in Los Angeles in the mid-1990s.  An avid hiker — she has backpacked the length of Oregon along the Pacific Crest Trail — she had been retreating from the L.A. city bustle to the Santa Monica mountains when she began to notice the extent of environmental damage being done there. But with her Ph.D. in Microbiology and Molecular Genetics and Jennifer joined the Sierra Club in Los Angeles in the mid-1990s. An avid hiker — she has backpacked the length of Oregon along the Pacific Crest Trail — she had been retreating from the L.A. city bustle to the Santa her work at Children’s Hospital, she figured it was better to stick with outings and donations, leaving the activism to others.

That all changed a year-and-a-half ago. While in the middle of pursuing her next degree in environmental nonprofit management from the University of Oregon, studying hard and switching careers, Jennifer decided to pitch her hat in the ring and run for a position as a Club board member on the Many Rivers Group Executive Committee. Needless to say, she won.

In that post, she’s been striving to protect the Elliott State Forest, an ecologically priceless tract of land threatened by privatization. The Elliott State Forest has been part of the Common School Fund lands for nearly a century, an archaic designation that has unfortunately pitted the forest’s continued preservation against the successful funding of Oregon’s public education system. State law mandates that the land be used to bring in cash that funds schools, and the obvious revenue stream from a forest is timber. Ironically then, in an effort to better our children’s future, the state is promoting ecological unsustainability.

But the Elliott isn’t just a tract of valuable trees. It’s home to marbled murrelets, spotted owls, and coho salmon, three of the Pacific Northwest’s iconic endangered species, and each in relatively high numbers to boot. Upon their listing to the Endangered Species Act and a coinciding series of environmental law suits, Oregon could no longer clear cut and log timber to the extent they desired, resulting in several years of monetary losses.
Under Governor Kate Brown, the state decided to try to minimize the losses by selling off the land. They expected to receive over $200 million for the sale to the lone bidder, a timber company. Unsurprisingly, the proposed protections for the land were frighteningly lenient.

Jennifer, a native of Eastern Oregon, and her partners in the Many Rivers Group didn’t like the sound of that. Through ads in the Eugene Weekly, rallies, and organized meetings for the campaign, along with an alliance of “Elliotteers,” a multi-organization environmental coalition, they succeeded earlier this year in convincing the State Land Board to keep the land in public ownership. Then Governor Brown and the Oregon legislature succeeded in securing $100 million in bond money during the 2017 session to buy out the most sensitive areas of the forest, constituting a major victory in the campaign to keep the Elliott in public ownership.

But even with the funding, that leaves two main goals for the continued protection of the Elliott and forests around the state in similar positions. First, Jennifer and her team want to make sure that the Elliott’s habitat conservation plan proceeds in a positive way, as the state has been known to enact and practice poor management policies in the past. Second, the passage of the Trust Lands Transfer bill in the 2017 session should help clear up any future conflicts of interest between environmental protection and children’s education. That legislation will not only impact the Elliott State Forest, but all Common School Fund lands.

And yet, despite all her success in activism, Jennifer still has a year to go in pursuit of her environmental degree and continues to identify as a scientist. To this end, she offered a message to any prospective volunteers for the Sierra Club: overcome any lingering fears or doubts about jumping into volunteering, she said. Everyone has their own abilities to offer the Club, and who knows, it could lead to a new path in life, just like it did for Jennifer.


We are thrilled to announce two new faces!

May 17, 2017

Ethan Taswell joins us as our Storyteller Intern for the summer of 2017.  In his new role, Ethan will embark on a multimedia storytelling project to increase awareness of our Organization’s work, with a focus on the volunteer, community-based advocates who make it possible.  In addition to telling the story of the Oregon Chapter and the environmental issues it works to solve, Ethan will travel the state meeting the Chapter’s volunteers, writing and photographing their stories in order to engage more grassroots advocates, donors and supporters to rally around the Chapter’s efforts to stand up for Oregon’s natural resources, wildlife, and wild places.

unnamed-2Ethan is a rising junior at Brown University where he is studying Environmental Science with a specific track in Conservation Science and Policy.  He is currently working on an initiative in Rhode Island to reduce peak electricity demand and has previously worked as an assistant to a professional photography firm and later as a communications intern for the Nature Conservancy Maryland/DC Field Office.  So far, his studies have centered around ecology and environmental law.

Originally from Maryland, Ethan developed his love and appreciation for the outdoors by exploring the Potomac River via trail and canoe. In his free time, Ethan likes to hike, climb, play board games, read a good book, and fine-tune his key lime pie recipe.  He is thrilled to explore Oregon for the first time this summer!

Preferred Gender Pronouns: He/Him/His

Languages Spoken: English

contact: ethan_taswell@brown.edu

Olivia (Libby) Bakonyi joins us as an intern from Melbourne University. She is currently in the last phase of her Masters of Environment degree which she began in March 2015. She has studied a range of subjects regarding food policy, food security, local food production methods, climate change, sustainable behavior change, sustainable development, renewable energy alternatives, environmental policy, and forest ecosystems.

She hopes to implement the skills and knowledge gained from her Masters degree into her internship placement with The Sierra Club. Libby is very excited to be part of the team and observe and learn how environmental organisations operate. She has previously completed an internship in Melbourne with The Wildernimage1ess Society, assisting with research on The Great Australian Bight campaign.

Libby and her 4 siblings lived in Italy, Holland, Norway, Scotland, and Houston before settling in Sydney, Australia in 2001. She has spent 5 years studying in Melbourne, where she enjoyed exploring its unique lifestyle and culture. She loves to walk, run, swim in the ocean, and explore all kinds of nature. She also loves to sew, take photographs, and go to music festivals. This will be Libby‘s first visit to Oregon so she is very excited to get out and explore its natural beauty and lifestyle in her free time.

Preferred Gender Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Languages: English

Contact: libbybakonyi4@gmail.com


We welcome a new face!

February 15, 2017

Version 2

Nakisha Nathan joins us as our new Organizer. In her new role, she will start off with legislative organizing the clean energy jobs bills, and other climate work.

Nakisha’s love for nature and commitment to Environmental Justice stem from spending her formative years living in Panama, Canada, Texas and throughout the United States.

A few years after graduating from Texas A&M University with a degree in bioenvironmental science, Nakisha began her community organizing journey with Texas Campaign for the Environment (TCE) where she and her colleagues generated statewide pressure that helped convince Dell and Apple Computers to establish a free Computer TakeBack program.

In the Summer of 2012, Nakisha moved to Portland and began her studies toward earning a Master of Science degree in Education, with a specialization in Leadership for Sustainability Education from Portland State University. During her time at PSU, she worked as a  STEAM Garden Educator, cultivating students’ curiosity and facilitating experiential learning opportunities.

She joins Sierra Club after working as a Community and Environmental Justice Organizer with Neighbors for Clean Air, and as the Program Coordinator for the Organizer-in-Training program at OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon.

When she’s not at work, Nakisha can be found playing a variety of games with her friends and family; camping with her partner and two dogs; photographing Oregon’s natural landscapes, flora and fauna; or, gleefully pursuing her quest to find every member of the Araucaria araucana species in Portland.


Developing a Rapid Response Team

January 26, 2017

In response to the Trump administration’s anti-environment, anti-justice agenda – Oregon Sierra Club is creating a state-based Rapid Response Team. The Rapid Response Team is a powerful network of grassroots volunteers who want to take immediate and regular action to defend Oregon’s progress and values. By uniting and raising our voices, we will defend justice and equity in our communities; ensure clean air and clean water; protect public lands, forests, fish and wildlife; and continue our transition to a clean energy economy.

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This team will offer opportunities to build highly skilled volunteer organizers and leaders, foster movement building through cross-issue events, and push Washington, D.C. and local decision-makers to stand strong on key issues. 

Please fill out our Rapid Response Team form so we can let you know when we need your help and support. And stay tuned for more information.


Unite Against Hate with the One Oregon Coalition

January 11, 2017

It’s been two months since the election and I’m still reeling.

Donald Trump’s victory represents an assault on people of color – undocumented people and  other immigrants in particular. The Southern Poverty Law Center documented over 700 hate crimes committed in the week following the election. The danger for LGBTQ people, people of color, immigrants, refugees, people of Muslim faith and others with marginalized identities is very real, and will only grow after inauguration day.

The Sierra Club will not be silent in the face of injustice. We will not sit idly by as our volunteers, our staff, and our friends and neighbors are deported. We will unite in the face of hatred and rise to the greatest challenge the modern progressive movement has ever faced.

That’s why we’re in solidarity with the One Oregon Coalition, ready to fight against inhumane new immigration laws and policies at every turn. We are mobilizing to Salem on Saturday January 14th for the United for Immigrant Rights March and Rally.  We’ll have an #envirosforimmigrantrights contingency, wearing green scarves. Please join us.

WHAT:  United for Immigrant Rights March and Rally

WHERE: Oregon State Capitol Front Steps, 900 Court St NE, Salem, Oregon 97301

WHEN: Saturday, January 14th, 11:30 am – 3:00 pm

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See here for transportation from Portland thanks to The Bus Project and the event Facebook page.

We support Black Lives Matter and the Movement for Black Lives in their struggle for basic human dignity and respect for the sanctity of human life. We stand with the Standing Rock Sioux, and with all Indigenous people around the globe fighting for their sovereignty and right to self-determination. We are ready to confront any and all challenges to the safety of our queer and trans friends and family and to women’s right to control their own bodies. Now more than ever, we must clearly and loudly articulate our solidarity with all people threatened by the frighteningly violent and nativist rhetoric coming from the new presidential administration.

The Sierra Club’s mission is to “enlist humanity to protect and restore the quality of the natural and human environment.” The human and social environment in which we live just got a whole lot less safe and healthy for a whole lot of folks. It is our mission, our obligation and our moral imperative as people of conscience to resist any attempts from our federal government to tear apart Oregon families with attacks on immigrant and refugee communities.

This is not normal, and will never be normal. On January 20th when Donald Trump takes office, I will be in the streets, marching arm in arm with my community to express our resistance to the racist, sexist, homophobic and nativist policies he has promised to enact. And before then, we hope you’ll join us on January 14th, to rally to make sure that immigrant and refugee communities know that folks with privilege have their backs.

History has its eye on us in this dark moment. This is a time we’ll all remember for the rest of our lives, and we haven’t got a second to waste.  Today I ask you to join me in committing to stand with the One Oregon Coalition against hate – and I hope to see you in the streets on January 14th and January 20th.

Erica Stock

Executive Director, Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club


Solar Inclusion Project

October 26, 2016

The Marys Peak Group (MPG) has developed a project to support the Sierra Club’s efforts to increase the use of solar power and to become more inclusive of diverse communities. Up to this point, the marketing target and users of solar energy have primarily been restricted to the upper economic classes of our society.

The MPG has long taken the position of “action over words” and “put our money where our mouth is.”  In an effort to broaden the usage of solar power throughout the economic spectrum, the MPG initiated and collaborated with Benton Habitat for Humanity, Seeds for the Sol and Abundant Solar, LLC to initiate the Solar Inclusion Project (SIP).

SIP has 3 goals:

  1. Inclusion and Independence – Provide solar energy systems on Benton Habitat for Humanity homes to include a wider economic diversity of families into the solar energy revolution and to provide a greater opportunity for the recipient families to experience economic independence.
  2. Collaboration – Create a unique collaboration of a social services organization, environmental non-profit, a funding organization and a for-profit business to help resolve some fundamental community problems.
  3. Model Project – Create a project model and process that can be used at the community, state or national levels by both the Sierra Club and Habitat for Humanity organizations.

The MPG provided $6,500 to kick-start and help fund this project. Seeds for the Sol is providing creative funding sources for the remaining funds. Abundant Solar is installing the systems below the profit threshold.

The kick-off ceremony on September 20, 2016 included the contribution of the funding by the MPG to Benton Habitat for Humanity, a signing of the commitment by the four member organizations,  plus speeches by the four organizations, including Oregon Chapter Executive Director Erica Stock and the Director of the Oregon Habitat for Humanity.

In addition to providing solar energy to low-income housing families, the MPG has also received very positive publicity and recognition.

In very quick fashion, all necessary funds and donations were raised and as a result of the publicity. Another donor has also stepped forward to fund the 3rd Habitat Home solar installation. The MPG is now seeking additional community benefactors.

The first project will be the installation of solar systems on three Benton Habitat for Humanity homes in Corvallis in the first half of November 2016.

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This collaboration is the first collaboration of its kind locally among environmental, social services, financial and business organizations. Karen Rockwell, the executive director of Benton Habitat said of the venture that, “I couldn’t be more excited about the Sierra Club’s decision to select Benton Habitat for Humanity to partner with on this project. Providing these funds allows us to provide Habitat homeowners with increased affordability and environmental sustainability. Not only will the cost of power to the families be substantially reduced, the project also goes hand-in-hand with our community’s sustainability goals!”

The MPG has met the first two parts of our SIP mission – inclusion and collaboration. In an effort to meet the third mission point – to model – the MPG encourages other Sierra Club groups to consider similar Environmental/Social/Financial/Business collaborations. Interested groups can contact MPG ExCom Chair Robert White at lwii47@gmail.com for further information.


New Faces!

September 28, 2016
We are thrilled to announce two new recent hires within the Oregon Chapter of Sierra Club!


magdaMagda Mendez-Martinez  joins us as our new Outreach and Development Coordinator.  In her new role, Magda will be to coordinating and assisting with with chapter fundraising campaigns, membership and volunteer engagement, strategic communications and marketing efforts, as well as capacity building projects to help increase the effectiveness of the Oregon Chapter.
Originally hailing from Mexico City and having lived in Melbourne, Australia for 3 years studying environmental policy and communications, Magda brings cultural competency and a global prospective to Sierra Club. She is fully fluent in English and Spanish, and her experience includes managing an innovation workshop to enhance sustainable practices in Melbourne. She is passionate about climate change and has also previously worked in marketing and communications within the public and private sector performing strategic planning, community and stakeholders engagement, database management and public relations tactics. She most recently interned at Oregon Environmental Council, Living Cully “Verde”, and The United Nations Environmental Programme in New York supporting environmental policy analysis, research, and translation.
Magda can be reached at magda.mendez@sierraclub.org

alexMany  already know Alex Harris, our new Biomass Organizer. Alex joined the Sierra Club in 2015 to help fight against the wave of fossil fuel infrastructure projects proposed in the Northwest. Since joining the Club he has organized against oil, coal, and methanol proposals in Washington State and helped mobilize resistance to the largest free trade agreement in history: the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). In his new role, Alex will be working as part of our team to ensure that dirty sources of energy do not replace retired fossil fuel infrastructure, such as coal plants. Specifically, Alex is working to close a loophole currently proposed in Congress that classifies all biomass as carbon neutral, which could have dangerous implications for climate change, forest management, and public health.
Please feel free to get in touch with Alex if you would like to learn more about biomass or if you’d like to get more involved on biomass issues. Alex can be reached at alex.harris@sierraclub.org
We couldn’t be more excited for Magda and Alex to join our team! Please feel free to reach out and welcome them to the Sierra Club.