A memo circulated recently around the Sierra Club‘s offices highlighted the “Top Ten” reasons the group should not endorse Vice Pres. Al Gore. The memo, written by Sierra Club board member Michael Dorsey and unearthed by the Washington Times last week, says: “Does Vice President Gore really care about nature? Does he care about protecting people from hazardous waste and toxic pollution? Does he care about human life and the future of the planet? The answers seem to be a resounding and deafening NO.”

The Sierra Club went into maximum spin mode after the memo leaked, criticizing the Washington Times for misrepresenting the document as some sort of official organization position and assuring reporters that it was just one board member’s opinion that grew out of a recent discussion of possible endorsements and that should never have become public.

“We need to have a much more elaborate discussion with the candidates and with our members” before issuing any endorsements, Sierra Club National Conservation Director Bruce Hamilton told Muckraker. “[Dorsey's memo] wasn’t what you would say is balanced. It was a personal reaction and not an official Sierra Club communication.”

Okay, so is the group going to come out one way or another before the Democratic race is over, which could be as early as next month?

“The general assessment,” Hamilton said, “is that both Bradley and Gore have equally strong environmental records. We’ve been looking for all the candidates, particularly the two Democrats, to do a little bit more and articulate a vision of what they would want to do if they were elected president.”

In other words: Don’t hold your breath.

Raising Heck in Arizona

Speaking of the Sierra Club, they’ve moved on from whacking Texas Gov. George W. Bush on air pollution to targeting Sen. John McCain for opposing national monument status for two chunks of land in his home state of Arizona.

John McCain.

The group is running ads on TV and radio this week in Phoenix, ripping McCain for saying he would model his presidency on Theodore Roosevelt while at the same time opposing something Roosevelt embraced: making certain lands off-limits to commercial development by presidential decree.

“Arizona’s Grand Canyon … All six of our national forests … were picked for protection by President Theodore Roosevelt,” the ads intone. “It’s a tradition of protecting wild places Sen. John McCain says he plans to follow. So why is he attacking the president’s plan to protect out National Forests and create the Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument?”

McCain, of course, has said that the one place where he would disagree with his Republican idol is on TR’s habit of unilaterally setting aside public land.

A new poll indicates that McCain and the rest of Arizona’s congressional delegation, which is in something of a swivet over the monuments Clinton created yesterday, should take a chill pill. Seventy-six percent of Arizonans believe the lands should be protected, including 65 percent of Republicans, according to the poll, conducted by the Behavior Research Center of Phoenix. (And speaking of polls, a national one conducted recently by the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance found that 58 percent of Americans believe that “not enough” wilderness has been protected by the federal government.)

Chips on Their Shoulders

This column, intended to bring you all the vicissitudes of daily life in the environmental movement, is particularly interested in the exploits of small and scrappy green groups on the verge of breaking through.

One such organization, the Southeast Forest Project, is vying to bring the issue of chip mills in the South onto the national enviro scene, where it has been mostly absent for years.

How much wood would this chip mill chip …

Trevor FitzGibbon, who represents half of the organization’s tiny Washington shop, tells Muckraker that he’s been bending the ear of Gore‘s staff of late in an effort to get the vice president to take a stand on the issue by both keeping his eyes on a federal study currently underway and publicly urging state officials to take action.

“He has an opportunity to be a real hero here,” FitzGibbon said of Gore. “He came out in 1992 with a position, but that was 1992, when there were only a few chip mills. It’s now 2000 and you’ve got close to 160 mills, and in Tennessee [Gore's home state] it’s totally out of hand.”

There are few laws to prevent large timber companies from clear-cutting forests in the Southeast and replacing them with genetically modified redwoods that can be quickly grown and harvested and fed to the noisy mills, which create woodchips for export and for domestic use as particle board, rayon, and other products. FitzGibbon’s group, along with the Dogwood Alliance, is pushing for new regulations, be they state, local, or federal. Vice presidential attention, of course, couldn’t hurt.

“We know that we need some checks and balances in the South. The public is demanding it and the forest is demanding it,” FitzGibbon said.

Greenpeace, Love, and Understanding, Take III

We promise to stop flogging this story soon, but we couldn’t put it to rest without one more installment. Following our airing of Greenpeace USA PR hound Craig Culp‘s response to our original item on the mass resignation of the group’s board of directors and allegations of low employee morale, our phone immediately started ringing off the hook with former staffers coming out of the woodwork (all anonymously, of course) to complain about what a snake pit they say the place has become.

We start with John (or perhaps Jane) Doe #1, who called Culp’s denials of a reign of terror by Executive Director Kristen Engberg “completely erroneous.” This person says, “What is happening here is horrible. If the people who fund this organization had any idea what was going on, they would be shocked.”

This source says that staff members who dared to ask questions in public meetings about departmental reorganizations were later dragged in and given serious tongue-lashings about loyalty, courtesy of Engberg. “Kristen basically operates through fear,” this source said.

John/Jane Doe #2 called his/her brief time working at Greenpeace USA “the worst experience of my entire life.” John/Jane Doe #3 described Engberg’s reign as a “dictatorship” and said there has been a parade of people walking out the door.

Things Are Heating Up in New Hampshire

Bill Bradley weighed in on global warming last week on Chris Matthew‘s cable shout-fest on MSNBC, saying he would work to get Kyoto through the Senate and noting: “There are some people that think that global warming is a myth, but all they have to do is come to New Hampshire right now. … We’ve just been through a decade that’s been the warmest decade in history. We see the polar ice cap melting.”