carl pope

The Sierra Club announced today that long-time executive director Carl Pope is stepping down. He’ll be taking on a new role as chairman of the Sierra Club, focusing primarily on climate change.

“While I look forward to continuing to serve the Club in a new capacity, I am ready to turn the leadership of the organization over to someone new,” Pope said in a statement today.

Pope, who has been at the helm of the organization since 1992, will move to the chairman post as soon as a new executive director is selected. The board of directors is preparing to launch a formal search for their new leader in the next few weeks.

“Over these years I have made many wonderful friends, and experienced both joyful victories and tragic setbacks in our struggle for a sustainable future,” Pope continued. “I look forward to many more such victories as I continue this work. My decision comes at a very exciting time for the Sierra Club and the environmental movement. The election of President Barack Obama, and the increase in the number of environmental champions in the Congress, means that after eight years of bitter defense, it is time for America to resume its tradition of environmental leadership.”

Pope is the longest-serving executive director in the club’s history, having filled the role for the entirety of the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations. He’s been with the group for a total of 30 years.

“Carl steered the Sierra Club through the toughest years in the history of environmental protection,” Allison Chin, president of the club, said in a statement today. “Because of Carl’s leadership the Club is a stronger organization and we are looking forward to building on the foundation he put in place.”

There isn’t currently a chairman of the organization, but there is precedent for past executive directors moving into that role. The club’s second executive director, Michael McCloskey, became chairman in 1985, after serving as director since 1969.

This makes the Sierra Club the third major green group currently in search of new leadership. John Passacantando, who lead Greenpeace USA for eight years, stepped down on Jan. 1 to start a green investment consultancy. Longtime environmental activist Mike Clark is currently serving as Greenpeace’s interim executive director as the group seeks a replacement. Friends of the Earth U.S. is also searching for a new president, as current president Brent Blackwelder is planning to retire.