This is a very personal and hard article to write. One that I had hoped for almost two years not to have to author. And as much as I have personally struggled with this, I feel I have no alternative but to do so.

In 1976 I joined Sierra Club. I did so primarily to help protect the wild places I so dearly loved and hoped some day to visit. And most of you know that over the last 47 years (and actually longer) I have traveled extensively in the wilderness. Back then, the highest priority was protecting Alaska, a battle we’re still fighting. And locally, it was to defeat the extension of Rt. 53 into Lake County which it appears, after 50 years, looks like we have finally done! In 1989, Debbie and I became life members. Since the early ’90s, I have devoted enormous amounts of time and resources to Sierra Club and Sierra Club Foundation and am proud of all the accomplishments that have been achieved to which I have had a hand in making happen especially our role in establishing the Coal Campaign and getting it off the ground and helping to raise millions of dollars for the Club (thanks on both counts to many of you!).

Thus, it is with exceptional disappointment that I am tendering the resignation of both Debbie and my joint Life Membership in the Club effective January 1, 2024. The reason that I am writing about this in my blog is because, over the last almost 30 years that I have been writing it, I have enthusiastically endorsed the Club (and Foundation) and encouraged you to also support it. My purpose here is not to suggest that you don’t continue to do that. The Planet NEEDS a strong, effective and successful Sierra Club to protect it. My purpose is to let you know why I will no longer be doing so.

While there are a variety of reasons we have come to this decision, it comes down to one that is the core of this for us. Without all the details, it boils down to this. Back in March of 2022 the Club acquiesced to cancelling two trips to Israel due to pressure from various individuals and groups. This immediately caused a spontaneous and outraged reaction and the Club immediately reversed course and committed to reinstating the trips with a promise to investigate and report how this decision occurred. To date, I am unaware if this investigation was ever completed or reported. There was also a commitment to look at all international outings that could be politically perilous to make sure that they all were being viewed through the same lens. I am not aware that this has happened either.

Up until this time, and continuing to this day, antisemitism had not been incorporated into the DEI programing of the Club despite pleas by myself and the Jewish staff and others and despite antisemitic hate crimes being dramatically on the rise over the past few years. Being Jewish myself, this always disturbed me but I never made a big deal about it. The trip cancellation convinced me that I needed to advocate for this to now happen. But despite my imploring the Club to do so and offering to help personally and to assist in bringing whatever resources to the table and provide some funding to do so if necessary, to my knowledge, very little, if anything meaningful, has occurred in this regard. As I have requested over this time period, I welcome anyone to show where I am not accurate in this perception. And if you’re not aware of it, the Progressive Workers Union (PWU) which represents many of the Sierra Club staff issued this statement on November 29th:

Thus, I find it is time for me to pursue my environmental passion through other channels. On top of what I have just delineated, the Club is going through a metamorphosis. Over time, this is not unusual for any organization to do to stay relevant and is appropriate and necessary. At this time, it is unclear to me, and many others, what the new iteration of the Club will look like. The senior management National staff is almost entirely new, less than a year on the job, there has been substantial turnover at all levels below this and an incredible amount of environmental, management and institutional knowledge and experience has vanished. What the new organization will look like and how it will function is yet to be seen. My guess is that it will have a smaller staff and budget and a more narrow focus. Time will tell.

I am proud of what I contributed to and accomplished with Sierra Club for all these decades and wished I could continue to stay connected. But my moral compass, my North Star, tells me it is time to move on. I should not have to try and talk myself into staying. I am extremely sorry to disappoint my friends and associates with whom I’ve worked for so very long, especially those at the Illinois Chapter where I have been Conservation Chair for the last year amongst other official duties. I wish you all the very best in your lives and endeavors and hope to stay in touch.

I am happy to discuss this further if anyone is interested. You can email me at or call at 312-613-2204.

Lastly, I know no one has asked me but I’ll offer a thought about what in my view are the two absolutely essential tasks that must be accomplished if the Club hopes to be successful and viable going forward. First, the Advancement Department must be rebuilt due to the massive turnover. It has lost an amazing amount of talent, experience and depth. In doing so it has lost the momentum and relationships that are critical in generating the revenue necessary to fuel the functioning of the organization. Without an essential level of revenue, the Club will cease to be able to function effectively if at all. Second, the same is true for the recently renamed People Department (formerly called Human Resources). The Club needs to end the massive turnover that has eviscerated not only this department (something like 5 Directors of HR in 4 years) but also the National staff by making the Club an attractive, welcoming and rewarding place to work. These are two massive tasks which I hope the new management team is capable of accomplishing. This is a huge turnaround endeavor that in my opinion requires a specialized skill set.

Thanks for reading this far. Thanks for all your support and encouragement for so long. And all the best to you and your loved ones for a prosperous, healthy and fun 2024 and beyond.

Chuck Frank

Highland Park, IL.

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