VOLUNTEER POSITIONS AVAILABLE with Sierra Club Southwest Michigan Group

We’re working on environmental issues in Southwest Michigan. We need your help!

Join us at 6:00 PM on the first Wednesday of the month at Friends Meeting House, 508 Denner Street, Kalamazoo. Click map to enlarge.

Join us at 6:00 PM on the first Wednesday of the month at Friends Meeting House, 508 Denner Street, Kalamazoo. Click map to enlarge.

Here’s how you can get started: Come to our meetings and bring your ideas.

We meet at 6:00 PM the first Wednesday of every month at Friends Meeting House, 508 Denner Street, Kalamazoo. Members and guests are welcome. If you’re interested in what the Sierra Club is doing in Southwest Michigan and how you can help, please visit our next meeting, ask questions, get to know us.

Coming to our monthly meetings is the best way to start getting involved with our work. Find out what we’re working on. Volunteer to help with whatever project grabs your interest. Most of all, bring us your own ideas and inspirations.

Volunteers must provide the following:

  • Your conviction that our work matters.
  • A few spare hours per month to help get things done.
No experience necessary. Plenty of on-the-job training is available!

What we’ve been doing lately.

Jackie Schmitz

Jackie Schmitz introduces Craig Brainard’s “Don’t Frack Up Our Future” presentation. Photo: Alana England

Fracking coming to Barry County? Craig Brainard says, “Don’t Frack Up Our Future!”

On July 3, Sierra Club fractivist Craig Brainard learned that a Texas company had asked Michigan DEQ for a permit to drill Barry County’s first fracking well. Craig immediately scheduled an appearance of his “Don’t Frack Up Our Future” program at the Hastings Library for Saturday, July 15. Craig has made his presentation in dozens of Michigan cities and town over the past few years. This was his first showing in Hastings, his hometown. The proposed well would be about six miles from Craig’s home.

Here’s Sierra Club fractivist Craig Brainard explaining fracking’s dangers and how to resist. Photo: Alana England.

The Hastings Banner promoted Craig’s show in their July 13 edition. Fox-17 filmed the afternoon event and interviewed Craig for that evening’s Ten O’Clock News. Click here to read their report and watch the video. You can see WWMT Channel 3’s video and read their report here.

As Craig was gearing up for his presentation, fellow fractivist Jackie Schmitz was going door-to-door warning her neighbors and collecting signatures for the Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan. The organization hopes to put a legislative initiative on the Michigan ballot. If they succeed, Michigan voters could agree with Craig and tell Michigan legislators, “Don’t frack up our future!”

We learned what to keep an eye on as Palisades nuclear plant moves toward shutdown and decommissioning.

Chris Williams

Chris Williams speaking at the public meeting in South Haven about what to watch for during the decommissioning at Palisades. Photo: Rebecca Thiele for WMUK.

Bette Pierman, Sierra Club Southwest Michigan Group Executive Committee member and Michigan Safe Energy Future, co-founder organized a program on what to expect as Palisades undergoes shutdown and decommissioning. Activist Chris Williams shared what he’s learned from watching Entergy’s decommissioning work at its Vermont Yankee nuclear plant. Beyond Nuclear, of Takoma Park, Maryland, and nuclear activism organization Don’t Waste Michigan sponsored the program along with MSEF and SWMG. Rebecca Thiele of WMUK was on hand for the July 13 program at the South Haven campus of Lake Michigan College. Click here to see her report.

Among the key points Williams made:

  • The people of Vermont formed an independent panel of Vermont citizens, state and local agencies and authorities, news media, interested organizations, and workers and companies involved in decommissioning at Vermont Yankee. The panel meets regularly to communicate with one another and to keep the public aware of the process and its progress. Williams said it was crucial that a similar panel be established to assure accountability at Palisades.
  • The decommissioning program’s financial aspects, such as available funds, budget considerations, and the temptation to save money by cutting corners will require special attention. Right now, Entergy is obligated to completely finance the decommissioning. If Entergy sells the plant to a decommissioning company, the transaction must not push any of this cost onto the Michigan public. Cleanup estimates at Vermont Yankee exceed a billion dollars. The Palisades decommissioning fund has only $427 million.
  • Short-term and long-term plans for safe handling of the high-level nuclear waste that Palisades has been producing for more than 45 years will be critical.

Our Think Outside the (Plastic) Bottle campaign kicked off with a free showing of “Tapped” at the Portage Library.

Kim and the aduience at "Tapped" screening

At the Portage Library kickoff for our Think Outside the (Plastic) Bottle campaign, Kim Gabriele introduced the movie “Tapped” and led the Q&A session afterwards. Photo: Bette Pierman.

Guests at our free June 28 showing of the movie “Tapped” learned about communities that have fought, won, and lost battles against the mega-corporations that exploit community water supplies to produce grossly overpriced and overhyped convenience in plastic bottles that we throw away without thinking.

Those who signed a pledge to stop buying water in disposable plastic got a free Sierra Club stainless steel bottle!

More information:

Tim Tesar’s May 2017 Excursion

Tim Tesar is a birder, a photographer, an environmentalist, a climate-activist, and a member of Sierra Club Southwest Michigan Group and Citizens’ Climate Lobby.

“Of course, my main concern about climate change,” said Tim, “is the threat it poses to humans. But I also am a nature lover and thus also worry about the threat to animal and plant life. Since I am a birder, I am especially concerned about birds.

“For some years now I have annually joined a group of birder friends on a May trip to Northwest Ohio where we enjoy the spring bird migration. Here are a few of my photos from this year’s trip, all taken in the Magee Marsh Wildlife Area. I hope seeing the beauty of these birds will further inspire you to work to mitigate climate change.”

See the National Audubon Society’s extensive research on the threat climate change poses to birds, “314 Species on the Brink of Extinction.”

SWMG people were at the blistering hot April 29 Climate March in Washington, D.C.

Of course, we were at the cold and rainy Kalamazoo march too.

More work we’ve been involved in lately:

SWMG Executive Committee members Joe Ziolkowsi, left, and Charlie Stefanac, center, with Michigan Chapter Political Director Mike Berkowitz at Sierra Club Citizen Lobby Day in Lansing on March 29.

At palisades shutdown plan hearing

Sierra Club folks were on hand at Michigan Public Service Commission’s first public hearing on the Palisades shutdown plan. Mark Muhich, far left, of Michigan Chapter’s Nuclear Free Michigan Committee; and SWMG representatives (left to right) Becky Mandrell, Karen Schuur, and Bruce Brown. Click here for a report on our appearance. Photo: Michelle Rison for Sierra Club SW Michigan Group

Jon Hoadley at Politics of the Environment

In late August, we hosted Michigan Chapter Political Committee Chair Richard Morley Barron (standing, left) and Chapter Political Director Mike Berkowitz (standing, right) and their Politics of the Environment presentation. Speaking is Jon Hoadley, incumbent State Representative from Kalamazoo’s 60th District, who won reelection in November. Eleven other candidates had an opportunity to explain their environmental concerns.


Every year, SWMG volunteer Bill Strong organizes a conservation project. This year he had two! First was an invasive species removal in Saugatuck Dunes State Park, where a garlic mustard invasion was overtaking the native plants. SWMG volunteer Mary Colborn, who owns the Allegan Historic Farm and Learning Center, taught tree history to the crew Bill recruited for his second project – a tree planting in Allegan State Game Area.

Long-time Sierra Club member Kathy VanDeusen is creating tomorrow’s conservationists. She teaches first to fifth graders at Bedford Home School just north of Battle Creek. Parents bring their kids from as far as fifty miles away to Kathy’s class. This photo shows Lauren from the Kalamazoo Nature Center. She brought an owl to Kathy’s class as part of their celebration of the 178th birthday of Sierra Club founder John Muir.

Kalamazoo Drive Electric Week 2016

This was the scene at our drive-and-ride demonstration during National Drive Electric Week in September, 2016. Sierra Club has been a national sponsor for the annual event since its inception in 2011. This was SWMG’s second annual Kalamazoo Drive Electric Week. Executive Committee member Ben Brown organized our 2015 and 2016 participation. For 2017, he’s expanding! He’s organizing events in Kalamazoo, South Haven and Hastings.