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January 19, 2006

The Sierra Club’s Mike McCloskey ’61 talks about Eugene, the law school and how Oregon itself shaped his career as an environmentalist

The Sierra Club’s
Mike McCloskey ’61 
The Eugene native writes about Oregon forests, politics, and industry in the 1940s and 50s and how they shaped his life as an environmentalist.

Mike McCloskey of the Sierra Club 

Mike McCloskey ’61, retired Sierra Club Director and chairman and an architect of the modern environmental movement, will speak about his new memoir on Thursday, January 26 at 7:00 P.M. in Room 175 of the Knight Law Center. His talk is free and open to the public. A booksigning follows. 

In the Thick of It: My Life in the Sierra Club (Island Press 2005, cloth, 415 pages, $29.95) will be available at the event and at the University of Oregon bookstore.

McCloskey’s book opens with a description of his Eugene, Oregon birthplace as it was in 1934: “The slow rains of mild winters nourished great stands of forests on the surrounding hills…more mass of wood was found in the average acre of these forests than in any other in the world. . . I took the lumber industry for granted, but I also took the old-growth forests as a given.”  
(Read excerpts about environmental law and law school in the late 1950s and Eugene in the 1940s)

He started work as the Sierra Club’s first field representative right after he graduated from the UO School of Law in 1961.

“I wanted to shape the law, not just apply and interpret it,” McCloskey said. “I asked myself which causes were relevant to the area where I lived. The answer was conservation. Oregon was then all about natural resources and the issues concerning their use and future.”

Later on, as the environmental organization’s executive director, he was present at the creation of Earthday in 1970, directed lobbying for the enactment of over one hundred environmental laws, and helped Sierra Club membership rise from 70,000 to half a million.

McCloskey’s many accomplishments include his roles in establishing North Cascades National Park and Redwood National Park. He is credited with building support and ending opposition for the Wilderness Act. McCloskey’s legal skills, combined with his ability to rally support, have had profound effects on environmental policy.

McCloskey initiated the Mineral King litigation in 1969, which resulted in U.S. Supreme Court decisions to ease rules for lawsuits based on environmental grounds. He was a major force leading to the passage of the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires the federal government to review environmental impacts of federally funded projects.

In the nineties, he led the fights against attempts to undercut EPA regulations and against trade agreements that curtailed environmental programs.

McCloskey’s talk will be preceded by dinner with a number of UO law alumni hosted by the law school’s Environmental and Natural Resources Law Program.

The ENR program and the UO Bookstore cosponsor his talk and booksigning.  

INFO: Laura Carroll White (541) 346-4331 or Heather Brinton 346-3741.

Buy the book online  


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