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MARCH 11, 2003
1:09 PM
CONTACT: Sierra Club 
Geoff Milz, 513.310.6024
Meighan Davis, 919.656.0766

New Faces of Environmentalists Emerge in Washington Students Rally With Members of Congress to Protect America's Public Lands
WASHINGTON - March 11 - Today, 150 students from more than 30 states converged on Capitol Hill to send the message that patriotism starts with the protection of America's heritage and public lands. Students were joined by Representative Ed Markey of Massachusetts (D-MA), the recent sponsor of the Morris K Udall Act to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA), sponsor of the National Forest Roadless Area Conservation Act.

The Sierra Student Coalition brought these high school and college students to Washington, DC, from across the nation for their fifth annual Public Lands Action Summit. At the Summit, students learned about various issues, focusing on protecting America's last treasures: the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, Utah Wilderness, and our National Forests.

"As Americans and the future of this nation, we as students are taking a stand to ensure that these wild places are protected for future generations," said Meighan Davis, the SSC's Conservation Chair and a senior at Peace College in North Carolina.

During the Summit's weekend of training, students were joined by renowned author Terry Tempest Williams who stressed the importance of acting from the heart in these dark times. After their training, students took to the halls of Congress to lobby on several issues: protecting the Arctic Refuge, America's National Forests, and Utah Wilderness, as well as local issues ranging from tribal land in Arizona to public lands in Puerto Rico.

"Students really recognize and appreciate the role that our Representatives and Senators have played in the fight to keep these unique, precious places safe. And the sentiment is obviously mutual -- Representative Markey has been extremely supportive of student involvement in the protection of our public lands, as have many others," said Joanna Winchester, the SSC Arctic Campaign Coordinator and sophomore at Kenyon College in Ohio. "This is a key time for students to be in Washington talking about these issues," said Myke Bybee, the SSC's National Director, "We are in the midst of constant attacks on our environment, especially in the area of public lands protection. Congress is considering Arctic drilling as a source of revenue, National Forest protections are being decimated, and wildlands in Utah are facing destructive energy development. We need every student to be reaching out to their Members of Congress in this crucial time."

The urgency of public lands issues was underscored by Jim Steitz, SSC Forest Protection campaign coordinator, who said, "America's National Forests are under attack from an administration that is listening to timber corporations instead of Americans. Students are here to demand that America's natural heritage be safeguarded."

"The Bush administration is undermining efforts to protect unique places like Wild Utah through administrative loopholes and rule changes. We are here to be the voice of the people in defense of our public lands," said Geoff Milz, Media Coordinator for the Public Lands Action Summit and junior at University of Cincinnati.

The Sierra Student Coalition, the student-run arm of the Sierra Club, represents the collective voice of students nation-wide working to protect their environment and their future.

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