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David Brower, who was a major contributor to the modern environmental movement and helped guide the Sierra Club’s rise to national prominence, died Sunday night at his home in Berkeley, California, at the age of 88.
“The world has lost a pioneer of modern environmentalism,” said Sierra Club president Dr. Robert Cox.
Brower served as the club’s first executive director from 1952 through 1969, and was a member since 1933. Over his decades-long career, he fought to create national parks and establish several conservation organizations.
“If not for David’s leadership, the Grand Canyon could well have been dammed — but he led the fight tooth and nail to preserve that awesome treasure,” Cox said.
Brower also led Sierra Club in its efforts to lobby Congress to pass the Wilderness Act, halt dam construction in Dinosaur National Monument, and pass legislation creating Redwoods, Kings Canyon, and North Cascades National Parks and Point Reyes and Cape Cod National Seashores.
But, club officials point to Brower’s leadership of a 1960s campaign to block two proposed hydroelectric dams in the Grand Canyon as his greatest accomplishment. Brower took out full-page ads in the New York Times, equating the proposal to “flooding the Sistine Chapel.”
“In the last decades of his life, David’s passion became restoring the earth from the damage people had wrought,” Cox continued. “As a new generation of environmentalists picks up David’s mantle and practices what he preached, restoration well may become David’s greatest and longest-lasting legacy.”
An avid mountain climber and skier, Brower served in the 10th Mountain Division during World War II and pioneered 70 first-ascents in a world-wide outdoor adventure career. Brower was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize three times and founded the Sierra Club Foundation, League of Conservation Voters, Friends of the Earth and the Earth Island Institute.
“Because of his unrelenting efforts, our families can explore and enjoy wildlands from the California coast to Alaska to Cape Cod in their most spectacular, pristine beauty,” said Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope. Pope added that Brower helped environmentalists see the benefits of living within the earth’s means of providing for us. “From family planning to ending commercial logging on public lands, David’s efforts to promote sustainability have made people think deeply about the long-term consequences of their behaviors.”
Sierra Club members elected Brower to three-year terms on the club’s board of directors in 1941, 1983, 1986, 1995 and 1998. A grassroots environmental organization, the Sierra Club has over 600,000 members nationwide.