Carmel Valley volunteer Jan Fuchs receives Sierra Club San Diego’s ‘Political Activist Award’

By Karen Billing

The Sierra Club San Diego chapter recently honored its best volunteers at its Gala Celebration and Awards Dinner. Among those honored was Carmel Valley resident Jan Fuchs, who was given the Political Activist Award.

“Jan has been a key person for the San Diego chapter’s political committee for many years,” said Richard Miller, San Diego chapter coordinator. “Because of that she is in direct contact with a lot of elected officials and she’s very proactive representing the Sierra Club and the environment.”

Fuchs received a wooden plaque from the Sierra Club, as well as a commendation from State Assemblyman Marty Block on behalf of the California Legislative Assembly. Unfortunately, she was unable to attend the award ceremony due to a tennis injury—tennis is her passion, second only to environmental issues.

“I was flabbergasted to get it, to tell you the truth,” Fuchs said of winning the award. She even tried to pass it on to someone else. “There are so many people that do so much more than I do on the political committee. I guess it’s an example, though, of when you love what you do, you don’t realize how much you’re doing.”

This is not Fuchs’ first time being honored by the Sierra Club. In 1995, she received the Rainbow Warrior Award for her work with Pardee Homes in their development of Pacific Highlands Ranch. Also in 1995, she was honored alongside Carmel Valley resident Anne Harvey with the Community Activist of the Year award, also for their work with Pardee and development of Prop M, which limited development of Pacific Highlands Ranch.

Fuchs can’t say enough about the value of the Sierra Club, which she said is more than just a “bunch of tree-huggers.” Fuchs said they do such an impressive, professional job with the resources they have. Not only do they work hard to protect San Diego’s unique environment, Fuchs said they “hold our elected officials’ feet to the fire to do the right thing in planning, governing and land use.”

The Sierra Club is the nation’s and San Diego’s largest environmental grassroots organization. Founded in 1948, the San Diego chapter has more than 12,000 members and they cover just about every aspect of the environment. Recently they have been involved in the Interstate 5 widening, the Miramar Landfill lawsuit, the Gregory Canyon Landfill issue, the seals in La Jolla Cove and fighting the Quail Bush Power Plant in Santee, to save neighboring Mission Trails Park and adjacent communities.

“Another big program this year is promotion of renewable energy versus the continuing use of fossil fuel to provide our local energy,” Miller said. “We keep busy.”

One of the club’s busiest times are election seasons, which Fuchs does a lot of work with the political committee to generate Sierra Club endorsements. Fuchs said that while you can work hard to get policies enacted, nothing will happen unless you get the right people in office.

“Jan has done so much outstanding work in furthering the chapter’s mission to elect environmentally-friendly candidates,” Miller said.

Fuchs and a committee of volunteers spend hours interviewing all of the candidates.

“It’s so important to get the word out that the Sierra Club interviews and vets everybody running for office throughout San Diego County, including school boards,” Fuchs said.

The committee members are still deciding on which candidates they will endorse in some races, but once they do, those choices have to be approved by the Sierra Club’s state political committee.

“In between the elections we have all those local issues to cover, which is really as much work as political vetting,” Fuchs said. “We stay in contact with City Council and other elected officials and educate them on issues. Having that two-way communication is really important in developing those relationships.”

In addition to education and dealing with political issues, the club also does a number of organized hikes, bike rides and camping trips all around the county, focusing on getting people outdoors and enjoying their natural backyard.

“Our basic philosophy is that if people get out into nature, they will want to preserve that nature,” Miller said of the educational outings. “Our outings are a great opportunity for us to show people what we do in order to preserve and conserve the properties.”

People don’t have to be members to participate in an outing, which range from ski trips to the Young Sierrans (an early 20s group), there’s even a singles group.

“There’s so many opportunities to really get out and learn nature,” Fuchs said.

Fuchs encourages the community to get involved with the Sierra Club, by either enjoying one of their outings or by contributing time or funds.

“Without community support, the club can’t continue to do the work like they are, especially in this economy, they’re struggling,” Fuchs said. “In Carmel Valley alone, the Sierra Club is looking out for the interests of our community every day.”

Outings are listed on the website, as well as all other information about the group to join or donate to the cause. For more information visit