Sierra Club Records

Identifier: NC1260

Scope and Contents

The Sierra Club Records were acquired or created by Professor Sill as a result of his memberships on the national board of Sierra Club and the board of the Toiyabe Chapter of Sierra Club. The content of the collection is substantial, both in quantity and quality, as it documents the administration of the club at the national and local levels. Sill was an activist, both in terms of his official capacity and personal convictions, and this is also reflected in the collection.

The papers have been maintained in Dr. Sill's original order. Official records are represented through minutes of board meetings, bylaws, reports, and publications; unofficially the correspondence to and from Sill reveals the full extent of club philosophies, policies, programs, and controversies.

The two largest series are also the most important; they are series three, Administration (discussed above), and series ten, Pyramid Lake Task Force (PLTF), of which Dr. Sill was chair. The PLTF was a special commission within the parent body of the Sierra Club which investigated and formulated major policies on water use of the Truckee River and Pyramid Lake, and the rights of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe. The bulk of this series dates from 1960-1976 but it also includes early documents such as legal records from the Orr Water Ditch Company decree, and the cases of Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe vs Morton (and Hinkel), Secretaries of the United States Interior Department, and Sierra Club et al vs Earl L. Butz. Many statistical reports on water resources are included as are papers on wildlife management.

Smaller in size (three boxes) but also important is the series which deals with Lake Tahoe and a proposed Lake Tahoe Park. Included are records of public meetings and boards, testimony and talks, symposium proceedings, correspondence, and regional plans.

This note is followed by an extensive box list (by series) which lists titles of folders. Individual folders have not been numbered.


  • 1899-1979


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Materials must be used on-site; advance notice suggested. Access to parts of this collection may be restricted under provisions of state or federal law.

Historical Note

Richard Clements Sill, a specialist in astronomy and environmental matters, joined the University of Nevada-Reno faculty in 1959 and became a full professor of physics in 1973. Prior to coming to Reno he had taught at the University of Nebraska and the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology; and worked at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, at Lick Observatory, and at the Stanford Research Institute. Sill served on the national board of directors for the Sierra Club from 1967 to 1971, was on the executive committee of Sierra Club for two terms, and a member of the executive board of the Toiyabe Chapter of Sierra Club (Nevada). Dr. Sill was chair of the UNR Environmental Studies Board and the Pyramid Lake Task Force for the Sierra Club.

The Sierra Club began in about 1870 when expeditions of enthusiastic mountain-lovers, inspired by the writings of John Muir, formed to explore and enjoy the high Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. By 1890, the need to centralize their experiences and practical knowledge resulted in the proposition of forming a club or association, which became known as the Sierra Club. Central to the organization were Professor William D. Ames, Warren Olney, John Muir, J. N. LeConte and others; their goals were to both open up to the public and to preserve California`s natural beauty.

The new club began a publication program which continues to the present, with a Bulletin and outline maps of high mountains. Lobbying efforts on behalf of endangered areas were undertaken as was legal action when necessary, a classic example being their battle to prevent the damming of the Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park.

As the club matured, their focus became more nation-wide. With growth the administration of the club was divided up into regional chapters and geographic subgroups within chapters. These chapters continue to carry on local conservation battles in the fifty states.


51.25 Linear Feet (53 boxes)

Language of Materials



The Sierra Club is a California based national organization devoted to preserving nature for future generations. Organized about 1890 in San Francisco, the club issues a Bulletin and publishes books about nature; they also investigate and lobby to prevent damage to the wilderness. Divided into chapters and subgroups based on geography. Richard Sill served on the national board of directors and executive committee from 1967-1971, on the executive board of the Toiyabe Chapter (Nevada), and as chair of the Pyramid Lake Task Force. The collection includes official minutes, correspondence, reports, bylaws, newsletters, policy statements, and subject files. Subjects of importance include the Pyramid Lake Task Force (involved in determining water rights of Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe), Lake Tahoe, Bodega Bay nuclear power plant, preservation of the wilderness, and conservation.


Arranged into the following series: 1) Newsletters from National Chapters; 2) Subject Files, Unarranged; 3) Administrative; 4) Subject Files; 5) Pacific Gas and Electric Bodega Head Reactor Files; 6) Lake Tahoe; 7) Subject Files; 8) Conservation Research Committee; 9) Wilderness; United States Forest Service and Sierra Club Suit; 10) Pyramid Lake Task Force; 11) Miscellaneous

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Richard C. Sill in 1975.

Guide to the Sierra Club Records
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Nevada, Reno. Special Collections Department Repository

Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center
1664 N. Virginia St.
Reno Nevada 89557-0322 USA
775-682-5724 (Fax)