Town and Village

Sierra Club chapter honors Burke, Braus

At Sierra Club Vermont's 2023 Winter Gathering in Brattleboro on Dec. 16, the club honored state Rep. Mollie Burke, D-Brattleboro, and Brattleboro community leader Nancy Braus for "working within their communities to build a movement necessary to tackle the most difficult issues."

More than 45 people participated in the event.

Isaac Evans-Frantz, Windham County resident and Vermont Sierra Club Executive Committee member, said that the honors for Burke and Braus came at "an important moment in history when the countries of the world reached a consensus at the United Nations' COP28 to move away from fossil fuels. "Are we willing to act on this consensus before it's too late? We need legislators and everyday people to speak up. That is how we will turn this ship around - by all of us finding our voices and using them to change policy."

Burke has been a pioneering advocate of measures to address climate change during her tenure on the House Transportation Committee.

"When Mollie first joined the Transportation Committee, the conversations were exclusively focused on roads, bridges, and paving," said Robb Kidd, Sierra Club Conservation program manager. "Now, the transportation discussion includes vehicle electrification, expanding active transportation, and creating viable choices for using transit."

With the transportation sector responsible for about 40% of Vermont's carbon emissions, Kidd said that the Sierra Club "has collaborated with dedicated legislators such as Burke and House Transportation chair Sara Coffey to build a rural sustainable transportation system that is accessible and equitable."

Braus, founder and former owner of Everyone's Books in Brattleboro, was honored for her decades of work as an environmental and peace activist. She had been outspoken in the effort that led to the closing of the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant in Vernon in 2014. Since then, she has turned her efforts toward safety from nuclear energy production and waste, both locally and globally.

"The Sierra Club appreciates Nancy's lifelong dedication to community engagement and, specifically, her organizing in response to the climate crisis," Evans-Frantz said. "The Vermont Sierra Club applauds community leaders like Nancy who are key to influencing policy."

The night's program also included Vermont State Treasurer Mike Pieciak, who spoke of his efforts to address both the climate and housing crises. He congratulated Braus and Rep. Burke on their "well-deserved recognition for making our communities safer and our environment cleaner. Continuing their work to address climate change is critical for creating a sustainable economy that works for everyone."

Other elected officials who spoke included state Rep. Tristan Roberts, D-Halifax, and state Sen. Wendy Harrison, D-Windham, who both offered praises of the honorees.

Roberts said that "through dedicated, persistent, and joyful work, they have kept a nightlight on for the values Americans hold dearest, even in the darkest of times."

Harrison read a statement from Coffey, who lauded Burke for being "instrumental in changing the culture in the House Transportation committee from one that solely focuses on paving roads and repairing bridges to thinking more holistically in creating a 21st-century transportation system that is clean and green and accessible to all."

Harrison then added her own words, calling the Sierra Club recognition of Burke "timely and appropriate," adding that Burke "never wavered in her leadership toward a more sustainable Vermont. "Most of my work with her has been as fellow advocates of public transportation, and I look forward to continuing that work."

This Town and Village item was submitted to The Commons.

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