Sierra Summit

Conversations and observations about California's mountains

January 13, 2009
Not Just Another Tree Hugger: Chuck Leavell @

A Rolling Stone - as the saying goes - gathers no moss.

While I'm not sure what Mick, Keith, Charlie and Ronnie are up to these days, there's no doubt that Chuck Leavell, keyboardist for the legendary rock band, is keeping himself very busy.

Chuck - that's him, sandwiched between Charlie Watts and Keith Richards - is one of the founders of a new web venture focusing exclusively on the environment - the Mother Nature Network - which debuts this month. MNN is not just another green web page. It's aimed at what Chuck, a tree farmer from central Georgia, would call regular folks - people who love the outdoors but aren't  die-hard supporters of traditional green groups.

When Chuck first told me about the idea last fall, I sent him an e-mail, applauding the concept, saying: "Too often, blue collar folks are forgotten by environmentalists. And they shouldn't be."

"Exactly," Chuck replied. "We found a study that showed something like 25 percent of the people in the U.S. are really not concerned with environmental issues and not likely to be. Fourteen percent are very concerned and do a lot of research about it.  But the remaining 60 percent or so are the ones that are becoming aware and want to know more (but) just don't quite know where to go on the Net to get good info.  This will be our main target audience."

If you haven't seen the Mother Nature Network, by all means, check it out at:                           

And just for fun, have a look at the profile of Chuck that I wrote for the Bee back back in 2006:

Among other things, you'll find a story about a 50-something rocker who appears to love trees as much as music - and is dedicated to improving the health of America's woodlands by thinning, burning and developing new strategies to keep private forest land from being sold and developed.

At MNN, there's something for just about everyone - including a special video segment featuring Chuck called Love of the Land. It's not prime time yet - but is already more substantive than much of what you see on cable news shows. So tonight, instead of sitting on the sofa and clicking on the remote, log on to MNN and check out what Chuck and his friends are up to.  To get directly to Chuck's segment, click on this link:

 Web sites come and go, of course, but Mother Nature Network has the feel of one that will be around for a while. As Time Magazine reported earlier this month in an article about MNN: "Thanks in part to the countless media layoffs around the country, MNN has been able to assemble a surprisingly accomplished staff for such a new property, including Peter Dykstra, the former head of CNN's science unit, and bloggers like the New York Times's Jim Motavalli, a transportation expert. That talent has enabled MNN to get a fast start on harder environmental news, even as it does the yeoman's Web work of aggregating content from other sites."




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About Sierra Summit

The Author
Tom Knudson lives in the Sierra Nevada and travels widely throughout the range. His hobbies include fly-fishing, backpacking and cross-country skiing. He is the recipient of numerous journalistic awards, including two Pulitzer Prizes, one for a 1992 Sacramento Bee series "Sierra in Peril," a watershed work about environmental threats to the mountain range. E-mail Tom at

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