Environmentalism's political strength depends on its leadership's skill in creating a broad and diverse alliance of interests to support environmental advocacy. The environmental movement embraces a great diversity of influential organizations, including traditional conservation groups like the Sierra Club and the National Wildlife Federation, established public health advocates like the American Cancer Society, newly formed environmental pressure groups like the Environmental Defense Fund and Friends of the Earth, major labor unions, public interest science organizations, and countless local organizations. Additionally, environmentalists are proficient recruiters. After the first Earth Day, environmentalist organizations multiplied and enriched their political resources, often creating innovative new organizational forms and strategies. Prior to 1970, fewer than twenty-five significant national environmental groups existed with a combined membership approaching 500,000—of these, perhaps a half-dozen organizations were important participants in national policymaking. Several hundred influential national environmentalist groups are politically active; five of the most important—the Audubon Society, Sierra Club, Environmental Defense Fund, National Wildlife Federation, and Wilderness Society—alone have a combined membership exceeding seven million. Although all the major organizations use the sophisticated resources of pressure-group politics—mass-mailing technology, skilled media specialists, and full-time legislative lobbyists—the environmental movement has also benefited by developing specialized legal advocacy groups, like the National Resources Defense Council, staffed primarily with lawyers and scientific experts committed exclusively to litigation that establishes important legal precedents and enforces pollution-control regulations for environmental protection.
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