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News articles on Environmental Law
Mongabay.com news articles on Environmental Law in blog format. Updated regularly.
(04/29/2013) The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is proposing to end protection for all gray wolves (Canis lupus) in the lower 48 states, save for a small population of Mexican wolves in New Mexico, reports the Los Angeles Times. The proposal comes two years after wolves were removed from the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in western states by a legislative rider on a budget bill, and soon after in the midwest. Since then hunting and trapping has killed over 1,500 wolves in these two regions.
Bizarre, little-known carnivore sold as illegal pet in Indonesian markets (photo)
(04/24/2013) Few people have ever heard of the Javan ferret-badger, but that hasn't stopped this animal—little-known even to scientists—from being sold in open markets in Jakarta according to a new paper in Small Carnivore Conservation. The Javan ferret-badger (Melogale orientalis) is one of five species in the ferret-badger family, which are smaller than proper badgers with long bushy tails and elongated faces; all five species are found in Asia.
'Carbon bubble' could cause next global financial crisis
(04/22/2013) The world could be heading for a major economic crisis as stock markets inflate an investment bubble in fossil fuels to the tune of trillions of dollars, according to leading economists. "The financial crisis has shown what happens when risks accumulate unnoticed," said Lord (Nicholas) Stern, a professor at the London School of Economics. He said the risk was "very big indeed" and that almost all investors and regulators were failing to address it.
A new tool against illegal logging: tree DNA technology goes mainstream
(04/22/2013) Modern DNA technology offers a unique opportunity: you could pinpoint the origin of your table at home and track down if the trees it was made from were illegally obtained. Each wooden piece of furniture comes with a hidden natural barcode that can tell its story from a sapling in a forest all the way to your living room.
Brazil threatens $282m in fines for beef linked to Amazon deforestation
(04/17/2013) Federal prosecutors in Brazil are threatening to fine 26 beef producers $282 million for buying cattle raised in illegally deforested areas and on Indian reservations, reports Reuters.
Judge halts military-backed dam assessment in Brazil's Amazon
(04/17/2013) A federal court in Brazil has suspended the use of military and police personnel during technical research on the controversial São Luíz do Tapajós Dam in the Brazilian Amazon. The military and police were brought in to stamp down protests from indigenous people living along the Tapajós River, but the judge decreed that impacted indigenous groups must give free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC) before any furter studies can be done on the proposed dam. However, the decision is expected to be appealed.
Civet poop coffee may be threatening wild species
(04/16/2013) Popularization of the world's strangest coffee may be imperiling a a suite of small mammals in Indonesia, according to a new study in Small Carnivore Conservation. The coffee, known as kopi luwak (kopi for coffee and luwak for the civet), is made from whole coffee beans that have passed through the guts of the animal and out the other side. The coffee is apparently noted for its distinct taste, though some have argued it is little more than novelty.
Double bad: Chinese vessel that collided with protected coral reef holding 22,000 pounds of pangolin meat
(04/15/2013) What do you do when you're smuggling 22,000 pounds of an endangered species on your boat? Answer: crash into a protected coral reef in the Philippines. Last Monday a Chinese vessel slammed into a coral reef in the Tubbataha National Marine Park; on Saturday the Filipino coastguard discovered 400 boxes of pangolin meat while inspecting the ship. Pangolins, which are scaly insect-eating mammals, have been decimated by the illegal wildlife trade as their scales are prized in Chinese Traditional Medicine and their meat is considered a delicacy.
Killings over land continues in the Amazon
(04/04/2013) On Wednesday, in the Brazilian state of Pará, the trial begins of three men accused of murdering José Cláudio Ribeiro da Silva and his wife Maria do Espirito Santo, who had campaigned against loggers and ranchers for years. Their assassinations in May 2011 generated international outrage, just like that of Chico Mendes, 25 years ago, and that of the American-born nun Dorothy Stang in 2005.
Burning coal may be killing over 100,000 people in India every year
(03/13/2013) India's dependence on coal-fired power plants for energy may be leading directly to the deaths of 80,000 to 115,000 of its citizens every year, according to the first ever report on the health impacts of coal in the country. The report, commissioned by the Conservation Action Trust and Greenpeace-India, deals only with the direct health impact of coal and not climate change. But even ignoring the rising pain of global warming, the bleak report outlines that coal consumption in India is causing over 20 million asthma attacks, nearly a million emergency room visits, and killing some 10,000 children under five annually.
Prayers for dying elephants: Buddhists hold prayer ceremony for elephants decimated by poachers
(03/11/2013) Buddhist leaders prayed for slaughtered African elephants in Bangkok, Thailand last week, reports WWF. During a special merit-making ceremony, often reserved for the recently deceased, Buddhist monks, abbots, and leaders prayed for the tens-of-thousands of elephants that have been killed for their ivory tusks. Bangkok is currently hosting an international meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), where the elephant crisis is being discussed.
Sharks and rays win protections at CITES
(03/11/2013) Today, for the first time, sharks and rays have won the vote for better protection under CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species), the world's regulating body on trade in threatened species. Five shark species and manta rays, which includes two species, have received enough votes to be listed under Appendix II of CITES, which means tougher regulations, but not an outright ban. However, the votes could still be overturned before the end of the meeting.
New illegal logging ban in EU could sever all ties with companies working in DRC
(03/04/2013) Yesterday, the EU joined the U.S. and Australia in banning all timber that was illegally harvested abroad. The new regulation could have a major impact on where the EU sources its timber, and no where more so than the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). According to a new report by Greenpeace, the DRC's current moratorium on industrial logging is being systematically circumvented making all timber from the country suspect.
CITES 40th Anniversary: Reflections of CITES Secretary-General John Scanlon
(03/04/2013) The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) is often hailed by scholars and conservationists as the most effective international environmental agreement. On March 3, CITES celebrates its 40th anniversary. What accounts for its success? In the following interview, CITES Secretary-General John Scanlon reflects on the convention’s strengths and weaknesses.
Thailand's Prime Minister commits to ending ivory trade
(03/04/2013) Yesterday, Thailand's Prime Minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, committed to ending the ivory trade in her country. Her announcement came during the opening of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES) in Bangkok, which seeks to regulate trade in biodiversity across borders. Wildlife groups say that Thailand's legal trade in domestic ivory—international ivory is illegal of course—has created an easy opening for smugglers from abroad. Currently the ivory trade in Thailand is estimated to be second only to that of China.
First strike: nearly 200 illegal loggers arrested in massive sting across 12 countries
(02/20/2013) One-hundred-and-ninety-seven illegal loggers across a dozen Central and South American countries have been arrested during INTERPOL's first strike against widespread forestry crime. INTERPOL, or The International Criminal Police Organization, worked with local police forces to take a first crack at illegal logging. In all the effort, known as Operation Lead, resulted in the seizure of 50,000 cubic meters of wood worth around $8 million.
Biofuel company caught clearing elephant habitat in Sri Lanka
(02/20/2013) A biofuel plantation near Yala National Park has landed Lanka Orex Leasing Company PLC (LOLC) in Sri Lanka's highest court. Environmentalists say the company is illegally bulldozing Asian elephant habitat, including scrubland and tree stands, near the buffer zone of Yala National Park for gliricidia (Gliricidia sepium) biofuel plantation.
Rosewood in Belize: the truth behind the smoke
(02/11/2013) In Belize, the uncontrolled and often illegal harvesting of rosewood has been, and still is, one of the major environmental issues in the country. In March of last year, the government established a moratorium on the export and extraction of rosewood, however illegal harvesting continued. On Friday 11 January, the Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development made the bold move of burning confiscated illegally cut rosewood flitches.
Pity the pangolin: little-known mammal most common victim of the wildlife trade
(02/11/2013) Last year tens-of-thousands of elephants and hundreds of rhinos were butchered to feed the growing appetite of the illegal wildlife trade. This black market, largely centered in East Asia, also devoured tigers, sharks, leopards, turtles, snakes, and hundreds of other animals. Estimated at $19 billion annually, the booming trade has periodically captured global media attention, even receiving a high-profile speech by U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, last year. But the biggest mammal victim of the wildlife trade is not elephants, rhinos, or tigers, but an animal that receives little notice and even less press: the pangolin. If that name doesn't ring a bell, you're not alone.
U.S. proposes to list wolverine under Endangered Species Act
(02/05/2013) Arguably one of the toughest animals on Earth, the wolverine (Gulo gulo) may soon find itself protected under the U.S.'s Endangered Species Act (ESA) as climate change melts away its preferred habitat. Last week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced it was proposing to place the world's largest terrestrial mustelid on the list. Only 250-300 wolverines are believed to survive in the contiguous U.S.
Asian bear farming: breaking the cycle of exploitation (warning: graphic images)
(01/31/2013) In the forests of Asia, bears are being captured. These captives will be sent to bear farms, most unregulated and illegal, where they will be kept alive in a small cage, locked away for life. Their bodies will be used as renewable natural resources, from which profit will be made through the extraction of internal organs and fluids. By surgically inserting a permanent catheter into the bears' gall bladders, "farmers" extract several ounces of their bile. In a cycle of exploitation across east Asia, traditional medicine shops receive these daily shipments of bear bile products, while consumers support the industry through the purchase of these products, sustaining a supply-and-demand chain that puts more and more bears in cages as wild populations dwindle.
Bolivia takes step to boost agriculture and curb surging deforestation
(01/28/2013) Bolivia has passed a land use law that aims to boost food security and slow deforestation in a region that is wracked by illegal forest clearing. Approved earlier this month, Ley 337 seeks to regulate land use in the Bolivian Amazon where deforestation for industrial agricultural production is surging. The law requires landowners who illegally deforested land prior to 2011 to either reforest or establish 'productive agriculture' on the land and pay reduced fines for past transgressions.
Poaching in Serengeti seems worth the risk
(12/10/2012) Illegal hunting in Tanzania's Greater Serengeti Ecosystem (GSE) remains a prevalent activity for local people, despite government regulation and grassroots movements to prevent it. A new paper from mongabay.com's open-access Tropical Conversation Science examines the factors that drive poachers to continue their activities, despite the high costs involved. By interviewing citizens involved with illegal hunting in the Western part of the Serengeti, they were able to identify key risks that are faced by the hunters as well as the perceived gains of a successful hunt.
Forests, farming, and sprawl: the struggle over land in an Amazonian metropolis
(12/04/2012) The city of Parauapebas, Brazil is booming: built over the remains of the Amazon rainforest, the metropolis has grown 75-fold in less than 25 years, from 2,000 people upwards of 150,000. But little time for urban planning and both a spatial and mental distance from the federal government has created a frontier town where small-scale farmers struggle to survive against racing sprawl, legal and illegal mining, and a lack of investment in environmental protection. Forests, biodiversity, and subsistence farmers have all suffered under the battle for land. In this, Parauapebas may represent a microcosm both of Brazil's ongoing problems (social inequality, environmental degradation, and deforestation) and opportunity (poverty alleviation, reforestation, and environmental enforcement).
'Exporting deforestation': China is the kingpin of illegal logging
(11/29/2012) Runaway economic growth comes with costs: in the case of China's economic engine, one of them has been the world's forests. According to a new report by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), China has become the number one importer of illegal wood products from around the world. Illegal logging—which threatens biodiversity, emits carbon, impoverishes local communities, and is often coupled with other crimes—has come under heavy pressure in recent years from the U.S., the EU, and Australia. Each of these has implemented, or will soon implement, new laws that make importing and selling illegal wood products domestic crimes. However, China's unwillingness to tackle its vast appetite for illegal timber means the trade continues to decimate forests worldwide.
Australia outlaws illegally-logged wood from abroad
(11/21/2012) In another blow to illegal loggers, Australia has passed the Illegal Logging Prohibition Bill, joining the U.S. in outlawing the importation of illegal logged timber from abroad. The new legislation makes it a criminal offense for Australian businesses to import timber from illegal operations. The Australian government estimates that $400 million worth of illegal timber products are sold in the country each year often as outdoor furniture and wood for decks
BP fined $4.5 billion for Gulf of Mexico oil spill, but company may spend more buying its own stocks
(11/19/2012) Last week the U.S. federal government fined BP $4.5 billion for the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010, which killed 11 workers and leaked nearly 5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The oil giant also plead guilt to 12 felonies and two misdemeanors. However, even this fine—the largest in U.S. history—failed to dampen shareholder support of BP: stocks actually rose one percent following the announcement. Meanwhile, according to the Sunday Times, BP plans to spend $5.9 billion (over a billion more than the fine) buying back its own shares in order to boost stock prices.
Featured video: on-the-ground look at Brazil's fight against deforestation
(11/15/2012) A new video by the Guardian takes an on-the-ground look at Brazil's efforts to tackle deforestation in the Amazon. Using satellite imagery, an elite team of enforcement agents are now able to react swiftly to illegal deforestation. The crackdown on deforestation has been successful: destruction of the Amazon has slowed by around 75 percent in the last 8 years.
Foreign loggers and corrupt officials flouting logging moratorium in the Democratic Republic of Congo
(11/08/2012) In 2002 the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) announced a moratorium on commercial logging in a bid to save rapidly falling forests, however a new report by Global Witness alleges that industrial loggers are finding a way around the logging freeze. Through unscrupulous officials, foreign companies are abusing artisanal permits—meant for local community logging—to clear-cut wide swathes of tropical forest in the country. These logging companies are often targeting an endangered tree—wenge (Millettia laurentii)—largely for buyers in China and Europe.
Over 100,000 farmers squatting in Sumatran park to grow coffee
(11/06/2012) Sumatra's Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park—home to the Critically Endangered Sumatran rhinos, tigers, and elephants—has become overrun with coffee farmers, loggers, and opportunists according to a new paper in Conservation and Society. An issue facing the park for decades, the study attempted for the first time to determine the number of squatters either living in or farming off Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site; the rough census—over 100,000 people—shocked scientists.
'The ivory trade is like drug trafficking' (warning graphic images)
(11/05/2012) For the past five years, Spanish biologist Luis Arranz has been the director of Garamba National Park, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Arranz and a team of nearly 240 people, 140 guards among them, work to protect a vast area of about 5,000 square kilometers (1,930 square miles) of virgin forest, home to a population of more than 2.300 elephants that are facing a new and more powerful enemy. The guards are encountering not only bigger groups of poachers, but with ever more sophisticated weapons. According to Arranz, armed groups such as the Lord’s Resistance Army from Uganda are now killing elephants for their ivory.
Leopard poaching is a bigger problem in India than previously believed
(10/31/2012) A recent study conducted by wildlife trade monitoring group TRAFFIC uncovered unnerving statistics about the illegal trade of leopards (Panthera pardus) in India: at least four leopards have been poached every week for the past decade in the country. The study, entitled Illuminating the Blind Spot: A study on illegal trade in Leopard parts in India, highlights the severity of leopard poaching from 2001 to 2010, despite preventative measures established in 1972 by the Wildlife Protection Act (WLPA) that prohibit the sale of leopard parts in India.
Indonesia remains epicenter for illegal wildlife trade in reptiles and amphibians
(10/24/2012) Demand for exotic pets is driving the illegal harvest and trade of herpetofauna (reptiles and amphibians) in Indonesian New Guinea, according to a recent study published in the journal Biodiversity and Conservation. Between September 2010 and April 2011, Daniel Natusch and Jessica Lyons of the University of New South Wales surveyed traders of amphibians and reptiles in the Indonesian provinces of Maluku, West Papua and Papua.
El Salvador mulls total ban on mining
(10/22/2012) On hot days the broken stone and dried up silt from the San Sebastian mine in Eastern El Salvador bake in the sun. The slew of refuse is freckled with rock stained bright blue with cyanide, open to the elements that on rainier days will wash it downhill into the Rio San Sebastian below. The openings of passages into the mine dot the mountainside, and further downhill a bright orange stream with a chemical stench flows into another. The American Commerce Group ceased operating here in 1999 but sought to return when the price of gold began its current escalation.
Most controversial aspects of Brazil's new Forest Code vetoed as legislation signed into law
(10/19/2012) Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff signed into law a revised version of the country's Forest Code, vetoing some of the most controversial changes proposed by agricultural interests in Brazil's Congress.
Brazil forms special environmental security force to combat spike in deforestation
(10/11/2012) Brazil will set up a special environmental security force in an effort to stem rising deforestation in the Amazon rainforest, reports AFP.
90 percent of oil palm plantations came at expense of forest in Kalimantan
(10/08/2012) From 1990 to 2010 almost all palm oil expansion in Kalimantan came at the expense of forest cover, according to the most detailed look yet at the oil palm industry in the Indonesian state, published in Nature: Climate Change. Palm oil plantations now cover 31,640 square kilometers of the state, having expanded nearly 300 percent since 2000. The forest loss led to the emission of 0.41 gigatons of carbon, more than Indonesia's total industrial emissions produced in a year. Furthermore the scientists warn that if all current leases were converted by 2020, over a third of Kalimantan's lowland forests outside of protected areas would become plantations and nearly quadruple emissions.
Wax palm can be sustainably harvested
(09/17/2012) The wax palm can be harvested sustainably with just a few management restrictions, according to a new study in mongabay.com's open access journal Tropical Conservation Science (TCS). Found only in the Peruvian and Ecuadorian Andes, the leaves of the wax palm (Ceroxylon echinulatum) are used to make Easter handicrafts. But the practice has caused fears that the species, which is currently categorized as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List, is being overexploited.
Illegal lobster fishermen slammed with over $50 million penalty
(08/21/2012) Three men who illegally harvested lobster from South African waters and smuggled them to the U.S. for 14 years have been ordered to pay $54.9 million in restitution to the South African government by a District Court in Manhattan. According to the Pew Environment Group this is the largest restitution order under the U.S. Lacey Act, which deals with the illegal wildlife trade. The judgement, however, still requires the approval of a district judge.
Move to regularize mining in Colombia spurs concerns
(08/17/2012) Colombia's move last week to begin granting new mining concessions across 17.6 million hectares has raised concerns about the potential environmental impacts of a new mining boom across the country.
Belo Monte mega-dam halted again by high Brazilian court, appeal likely but difficult
(08/15/2012) A high federal court in Brazil has ruled that work on the Belo Monte dam in the Brazilian Amazon be immediately suspended. Finding that the government failed to properly consult indigenous people on the dam, the ruling is the latest in innumerable twists and turns regarding the massive dam, which was first conceived in the 1970s, and has been widely criticized for its impact on tribal groups in the region and the Amazon environment. In addition the Regional Federal Tribunal (TRF1) found that Brazil's Environmental Impact Assessment was flawed since it was conducted after work on the dam had already begun.
A new tool for taking on elephant poaching: DNA forensics
(08/08/2012) One of the difficulties plaguing law enforcement and authorities when it comes to tackling elephant poaching is determining where the ivory originates. Now, research published in the journal Evolutionary Applications, has found a new way of tracking ivory back to wild elephants populations: forensic genetic studies.
Gibson Guitar to pay $300,000 for violating Lacey Act with illegal timber imports from Madagascar
(08/06/2012) Gibson Guitar Company has avoided criminal prosecution under the Lacey Act — a law that aims to curb illegal logging abroad — by settling with the Department of Justice.
Indigenous tribes hold 3 engineers hostage over Belo Monte dam
(07/26/2012) Three engineers are being held hostage by the Juruna and Arara indigenous tribes as tensions rise over the on-going construction of the Belo Monte dam in Brazil, reports the Indigenous rights NGO Amazon Watch. The company building the dam, Norte Energia, has confirmed that three of its employees were being held against their will. Tribal groups in the region say the massive dam will upend their way of life, and that construction is already making travel along the Xingu river difficult.
Indonesia to investigate palm oil company's alleged breach of deforestation moratorium
(07/23/2012) Indonesia's top official charged with implementing the country's moratorium on new concessions in peatlands and primary forest areas is calling for an investigation into alleged violations by a palm oil company operating in Central Kalimantan, reports the REDD+ Task Force.
Endangered fruit bats, and many other species, on the menu in the Philippines
(07/09/2012) Bushmeat hunting is well-known to be decimating animal populations in Africa, but has been little studied much of Southeast Asia. However, a new paper in mongabay.com's open access journal Tropical Conservation Science shines light on the size and scale of bushmeat poaching in the Philippines. Studying an anonymous community near a national park on the island of Luzon, researchers found that poachers targeted 22 species, ten of which are considered either threatened or near threatened with extinction by the IUCN Red List.
President Rousseff vetoes some controversial changes to Brazil's Forest Code
(05/29/2012) Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff on Monday revealed the details of her line-item veto to proposed changes to the country's Forest Code, which governs how much forest landowners are required to preserve. Rousseff vetoed a dozen clauses of the revised Forest Code and modified several others. The bill now goes back to the Chamber of Deputies, followed by the Senate and House, before returning again to Rousseff. A final decision isn't expected until after the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development.
Indigenous group paid $0.65/ha for forest worth $5,000/ha in Indonesia
(05/23/2012) A palm oil company has paid indigenous Moi landowners in Indonesian Papua a paltry $0.65 per hectare for land that will be worth $5,000 a hectare once cultivated, according to a new report by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and Indonesian NGO, Telepak. The report outlines similar disadvantageous deals in timber with the same companies breaking their promises of bringing education and infrastructure.
Indonesia's Environment Ministry to sue APP, APRIL in $225B illegal logging case
(05/03/2012) Indonesia's Ministry of Environment is planning to sue 14 pulp and paper companies for illegally logging forests in Riau Province on the island of Sumatra, reports Tempo Magazine. 12 of the 14 companies are linked to Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) and Asian Pacific Resources International Holdings Limited (APRIL), pulp and paper giants that have been heavily criticized by environmentalists for destroying rainforests and peatlands that serve as critical habitat for endangered tigers, elephants, and orangutans.
NGO: lifting sanctions on Myanmar must lead to forestry reform
(04/26/2012) Following historic elections, many foreign powers have relaxed or lifted sanctions against Myanmar, also known as Burma. But the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) warns that the end of sanctions presents Myanmar and the world with a choice: further plundering of the country's forests for outside markets or large-scale forestry reform.
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