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News articles on Environmental Law

Mongabay.com news articles on Environmental Law in blog format. Updated regularly.









New report finds millions of marine turtles killed by fisheries, not thousands

(04/06/2010) Humankind's appetite for seafood has had a bigger impact on the world's marine turtles than long thought. A new report by Conservation International (CI) in partnership with Duke University’s Project GloBAL (Global By-catch Assessment of Long-lived Species) finds that in the past eighteen years it is likely millions of marine turtles have been killed as bycatch by the world's fisheries.


History repeats itself: the path to extinction is still paved with greed and waste

(04/05/2010) As a child I read about the near-extinction of the American bison. Once the dominant species on America's Great Plains, I remember books illustrating how train-travelers would set their guns on open windows and shoot down bison by the hundreds as the locomotive sped through what was left of the wild west. The American bison plunged from an estimated 30 million to a few hundred at the opening of the 20th century. When I read about the bison's demise I remember thinking, with the characteristic superiority of a child, how such a thing could never happen today, that society has, in a word, 'progressed'. Grown-up now, the world has made me wiser: last month the international organization CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) struck down a ban on the Critically Endangered Atlantic bluefin tuna. The story of the Atlantic bluefin tuna is a long and mostly irrational one—that is if one looks at the Atlantic bluefin from a scientific, ecologic, moral, or common-sense perspective.


US gun, guitar, and furniture-manufactures must declare basic information about wood sources

(03/31/2010) In May of last year federal agents raided Gibson Guitar headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee after they received information that the guitar-giant was using illegally logged rosewood from Madagascar in the construction of their musical instruments. The scandal forced Gibson's CEO to take a leave of absence as a member of Rainforest Alliance.


When it comes to Yellow Fever, conserving howler monkeys saves lives

(03/29/2010) Abundant and diverse wildlife help people in many ways: for example bees pollinate plants, birds and mammals disperse seeds, bats control pest populations, and both plants and animals have produced life-saving medicines and technological advances. But how could howler monkeys save people from a Yellow Fever outbreak? A new study in the open-access journal Tropical Conservation Science explores the link between howler monkeys, mosquitoes, and humans during a recent yellow fever outbreak in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil.


Wildlife Management Areas in Africa require changes to become sustainable

(03/29/2010) Wildlife Management Areas in Africa were created to serve a dual purpose. By granting local communities usage rights over wildlife in designated areas, African countries hoped both to allow communities to benefit from their wildlife while taking an active part in conservation. A new paper in published in the open access journal Tropical Conservation Science outlines the current problems facing WMAs, using Tanzania as an example, and recommends possible solutions.


Guerrillas could drive gorillas toward extinction in Congo, warns UN

(03/25/2010) Gorillas may disappear across much of the Congo Basin by the mid 2020s unless action is taken to protect against poaching and habitat destruction, warns a new report issued by United Nations and INTERPOL.


CITES chooses 'commerce' over sharks, leaving endangered species vulnerable

(03/23/2010) Only the porbeagle shark received protection today from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Seven other shark species failed to win international protection despite plummeting populations due to overfishing. Once again, Japan led the opposition to regulating the trade in white-tipped sharks and scalloped hammerheads, including two look-alike species: the great hammerhead and the smooth hammerhead. Japan has dominated the CITES meeting, successfully leading resistance to banning the trade in the Critically Endangered Atlantic bluefin tuna and against monitoring the coral trade.


Rise in poaching pushes CITES to vote 'no' to ivory sales

(03/22/2010) The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has pleased conservationists with its decision to not allow the one-off sales of ivory from government stockpiles in Tanzania and Zambia given the recent rise in elephants poaching in Africa.


Critically Endangered bluefin tuna receives no reprieve from CITES

(03/18/2010) A proposal to totally ban the trade in the Critically Endangered Atlantic bluefin tuna failed at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), surprising many who saw positive signs leading up to the meeting of a successful ban.


Sharks lose out at UN meeting

(03/17/2010) An effort to bolster conservation measures for plummeting shark populations was defeated yesterday at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), according to the AP. The nonbinding measure would have increased transparency in the shark trade and produced research on illegal fishing for sharks.


Indonesia opens protected rainforests to mining and other developments

(03/16/2010) Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has issued new regulations, which will allow underground mining in protected areas, according to the Jakarta Post. The new rules will also allow power plants, renewable energy, and transportation such as toll roads in protected forests.


Forgotten Species: the marooned pygmy three-toed sloth

(03/16/2010) Many people consider tropical islands mini-paradises: sanctuaries cut-off from the rest of the world. Some species flourish on islands for the same reason. With few predators and a largely consistent environment, once a species has comfortably adapted to its habitat there's little to do but thrive. That is until something changes: like humans showing up. Changes in confined island ecosystems often have large and rapid impacts, too fast and too big for marooned species to survive.


Environmental groups call on Delmas to cancel shipment of illegally logged wood from Madagascar

(03/15/2010) Pressure is building on the French shipping company Delmas to cancel large shipments of rosewood, which was illegally logged in Madagascar during the nation's recent coup. Today two environmental groups, Global Witness and the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) called on Delmas to cancel the shipment, which is currently being loaded onto the Delmas operated ship named 'Kiara' in the Madagascar port of Vohemar.


Thousands of tons of illegal timber in Madagascar readied for export

(03/13/2010) As the President of France, Nicholas Sarkozy, argues in Paris that more funding is needed to stop deforestation and mitigate climate change, a shipment of illegal rosewood is being readied for export in Madagascar by a French company with the tacit approval of the French government.


Afghanistan protects 15 additional endangered species

(03/02/2010) Afghanistan's National Environment Protection Agency (NEP) has added 15 species to its Protected Species List, totaling 48 species now under protection. The new species includes the large-billed reed warbler, which was only recently discovered in the Central Asian nation. Fortunately, by law newly discovered species in Afghanistan receive automatic legal protection.


Common pesticide changes male frogs into females, likely devastating populations

(03/01/2010) One of the world's most popular pesticides, atrazine, chemically castrates male frogs and in some instances changes them into completely functionally females, according to a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The authors conclude that atrazine likely plays a large, but unsuspected role in the current global amphibian crisis.


How to end Madagascar's logging crisis

(02/10/2010) In the aftermath of a military coup last March, Madagascar's rainforests have been pillaged for precious hardwoods, including rosewood and ebonies. Tens of thousands of hectares have been affected, including some of the island's most biologically-diverse national parks: Marojejy, Masoala, and Makira. Illegal logging has also spurred the rise of a commercial bushmeat trade. Hunters are now slaughtering rare and gentle lemurs for restaurants.


EU: rainforests can be converted to palm oil plantations for biofuel production

(02/04/2010) The European Union may be planning to classify oil palm plantations as forests, raising fears among environmental groups of expanded conversion of tropical rainforests for biofuel production, reports the EUobserver, which cites a leaked document from the European Commission. The draft document shows that policymakers are considering language that would specifically allow use of biofuels produced via conversion of rainforests to oil palm plantations.


Dispelling myths about the US Lacey Act

(01/21/2010) The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) has released a document to dispel common myths related to the 2008 amendment to the Lacey Act, which makes it possible for the United States to support efforts to combat illegal logging both abroad and at home.


The real Avatar story: indigenous people fight to save their forest homes from corporate exploitation

(12/22/2009) In James Cameron's newest film Avatar an alien tribe on a distant planet fights to save their forest home from human invaders bent on mining the planet. The mining company has brought in ex-marines for 'security' and will stop at nothing, not even genocide, to secure profits for its shareholders. While Cameron's film takes place on a planet sporting six-legged rhinos and massive flying lizards, the struggle between corporations and indigenous people is hardly science fiction.


"Nature does not negotiate," warns UN head on arrival in Copenhagen

(12/15/2009) With talks at the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen ailing significantly—but by no means hopeless—the UN Secretary-General, Ban-Ki Moon, arrived today announcing: "We do not have another year to negotiate. Nature does not negotiate."


African nations return to the negotiating table after walkout in Copenhagen

(12/14/2009) African nations that staged a walkout during negotiations at the Climate Change Conference at Copenhagen have returned to the table, according to the BBC. African nations accused industrial nations of attempting to throw out the Kyoto Protocol.


Brazil grants deforestation amnesty for farmers and ranchers

(12/14/2009) A decree issued by President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva suspends up to $5.7 billion in fines and gives ranchers and farmers in the Amazon two more years to come into compliance with environmental laws aimed to curtain deforestation, reports the Associated Press.


Cattle company bulldozing UNESCO site, threatening uncontacted natives

(12/09/2009) A Brazilian ranching company is bulldozing land within UNESCO Chaco Biosphere Reserve in Paraguay, home to the only uncontacted natives outside of the Amazon in South America. While the UNESCO status provides no legal protections to the area, it is meant as an international marker to protect the tribe of the Ayoreo-Totobiegosode and the forest they inhabit.


Europe says US and China emission targets don't go far enough

(12/07/2009) At a press conference during the first day of the UN Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, the European Union has stated it will not raise its emissions cuts from 20 percent to 30 percent by 2020 (over 1990 levels) unless the US and China go further in their cuts.


Obama administration about to declare carbon dioxide a danger to the public, allowing regulation

(12/06/2009) The day before talks start in Copenhagen on a new international treaty to combat climate change, the Wall Street Journal reports that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the United States is set to declare carbon dioxide a 'public danger' as soon as Monday.


The US will set emissions target, but is this a turning point for success at Copenhagen?

(11/24/2009) Today may mark a turning point for a successful negotiation at the Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen or it may just be another blip in the up-and-down news cycles that have preceded the summit for months.


Gibson Guitar under federal investigation for alleged use of illegal rainforest timber from Madagascar

(11/19/2009) Federal agents from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service raided Gibson Guitar's factory Tuesday afternoon, due to concerns that the company had been using illegally harvested wood from Madagascar, reports the Nashville Post.


Actions taken to save sharks 'disappointing'

(11/15/2009) Environmentalists say that the International Commissions for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT) did not do enough in their yearly meeting to protect the ocean's sharks.


ICCAT fails to protect critically endangered tuna—again

(11/15/2009) The International Commissions for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT) ignored the advice of its scientists to end fishing of the Atlantic bluefin tuna. Instead ICAAT set a quota of 13,500 tons of fish. This is not the first time ICCAT has flouted its own researchers' advice: it has repeatedly set quotas well-above its researchers' recommendations.


Costa Rica proposes to downgrade Las Baulas National Park, threatening leatherback sea turtles

(11/11/2009) Costa Rica is considered by many to be a shining example of environmental stewardship, preserving both its terrestrial and marine biodiversity while benefiting from being a popular tourist location. However, a new move by the Costa Rican government has placed their reputation in question. In May of this year the President of Costa Rica, Oscar Arias, presented a law to the legislature that would downgrade Las Baulas from a National Park to a 'mixed property wildlife refuge'. The downgrading would authorize a number of development projects that conservationists say would threaten the park's starring resident: the leatherback turtle.


Tiger rescued from poachers in Malaysia perishes from injuries

(10/29/2009) Rescued in early October from a poacher's snare, a Malayan tiger has died from stress and infection due to its injuries. The 120 kilogram (264 pound) male tiger died on October 19th in the Malacca Zoo after undergoing surgery to amputate its right foreleg, which two weeks before had been caught in a poacher's snare and severely injured. "It broke my heart as I was there during the rescue. Everyone had such high hopes of the tiger being released back into the wild after its treatment at the zoo, and no one spoke of the in-betweens," says Reuben Clements.


Illegal logging trade from Myanmar to China slows, but doesn't stop

(10/28/2009) The illegal wood trade from Myanmar to China has slowed, but it still threatens Myanmar's tropical forests and species, according to a new report by Global Witness. From 2005 and 2008 improved border controls into China led to a drop in imports of logs and sawn wood by 70 percent.


New reserve created in Cambodia with REDD in mind

(10/26/2009) Cambodia's Royal Government's Council of Ministers has declared the creation of the Seima Protection Forest, a 1,100 square miles (2,849 square kilometers) park home to tigers, elephants, and endangered primates. The park's creation was developed in part by the Wildlife Conservation Society's (WCS) "Carbon for Conservation" program, which intends to protect high-biodiversity ecosystems while raising funds through carbon sequestration schemes such as Reducing Emission from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD).


Amazonian natives say they will defend tribal lands from Hunt Oil with "their lives"

(10/25/2009) Indigenous natives in the Amazon are headed to the town of Salvacion in Peru with a plan to forcibly remove the Texas-based Hunt Oil company from their land as early as today. Peruvian police forces, numbering in the hundreds, are said to be waiting in the town. The crisis has risen over an area known as Lot 76, or the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve. The 400,000 hectare reserve was created in 2002 to protect the flora and fauna of the area, as well as to safeguard watersheds of particular importance to indigenous groups in the region.


Emotional call for palm oil industry to address environmental problems

(10/21/2009) During what was at times an emotional speech, Sabah's Minister of Tourism, Culture, and Environment, Datuk Masidi Manjun, called on the palm oil industry to stop polluting rivers and work with NGOs to save orangutans and other wildlife. He delivered the speech on the first day of an Orangutan Conservation Colloquium held in early October in the Malaysian state of Sabah on the island of Borneo.


Brazilian beef giants agree to moratorium on Amazon deforestation

(10/07/2009) Four of the world's largest cattle producers and traders have agreed to a moratorium on buying cattle from newly deforested areas in the Amazon rainforest, reports Greenpeace.


Palm oil industry pledges wildlife corridors to save orangutans

(10/03/2009) In an unlikely—and perhaps tenuous—alliance, conservationists and the palm oil industry met this week to draw up plans to save Asia's last great ape, the orangutan. As if to underscore the colloquium's importance, delegates on arriving in the Malaysian State of Sabah found the capital covered in a thick and strange fog caused by the burning of rainforests and peat lands in neighboring Kalimantan. After two days of intensive meetings the colloquium adopted a resolution which included the acquisition of land for creating wildlife buffer zones of at least 100 meters along all major rivers, in addition to corridors for connecting forests. Researchers said such corridors were essential if orangutans were to have a future in Sabah.


EU biofuels policy undermines governance in Indonesia, alleges report

(09/21/2009) Indonesian authorities are failing to prevent illegal logging and conversion of protected areas for oil palm cultivation used to supply the European market with supposedly "green" biofuels, alleges a new report from Milieudefensie (Friends of the Earth Netherlands) and WALHI KalBar (Friends of the Earth Indonesia, West Kalimantan). The report, "Failing governance - Avoiding responsibilities", claims that European biofuel policies have driven reckless oil palm expansion in Ketapang District, West Kalimantan, resulting in illegal issuance of development permits and land conflicts, thereby undermining governance structures.


Brazil may ban sugarcane plantations from the Amazon, Pantanal

(09/18/2009) Brazil will restrict sugarcane plantations for ethanol production from the Amazon, the Pantanal, and other ecologically-sensitive areas under a plan announced Thursday by President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's administration, reports the Associated Press.


Fifteen indigenous leaders arrested in Borneo for protesting dams that would flood their lands

(09/16/2009) After attempting to send a memorandum of protest against two dam proposals to the Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud, fifteen indigenous leaders were arrested in Kuching, Sarawak, reports the non-governmental organization the Burno Manser Fund.


Independent review finds logging company has abused rights of indigenous Penan in Borneo

(09/15/2009) An independent review of Interhill Logging found that the Sarawak logging company has regularly violated forest laws and abused the rights of the indigenous Penan peoples. The review, conducted by French tourism giant ACCOR, found that Interhill Logging had not received free, prior, and informed consent from the local Penan people for its logging operations; the logging being done by Interhill "is very definitely not sustainable"; the company is not fully compiling with Sarawak's Natural Resources and Environment Board; and Interhill is providing no long-term benefits to the Penan peoples.


Economists, scientists warn that world crises require new order of international cooperation and enforcement

(09/15/2009) A group of environmental scientists and economists warn that under current governing models the number and scale of human-caused crises are "outrunning our ability to deal with them".


France announces carbon tax

(09/10/2009) The President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, has announced that he will implement a carbon tax to help "save the human race" from global warming.


Concerns over deforestation may drive new approach to cattle ranching in the Amazon

(09/08/2009) While you're browsing the mall for running shoes, the Amazon rainforest is probably the farthest thing from your mind. Perhaps it shouldn't be. The globalization of commodity supply chains has created links between consumer products and distant ecosystems like the Amazon. Shoes sold in downtown Manhattan may have been assembled in Vietnam using leather supplied from a Brazilian processor that subcontracted to a rancher in the Amazon. But while demand for these products is currently driving environmental degradation, this connection may also hold the key to slowing the destruction of Earth's largest rainforest.


Could DNA barcodes help fight the commercial wildlife trade? [warning: graphic image]

(09/08/2009) Illegal wildlife traders around the world may have a new enemy: DNA barcodes. These short genetic sequences could aid police and customs officials around the world in tracking the origin of confiscated bushmeat and other wildlife products.


Vietnam outsources deforestation to neighboring countries

(09/02/2009) Taking a cue from its much larger neighbor to the north, Vietnam has outsourced deforestation to neighboring countries, according to a new study that quantified the amount of displacement resulting from restrictions on domestic logging. Like China, Vietnam has experienced a resurgence in forest cover over the past twenty years, largely as a result a forestry policies that restricted timber harvesting and encouraged the development of processing industries that turned raw log imports into finished products for export. These measures contributed to a 55 percent of Vietnam's forests between 1992 and 2005, while bolstering the country's stunning economic growth. But the environmental benefit of the increase in Vietnam's forest cover is deceptive: it came at the expense of forests in Laos, Cambodia, and Indonesia. Authors Patrick Meyfroidt and Eric F. Lambin of the Universite Catholique de Louvain in Belgium calculate that 39 percent of Vietnam's forest regrowth between 1987 and 2006 was effectively logged in other countries. Half of the wood imports into Vietnam were illegal.


The Pope: "creation is under threat"

(08/26/2009) Pope Benedict XVI spoke today on environmental issues, singling out the importance of a September U.N. summit in New York to work on negotiations for an international framework to tackle climate change, preparing for the U.N. Conference on Climate Change in Copenhagen in December.


World's largest bat threatened with extinction due to legal hunting

(08/25/2009) Under the current legal hunting rate scientists predict that the world's largest bat, the aptly-named large flying fox or Pteropus vampyrus, faces extinction in six to 81 years. Increasing the urgency to save the large flying fox is the vital role it plays as an ecosystem engineer (a species whose behavior can shape an ecosystem); the species maintains Southeast Asian forests by dispersing a wide variety of seeds over distances farther than most birds and other mammals.


Gold mining threatens world's most infamous reptile, the Komodo dragon

(08/24/2009) A row has taken off in Indonesia over whether or not to allow gold mining near Komodo National Park, home to the infamous, venomous, and largest of all lizards, the Komodo dragon. Eight mines have currently been proposed, several have already begun exploratory work. Critics of the gold mines contend that the mining threatens the ecology of the park and the Komodo dragon, listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN.



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