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News articles on Environmental Law
Mongabay.com news articles on Environmental Law in blog format. Updated regularly.
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.
Environmental disappointments under Obama
(08/24/2009) While the President has been bogged down for the last couple months in an increasingly histrionic health-care debate-which has devolved so far into ridiculousness that one doesn't know whether to laugh or cry-environmental decisions, mostly from the President's appointees have still been coming fast and furious. However, while the administration started out pouring sunshine on the environment (after years of obfuscated drudgery under the Bush administration), they soon began to move away from truly progressive decisions on the environment and into the recognizable territory of playing it safe-and sometimes even stupid.
Idaho to allow 25 percent of its wolf population to be killed in one season
(08/19/2009) The state of Idaho has set a quota of 220 individuals for the wolf hunting season which begins on September 1st. If the quota a quarter of Idaho’s estimated 880 wolves will be killed.
Despite legal protection, Indian turtles are poached for restaurant trade
(08/10/2009) Despite being accorded the highest level of protection under Indian law, soft shell turtles are regularly trafficked in Kerala for the restaurant trade, report researchers writing in in the journal Tropical Conservation Science.
Madagascar issues fines for timber stolen from national parks during political crisis
(08/03/2009) Authorities in Madagascar have blocked shipment of 176 containers of rosewood and other valuable timber from Vohémar port, pending payment of 72 million Malagasy ariary ($37,500) in fines reports Noro Niaina of Les Nouvelles. The wood was illegally harvested from Marojejy and Masoala National Parks during the chaos that followed a March military coup on the Indian Ocean island nation.
Alcoa mine to clear 25,000 acres of rainforest, suck 133,407 gallons of water per hour from the Amazon
(07/31/2009) A bauxite mine under development by Alcoa, the world’s second-largest primary aluminum producer, will consume 10,500 hectares (25,900 acres) of primary Amazon rainforest and suck 133,407 gallons of water per hour from the Amazon, reports Bloomberg News in an extensive write-up.
Chinese companies to be held liable for environmental damage caused overseas
(07/23/2009) Chinese companies operating overseas may soon be held responsible for damage caused in their host countries, reports China state media
Chevron expects to lose $27B suit but will refuse to pay damages
(07/22/2009) Chevron Corp. expects to lose a multibillion dollar environmental lawsuit in Ecuador but has no intention of paying damages and will continue to fight for "decades", reports the Wall Street Journal.
China to support greener palm oil
(07/15/2009) China-based producers and users of palm oil said they will provide more support for sustainable palm oil, reports WWF. The move could boost efforts to reduce the environmental impacts of the world's most productive oilseed.
Indonesia releases revenue sharing rules for REDD forest carbon projects
(07/13/2009) Indonesia has released revenue sharing rules for forest carbon projects, reports Reuters. According to a document released by the forestry ministry, the profit-sharing depends on the type of forest ownership or permit, ranging from 10 to 50 percent for the government, 20 to 70 percent for local communities, and 20 to 60 percent for developers. Projects in areas classified as "protected forest" would see 50 percent go to the government, 20 percent to local communities, and 30 percent to developers, while for projects in indigenous forest the breakdown would be 10% to the government, 70 percent to the community, and 20 percent to the developer.
Multinational corporation continues destruction of orangutan habitat in Indonesia
(07/09/2009) A coalition of environmental groups stepped up efforts to stop Astra Agro Lestari (AAL), an Indonesian palm oil company, from continuing to clear orangutan habitat in Aceh province, Indonesia.
Brazil approves land tenure law that grants 260,000 sq mi of rainforest to settlers, speculators
(06/29/2009) Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva last week signed a controversial law granting 67.4 million hectares (166 million acres) of Amazon rainforest land to more than 1 million illegal settlers, reports Reuters.
Implications of the American Clean Energy and Security Act for conservation
(06/26/2009) Following today's passage of the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES) by the House of Representatives, The Natury Conservancy released a set of questions and answers with Mark Tercek, its chairman and CEO.
Global warming bill passes the House
(06/26/2009) The U.S. House of Representatives passed the country's first climate change legislation 219-212 on Friday. The vote was highly partisan with Democrats generally supporting the American Clean Energy and Security Act, and Republicans mostly opposing it.
Scientists call on Obama for ‘maximum personal leadership’ to combat global warming
(06/22/2009) Twenty leading scientists have called on President Obama “to exercise maximum personal leadership” in tackling the threat posed by climate change.
Peru revokes decrees that sparked Amazon Indian uprising
(06/19/2009) Peru's Congress revoked two controversial land laws that sparked violent conflicts between indigenous protesters and police in the country's Amazon region. The move temporarily defuses a two-week crisis, with protesters agreeing to stand down by removing blockades from roads and rivers. Congress voted 82-14 Thursday to overturn legislative decrees 1090 and 1064, which would have facilitated foreign development of Amazon land. Indigenous groups said the decrees threatened millions of hectares of Amazon rainforest and undermined their traditional land use rights.
Brazil's plan to save the Amazon rainforest
(06/02/2009) Accounting for roughly half of tropical deforestation between 2000 and 2005, Brazil is the most important supply-side player when it comes to developing a climate framework that includes reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD). But Brazil's position on REDD contrasts with proposals put forth by other tropical forest countries, including the Coalition for Rainforest Nations, a negotiating block of 15 countries. Instead of advocating a market-based approach to REDD, where credits generated from forest conservation would be traded between countries, Brazil is calling for a giant fund financed with donations from industrialized nations. Contributors would not be eligible for carbon credits that could be used to meet emission reduction obligations under a binding climate treaty.
Political infighting in Brazil threatens the Amazon rainforest
(06/01/2009) Brazil's Environment Minister Carlos Minc accused other government agencies of working to undermine environmental laws in favor of Amazon development projects, report Reuters and the Associated Press. His charge comes a year after his predecessor, Senator Marina Silva, resigned due to the same opposition from development interests. Minc has taken an active role in battling Amazon deforestation, reducing credit access to illegal loggers and ranchers, seizing agricultural products and cattle produced on illegally deforested lands, and pushing for new protected areas. His efforts have angered powerful development interests and at times have put his at odds with President Lula, who is promoting new road and hydroelectric projects.
US responsible for 29 percent of greenhouse gas emissions over past 150 years
(05/31/2009) In the past 150 years, the United States has emitted more greenhouse gas emissions than any other nation in the world, according to a recent report by Greenpeace. In fact, US emissions account for 29 percent of the world’s total since the mid-1800s. The US emitted 328,264 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (MtCO2) in the past 150 years, which is over 3 times the amount emitted by China in the same century-and-a-half.
Chevron faces shareholder rebuke on claims by Amazon rainforest Indians
(05/21/2009) Calpers, the country's largest public pension fund with $170 billion in assets, announced Thursday it will support a resolution calling on Chevron to examine whether it complies with environmental regulations in Ecuador. The move comes as the oil giant faces a potential $27 billion dollar liability for environmental damage caused by Texaco, a company Chevron (NYSE:CVX) acquired in 2001. In court filings Texaco has admitted to dumping and spilling billions of gallons of toxic waste and oil in eastern Ecuador's Amazon rainforest between 1964 and 1990.
Obama to increase fuel economy standard to 35 mpg by 2016
(05/18/2009) The Obama administration will direct the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Transportation to raise fuel economy standards of automobiles to 35 miles per gallon by 2016, four years earlier than required under current federal law, reports the Wall Street Journal. The move is part of the administration's effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Transportation accounts for nearly one third of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions.
Brazil moves closer to legitimizing illegal land-grab in the Amazon
(05/17/2009) Brazil moved a step closer to approving a controversial law that would grant land title to 300,000 properties illegally established across some 600,000 square kilometers (230,000 square miles) of protected Amazon forest, reports AFP. The move may improve governance in otherwise lawless areas, but could carry a steep environmental cost without safeguards.
Obama administration overturns rule that weakened Endangered Species Act
(04/28/2009) Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced today that the Obama administration will reverse an Endangered Species Act (ESA) regulation that allowed federal agencies to go ahead with actions that may impact endangered species without consulting with experts, essentially circumventing the role of conservation scientists in such decisions.
U.S. climate change legislation may cut energy costs - report
(04/21/2009) The U.S. can dramatically cut greenhouse gas emissions while reducing energy spending at the same time, reports a new study by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).
New legislation in Brazil opens up road-paving across country, threatening Amazon
(04/21/2009) Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies has approved a measure that would speed up paving roads across the country, including paving a road that environmentalists have long-fought, BR-319. Environmental groups across the nation have warned of widespread deforestation if the measure passes the Senate and is signed by the president.
Brazil: 'Soy King', Environment Minister strike deal on Amazon deforestation
(04/02/2009) Meeting at the Katoomba payments-for-ecosystem-services conference in Cuiaba, Brazil, Carlos Minc, Brazil's Environment Minister, and Blairo Maggi, Governor of the State of Mato Grosso and the world's largest individual soy grower, put aside their ideological differences and agreed to grant a temporary reprieve for ranchers and farmers in the Amazonian state, allowing them up to four years to reforest their holdings to bring them up to legal code. Under Brazilian law landowners in the "legal Amazon" are required to maintain 80 percent forest cover on their holdings, but in practice, the regulation is widely ignored.
Hopeful conservation news emerges out of Madagascar political crisis
(03/31/2009) A bit of hopeful conservation news has finally emerged out of the political crisis in Madagascar, report local sources. Wednesday representatives from several NGOs active in conservation in Madagascar met with a minister from island nation's new government. The minister said his top priority was putting an end to illegal logging that emerged when rangers abandoned their posts and armed gangs moved into protected areas in the wake of the political crisis.
Hawaii continues to stand-by as sheep destroy critically-endangered palila bird's habitat
(03/25/2009) The environmental legal organization, Earthjustice, has filed legal papers against the Hawaii State Department of Land and Natural Resources for failing to keep feral sheep and goats out of the critically-endangered palila bird's last habitat. According to Earthjustice, the court has already issued three orders beginning in 1979 that found the state of Hawiai in violation of the Endangered Species Act by not protecting the palila bird from the destructive feeding practices of sheep and goats.
EPA takes first step towards regulating global warming emissions
(03/23/2009) The Obama Administration is reviewing a finding by the Environmental Protection Agency that carbon dioxide emissions — and associated impact on climate — are a danger to public health, reports the Associated Press.
Will palm oil drive deforestation in the Amazon?
(03/23/2009) Already a significant driver of tropical forest conversion across southeast Asia, oil palm expansion could emerge as threat to the Amazon rainforest due to a proposed change in Brazil's forest law, new infrastructure, and the influence of foreign companies in the region, according to researchers writing in the open-access journal Tropical Conservation Science. William F. Laurance, a senior scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Panama City, Panama, and Rhett A. Butler, founder of environmental science web site Mongabay.com, warn that oil palm expansion in the Brazilian Amazon is likely to occur at the expense of natural forest as a result of a proposed revision to the forest code which requires land owners to retain 80 percent forest on lands in the Amazon. The new law would allow up to 30 percent of this reserve to consist of oil palm.
Historic US law now extends to illegal logging
(03/11/2009) Enacted in 1900 by William F. McKinley the Lacey Act is the oldest wildlife protection law in the US; for a over a century it has protected animals from being illegally hunted and trafficked. An amendment made last year has now extended the law to protect plants for the first time, making it possible for the US to support efforts abroad and at home to combat illegal logging.
Deforestation blamed for tiger maulings in Sumatra
(02/27/2009) WWF has attributed six recent killings of villagers by tigers to deforestation in Sumatra. Habitat loss — together with prey depletion by hunting — is believed to be driving tiger-human conflict on the Indonesia island.
Illegal fishing estimated at $10-24B per year
(02/26/2009) Global losses from illegal and unreported fishing are estimated at $10-23.5 billion per year, according to a new study published in PLoS One. Analyzing fishing data from 54 countries, David J. Agnew of Imperial College London and colleagues estimate the "Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated" (IUU) fish catch at 11 to 26 million tons per each year. The authors found a strong link between governance and illegal fishing — illicit practices were most widespread in developing countries with poor monitoring and law enforcement. Estimated catches in West Africa were 40 percent higher than reported catches.
Illegal timber trade to face tough penalties in the E.U.
(02/18/2009) Companies dealing in illegal timber may soon face stiff penalties under a proposed E.U. regulation. The European Parliament voted Monday to impose penalties on companies who use or trade illegally sourced timber. National authorities will have the power to impound timber of illegal origin, fine companies, and even shut down particularly egregious violators. Penalties will be "at least five times the value of the timber products" under the proposal, which will be voted on in April at Parliament's plenary session and then later by EU agriculture ministers.
France's Suez liable for illegal deforestation, "dynamite fishing" in the Amazon rainforest
(02/11/2009) A consortium building the Jirau hydroelectric dam in Brazil near the Bolivian border has been ordered to pay roughly $3.5 million in fines for illegally logging nearly 50 acres (18.6 ha) of forest and using dynamite to kill 11 tons of fish in local rivers, reports the Spanish news agency EFE.
As sea ice retreats, swathe of Arctic closed to fishing
(02/06/2009) The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) voted unanimously to close off more than 150,000 square nautical miles of the Arctic sea to commercial fishing. The decision, welcomed by an array of environmentalists and industry groups, is a preventative measure to protect fisheries that have become more accessible as a result of declining sea ice in the Arctic. It is the first time that the federal government has closed a fishery due to climate change instead of over-fishing, says supporters of the ban.
Malaysian government says forest reserve 'plundered' for oil palm development
(02/03/2009) Responding to allegations by the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) that indigenous people have been forced from their lands (a charge it denied), the Sabah Forestry Department said that more than 30 percent of Mt. Pock And Tanjong Nagos Forest Reserves were "plundered" by "people with means to plant illegal oil palm including companies" up until 2001. The statement is noteworthy in that leaders of the Malaysian Palm Oil Council, the marketing and lobbying arm of the Malaysian palm oil industry, have maintained that oil expansion has not taken place at the expense of natural forest in Malaysia.
Beef drives 80% of Amazon deforestation
(01/29/2009) Nearly 80 percent of land deforested in the Amazon from 1996-2006 is now used for cattle pasture, according to new maps released today in a report by Greenpeace at the World Social Forum in Belem, Brazil. The report, Amazon Cattle Footprint: Mato Grosso: State of Destruction, confirms that cattle ranching is the primary driver of deforestation in Earth's largest rainforest: the Brazilian Amazon.
Obama pushes for better mileage standards
(01/27/2009) President Obama has moved to allow states set automobile emission rules, opening the door for more fuel efficient vehicles. Monday Obama signed a memorandum requiring the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reconsider California's application to set tighter auto emissions and fuel efficiency standards than required under federal law. Should the waiver be granted, automakers would be forced to sell more fuel efficient vehicles if they want to do business in the state.
High coffee prices spurred deforestation in Sumatra but effective law enforcement slowed forest loss
(01/22/2009) Law enforcement efforts can significantly deter deforestation in protected areas despite high pressure from agricultural expansion, reports a new study that assessed the effectiveness of conservation in Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park in southern Sumatra, Indonesia. However the research suggests that conservation needs extend beyond law enforcement to be effective in the long-run.
Rancher accused of ordering murder of American nun is arrested in Brazil
(12/30/2008) The rancher suspected of ordering the killing of an American nun in the Brazilian Amazon has been arrested and detained at his home in the state of Pará, reports the Associated Press (AP).
Group may sue EPA under Clean Water Act to address ocean acidification
(11/14/2008) An environmental group plans to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for failing to uphold water standards in the face of ocean acidification.
IP laws not helping indigenous people protect traditional knowledge (repost)
(11/13/2008) Promoting capacity for self-governance rather than using conventional systems governing intellectual property rights may be a more effective way to safeguard traditional knowledge of indigenous groups, argues a new report published by an international team of IP experts. Released at an IP conference convened by Sciences Po, a French research institute, and The Innovation Partnership, a Canadian NGO, the report details how traditional knowledge is treated in Brazil, Kenya and Northern Canada. It finds significant differences in the effectiveness of IP laws and policies in protecting the wisdom and knowledge accumulated by indigenous communities.
Supreme Court lifts ban on sonar testing, whales lose
(11/12/2008) A Supreme Court decision will allow the Navy to continue its of sonar in training exercises off the coast of California, a defeat for environmental groups who say sonar is harmful to whales, reports the Associated Press.
Brazilian rancher claims he owns land American nun was killed defending in the Amazon
(11/12/2008) The rancher suspected or orchestrating the killing of an American nun in the Brazilian Amazon now claims he owns the land she died trying to defend, reports the Associated Press (AP).
Biodiversity of rainforests should not be compared with oil palm plantations says palm oil council chief
(11/11/2008) Scientists should compare the biodiversity oil palm plantations to other industrial monocultures, not the rainforests they replace, said Dr. Yusof Basiron, CEO of the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC), in a post on his blog. Basiron's comments are noteworthy because until now he has maintained that oil palm plantations are "planted forests" rather than an industrial crop.
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