Land Preservation

Ignace Schops

Last Name: 
Schops

Raising more than $90 million by bringing together private industry, regional governments, and local stakeholders, Ignace Schops led the effort to establish Belgium’s first and only national park, protecting one of the largest open green spaces in the country. Read more »

First Name: 
Ignace
Country: 
Belgium
Bio: 

Speech After years of campaigning, Ignace Schops has led the effort to establish Belgium’s first and only national park. Raising more than US$90 million by bringing together private industry, regional and European Union (EU) government, local stakeholders, and NGOs, Schops has created a new model for land conservation in the EU and beyond. After Coal, Conservation The province of Limburg in northeastern Belgium contains large woodlands, extensive pine groves, flowering meadows and many rare and unique animals. Since 1901, when coal was discovered in the region, the amount of open space has dwindled, making way for industrial and community infrastructure to support the population employed by the mines. For almost a century, the coal industry thrived in Limburg, but in 1990, the area’s seven mines closed, leaving 40,000 people unemployed. The region around the old mines, a highly industrial and densely populated area owned by the government, is adjacent to Hoge Kempen, an area within the province that has retained its natural beauty, despite nearby development. Following the closing of the mines, jobs were badly needed in the region and several corporations wanted to build factories in the Hoge Kempen. However, very few precious open spaces remained in the province and a conflict arose between conservation and development. In response to pressure from industry, the largest coal company and the largest NGO for nature conservation in Belgium, Natuurpunt, founded Regionaal Landschap Kempen and Maasland (RLKM) in 1990. Their goal was to conserve the land in the province and continue to provide jobs and economic development. Through his engagement in nature conservation and his field study on herpetology (amphibians & reptiles), Schops began to see that nature conservation and biodiversity could be helped with a different, progressive approach based on enthusiasm and connectivity. In 1997, Schops and a group of friends began working with RLKM to campaign for permanent protection of a piece of the Limburg landscape through the creation of Belgium’s first national park. They believed that the park could provide jobs and revenue through eco-tourism, as well as conserve open space for the future. Since beginning his work in conservation in 1990, Schops had built a network of politicians, including mayors, parliament members and ministers who were willing to work with him. For six years, RLKM, Schops and his friends lobbied the government and funded the national park campaign. Under Schops’ leadership, over the next four years, more than US$90 million was raised from sources such as the Flemish government, the European Rural and Regional Development Fund, municipal and provincial development funds, the European Union, local stakeholders and the private sector. Many of the funds he secured were new funding sources for nature conservation and sustainable development which had not yet been utilized. In 2002, the minister of environment agreed to protect the area if a master plan was created and funding was secured. In 2004, Schops became director of RLKM and has spearheaded the final steps to securing the park’s future. Belgium’s First National Park In early 2006, the Hoge Kempen National Park was officially opened by the European Commissioner for Environment. It has become a source of inspiration for environmental protection in Belgium. More than six million people live within one hour’s drive of the park, and since its opening four hundred thousand people have visited. The projected economic revenue generated by the national park after operating for five years is US$48 million per year. The park has created 400 jobs for the local community and has conserved nature and brought economic revenue to the region. Five gateways to the park have been established. Car parks, camp sites and information kiosks are being built, and walking and bike trails have been developed. Souvenir stores and a cafeteria have been completed as well as shops to rent and purchase hiking and bicycling equipment. Additional attractions are planned over the next three years for increasing revenue, while still maintaining free entrance to the park. The first and only national park in Belgium, it contains nearly 6,000 hectares and stretches across six municipalities. The World Conservation Union (IUCN) plans to use Schops’s model of creating and funding the national park as an example for other member countries, not only in Europe but around the world. His model demonstrates how a successful public-private partnership in the use and management of nature can be an asset for local and regional development. Schops, as the director of RLKM, will oversee the management of the park and its continued development, and other conservation projects in Belgium.

Quote: 

“Let’s do at least what we expect from others. If densely populated, well developed and prosperous regions don’t take responsibility for biodiversity and nature conservation, why should undeveloped regions be held to different standards? It’s up to us. Let’s give a sign to our precious world!”

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Videos
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/sites/goldmanprize.org/files/2008/2008_IgnaceSchops_profile_FLV_320x180.flv,youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ExQ9_167158, /sites/staging.goldmanprize.org/files/2008_schops_speech.flv,youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t9mByDG19FM

Rosa Hilda Ramos

Last Name: 
Ramos

En español | Lanzamiento de Prensa | Speech

In the shadow of polluting factories in Cataño, Rosa Hilda Ramos led the movement to permanently protect the Las Cucharillas Marsh, one of the last open spaces in the area and one of the largest wetlands ecosystems in the region. Read more »

First Name: 
Rosa Hilda
Country: 
Puerto Rico
Bio: 

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En españolLanzamiento de PrensaSpeech

In the shadow of polluting factories surrounding San Juan’s low income community of Cataño, the wetlands and mangroves of Las Cucharillas Marsh provide important habitats for aquatic and migratory birds as well as flood protection and much needed open space for nearby residents. After leading a movement to hold nearby polluting industry accountable for Cataño’s high incidence of respiratory disease, Rosa Hilda Ramos successfully convinced the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to direct millions of dollars in pollution fines to establish long term protection of the Las Cucharillas Marsh. Environmental Justice Leads to Conservation In the 1990s, Cataño, a community of 35,000 within greater San Juan and adjacent to Las Cucharillas Marsh, was found to have the highest rate of respiratory diseases and cancer incidence in Puerto Rico. Air pollution from nearby oil-powered electric power plants, run by the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), was primarily responsible. The EPA knew about the high levels of pollution in the Cataño area and had notified the Puerto Rican government that it was unsafe for residents; however, as of 1991, neither entity had taken action to address the problem. When Ramos’s mother died of cancer causes in 1990, Ramos decided to donate the medical equipment used by her mother to people in need , after learning that in some of the less privileged communities of the town some people had to share respiratory machines. Realizing that many neighbors were suffering from the same respiratory and cancer problems, Ramos and other community leaders founded Communities United Against Contamination (CUCCo) in 1991 to seek justice. That year, Ramos and CUCCo brought their complaints directly to the Puerto Rican Department of Health and the State environmental Quality Board, demanding action from the EPA. In response to Ramos and CUCCo’s persistence, the EPA held a public hearing to address the matter. As a result, PREPA was found in violation of the federal Clean Air and Clean Water acts by the EPA, and was also fined US$10,000 by the Puerto Rican Environmental Quality Board. While the decision was an initial victory for CUCCo and the Cataño community, by 1993, the plants had failed to reduce their toxic emissions. Ramos and CUCCo sued PREPA pro se in federal court. Ultimately PREPA was found responsible for the respiratory and related health ailments of Cataño’s residents, and was fined US$7 million. The case represented the first time that citizens in Puerto Rico sat down to negotiate directly with the EPA and regulators, a landmark environmental justice success for the island. The court ordered PREPA to pay the US$7 million directly to the federal government. Ramos and CUCCo had a different idea about where the funds should go. They recommended to the EPA that it use the multi-million dollar fine to purchase Las Cucharillas marshland from the collection of private entities that owned the land in order to permanently protect it. Community Victory for Conservation The 1200-acre Las Cucharillas Marsh bordering Cataño is part of Puerto Rico’s San Juan Bay Estuary, the only tropical estuary in the US National Estuary Program, and provides habitat for the largest diversity of aquatic birds in the region. The marsh also serves as a respite from the surrounding complex of warehouses, highways, electrical plants and multiple manufacturing facilities. Its mangroves and wetlands are an important buffer zone protecting Cataño communities from frequent threats of flooding, which have increased with the intensity of tropical storms in recent years. Despite its long-term ecological and community significance, the marsh was not officially deemed a protected area. Cataño rallied behind Ramos’ proposal to direct the fines to protect Las Cucharillas. In 1999, Ramos and CUCCo succeeded in convincing the EPA to redirect US$3.4 million of the original $7 million PREPA fine toward the purchase and protection of Las Cucharillas Marsh. The funds were not sufficient to purchase Las Cucharillas’s entire 1,200 acres of marshland, so in 2001, Ramos and CUCCo brought together a diverse constituency to develop strategies for additional land acquisition and conservation. The coalition worked against the clock to prevent warehouse construction within large sections of privately-owned Las Cucharillas marshland. In late 2004, the Bacardi Corporation, which operates a factory in Cataño, transferred 10 acres of land worth approximately US$1 million to the Las Cucharillas Marsh reserve. Encouraged by Ramos’s talks with the company, the transfer was part of a settlement reached by Bacardi and the EPA over the company’s Clean Water Act violations at its factory. In April 2007, with a similar agreement, the EPA announced that Wal-Mart would provide nearly US$100,000 for the preservation of land in the Las Cucharillas Marsh watershed. By 2007, Ramos and CUCCo’s efforts had resulted in the acquisition and permanent protection of 300 acres of Las Cucharillas marshland. As a result of Ramos’s sustained advocacy, in August 2004, the Governor of Puerto Rico issued an executive order to designate Las Cucharillas Marsh a protected area. Governor Calderón then sent the process to the Puerto Rico Planning Board, where it went through various stages of review. The board has scheduled public hearings on the issue, which will mark the final step in the process to establish Las Cucharillas Nature Reserve.

Quote: 

“Wetlands are mysteriously designed to embrace our rivers’ raging waters before they flow into the sea, filtering them and making their path more calm and safe for humans and animals. Wetlands are one of the finest examples of God’s creation; a gift to us for a rich and safe life. No human design can substitute the pacifying effect wetlands have over a flooding river. We are blessed to have Cienaga Cucharillas wetlands. It is a blessing we are not willing to lose.”

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Videos
Video Player: 
/sites/goldmanprize.org/files/2008/2008_RosaHildaRamos_profile_FLV_320x180.flv,youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GEJ5MyqURdw, /sites/staging.goldmanprize.org/files/2008_ramos_speech.flv,youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v6KMnRyJv3g
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Tarcísio Feitosa da Silva

Last Name: 
Feitosa da Silva
Em Português|English Bio|Lançamento de Prensa Português
First Name: 
Tarcísio
Country: 
Brazil
Bio: 
Em Português | English Bio | Lançamento de Prensa Português

Creating a Mosaic of Protected Lands in the Amazon In a lawless, remote, northern region of the Brazilian Amazon, where land grabbing and illegal logging are destroying communities and the environment, Tarcísio Feitosa da Silva leads a grassroots coalition to protect the tropical forest and the people who live there. Working with local organizations, Feitosa revealed massive illegal logging and human rights abuses. Their work prompted the government to protect a mosaic of tropical rainforest areas that, together with existing indigenous lands, make up the world’s largest area of protected tropical forest, bigger than the state of Minnesota. The 240,000-square-kilometer area includes the Verde para Sempre Extractive Reserve, the Riozinho do Anfrizio Extractive Reserve, the Serra do Pardo National Park, and the Middle Lands Ecological Station. Working in a Deadly Environment Feitosa, 35, has spent more than 10 years fighting for human rights, environmental protection, and sustainable development in the Xingu and Middle Lands of Pará, some of the most remote areas of the Amazon. He works with the Pastoral Lands Commission, the social justice arm of the National Conference of Bishops (of Brazil), and is one of the elected leaders of the Movement for the Development of the Transamazon and the Xingu (MTDX), several of whose leaders were assassinated in recent years. In February 2005, Sister Dorothy Stang, an American nun who worked in Pará alongside Feitosa, was murdered. Feitosa has documented illegal logging activity, and in one high-profile action, tipped off government officials who raided the logging sites, seized 6,000 illegally felled mahogany trees, and sold them at auction to raise $1.5 million to create a fund supporting sustainable development and conservation efforts. Feitosa also helped organize a protest in which community members linked their boats to barricade the mouth of a major river, blocking barges carrying illegal logs. They were able to seize about 2,000 logs. Seeking Environmental Justice in Remote Regions Feitosa’s work is carried out in an extremely remote area that is a two-day boat ride from the nearest significant town. The northern state of Pará encompasses more than one-quarter of the country’s Amazon and boasts extensive unspoiled forested regions and freshwater river beaches. It also is home to many traditional and indigenous communities that live in almost total isolation from the outside world. But starting in the 1970s, the government began to build roads through the Amazon to Pará, bringing in thousands of settlers. Pará now is one of the deep Amazon’s most lawless and environmentally threatened regions. Land grabbing, uncontrolled deforestation, illegal logging, and fires are rapidly destroying and degrading its forests. Logging has affected Pará more than any other region of the Amazon, resulting in the loss of one-fifth of the state’s tropical forest cover. Together, Pará’s deforested areas are about equal in size to the state of Colorado. The Brazilian government has begun to pave the last 1,174 kilometers of road connecting Pará to the rest of Brazil. Without controls or protection, this road will open one of the final intact swaths of the Amazon to expanded cattle ranching and soy production, easier access for loggers and a greater influx of settlers who will set more fires to clear forest for their crops. In the Amazon, deforested areas receive less rainfall, and the plants and trees retain less moisture. As the area dries, the entire region becomes more susceptible to widespread forest fires like those in 1998 that engulfed much of the Amazon, and to droughts like the one in 2005 that left many Amazon tributaries completely dry, fish dying in the sun and many communities stranded and hungry.

Quote: 

“Here in the Amazon we have the greatest corridor of protected areas in the world. This is important to guarantee the lives of the human populations that depend on the forest to survive and to give continuity to the forest and its resources. The municipal, state and federal governments of Brazil should now assume their clear role in protecting these forests.”

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Videos
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/sites/goldmanprize.org/files/2006/2006_TarcisioDaSilva_profile_FLV_320X180.flv,youtube: http://youtu.be/WKVTyRgkIOA, /sites/goldmanprize.org/files/2006/2006_SFCeremony_Tarc%C3%ADsioFeitosadaSilvaSpeech_FLV_320x240.flv,youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bo5Cjb6HKt4

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