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ELAW Fellows Oksana Imetkhenova and Liubov Balandina returned to Ulan-Ude earlier this month with new tools and inspiration to protect Lake Baikal and surrounding forests.

Oksana (left) and Liubov

Oksana wrote:

“The ELAW Fellows Program was very intense and fruitful. It helped us a lot to see with our own eyes, ask questions, and learn new things — not only in the field of environmental law, but about the USA as a whole.”

Oksana is Chair of the Department of Ecology, Health and Safety at the East Siberia State University of Technology and Management. Liubov is finishing her degree in environmental engineering, and is getting a second degree in law, at the same University. Both work with the Buryat Regional Organization for Lake Baikal.

During their Fellowships, Oksana and Liubov met one-on-one with ELAW Staff Attorneys and Scientists, and U.S. experts in forest protection and litigation. They toured Oregon’s national forests with Zane Smith, a retired U.S. Forest Service officer who spent many years working on forest issues in Eastern Siberia. They met with local forest experts and learned about current research on forest landslides. They attended classes at the University of Oregon School of Law, presented their work at the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference, and collaborated with ELAW Fellows from Mongolia, Panama, Mexico, Canada, Turkey, and Uganda.

After nine days in Eugene, they toured Lake Tahoe with ELAW Board Member and mining expert Dr. Glenn Miller, met with a representative from the Lahontan Water Quality Control Board, and toured a controversial gold mine and surrounding community in Virginia City, Nevada.

Many thanks to the Earth Island Institute and the Trust for Mutual Understanding for making these ELAW Fellowships possible.

Maggie Keenan

Communications Director &
Fellows Program Coordinator

ELAW’s newest Fellow, Harriet Bibangambah from Kampala, Uganda, arrived on Monday. Over the next two weeks she will work with the ELAW team to strengthen her organization, Greenwatch. She will also attend the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference (PIELC) and meet ELAW partners from around the world.

Harriet is Program and Research Officer at Greenwatch, which promotes public participation in the sustainable use, management, and protection of the environment and natural resources, and the enforcement of Uganda’s Constitutional right to a clean and healthy environment.

“We work at all levels, including traveling to remote villages and sitting down with community members to hear their concerns and share information about oil and gas operations,” says Harriet.

French, British, and Chinese companies have a joint oil venture in the Albertine Rift, with test wells inside Murchison Falls National Park and oil exploration near Virunga National Park, across the border in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“Communities need access to information about these developments so they can participate in decisions about natural resources,” says Harriet.

Harriet is part of East Africa’s new generation of grassroots defenders. ELAW has worked with Greenwatch for more than 10 years.

Michele Kuhnle
Donor Liaison

Our new ELAW Fellow arrived Saturday night!

Minerva Rosette is an environmental engineer with the Southeast office of Centro Mexicano de Derecho Ambiental (CEMDA, Mexican Center for Environmental Law).  We are collaborating with Minerva to protect communities and coastlines on the Yucatán Peninsula.

During her Fellowship, Minerva will meet with ELAW Staff Scientists to learn about the dangers that herbicides pose to waterways, model protocols for protecting marine fisheries, and protecting fragile soils in Quintana Roo.

Waste management in Mexico is an enormous problem.  Minerva will learn lessons from Eugene’s waste management system on tours of NextStep Recycling, the Glenwood Transfer Station, and Short Mountain Landfill.

Before joining CEMDA, Minerva worked with local communities to conserve the biodiversity of the Sierra Tarahuamara.

We look forward to collaborating with Minerva and connecting her with the global ELAW network!

Maggie Keenan
Communications Director

Laura Palmese

Laura Palmese

We look forward to welcoming ELAW Fellow Laura Palmese on Sunday.

Laura is a public interest environmental attorney at Instituto de Derecho Ambiental de Honduras (IDAMHO, Environmental Law Institute).  ELAW has worked with IDAMHO for many years to protect the Mesoamerican Reef and challenge short-sighted tourism development.

Laura says:

We are amplifying the voices of communities and making the government accountable to its people, its land, and its natural resources.

While here, Laura will work one-on-one with the ELAW team and study English at the University of Oregon’s American English Institute (AEI), which generously provides ELAW Fellows with a “Director’s Distinction Scholarship.”

AEI’s Intensive English Program receives high marks from ELAW Fellows.  Earlier this year, Ukrainian attorney Nataliya Horodetska completed the Program.  She recently wrote that she is now using “legal and scientific resources that are not available in Ukrainian or Russian.

We look forward to collaborating with Laura and connecting her with the global ELAW network!

Michele Kuhnle
Donor Liaison

Earlier this week, we said goodbye to ELAW Fellow Rahul Choudhary. Rahul is a lawyer with the Legal Initiative for Forest & Environment (LIFE), based in Delhi. Rahul and his partners have been winning big victories before India’s National Green Tribunal, including protecting communities and wetlands from coal-fired power plants, and winning an order to relocate some of India’s 400 remaining Asiatic lions to ensure their survival.

Rahul at the Oregon coast

Rahul at the Oregon coast

Though Rahul has worked with the ELAW team for years via email, this was the first time he met many of us in person. Our Staff Lawyers and Staff Scientists were thrilled to collaborate with Rahul on his priority projects face-to-face. Rahul received scientific and legal support from the ELAW team and met with local experts to learn about current environmental initiatives in the United States. Rahul learned about legal efforts to address climate change, how we manage municipal waste, and how we protect forests and wetlands here in Oregon.

Many thanks to ELAW’s host families for helping Rahul connect with the local community. He visited ELAW’s renowned Saturday Market, the Oregon coast, and the Cascades.

Michele Kuhnle
Donor Liaison

Smith Rock State Park, Oregon

Smith Rock State Park, Oregon

I am currently in Eugene on an ELAW Fellowship and nearing the end of my term at the University of Oregon’s American English Institute (AEI). I am a lawyer and have worked at Environment-People-Law (EPL) in Ukraine since 2007.

Thanks to ELAW, the Trust for Mutual Understanding, and AEI, I am able to study English while collaborating on my work with ELAW staff. At EPL we provide legal support to protect human rights and the environment. My work focuses on access to information, climate change, forests, waterways, biodiversity, and protected areas.

English proficiency is important to me. It allows me to collaborate on my work with ELAW and use legal and scientific resources that are not available in Ukrainian or Russian.

ua.2013.Nataliya.Horodetska and Heidi

Working with ELAW Staff Scientist Heidi Weiskel

One problem I am working on is the proposed construction of hundreds of small hydropower plants in the Carpathian Mountains. These projects would be dangerous for rivers, fish, and the forest, and violate the rights of local people. Here in Eugene, I have met weekly with ELAW staff and received their professional consultation on this problem.

My Intensive English Program at AEI is well organized and interesting. The teachers are highly qualified, including Peggy Dame, Lydia Shen, and Marko Mwipopo, who supervised my elective course.

American English Institute gathering

American English Institute gathering

Outside of class, AEI has weekly events to help students improve their English, including meeting with conversation partners, coffee hours, and volunteer work. My conversation partner is Brandon, a University of Oregon political science student who is thinking about law school and may one day volunteer at ELAW. While in Eugene, I’ve had the opportunity to do many things.

When I first arrived, I traveled with Professor John Bonine’s LLM students to Portland where we met with Columbia Riverkeeper, the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, and visited Smith Rock State Park. I later attended the graduation ceremony for these LLM students.

I have enjoyed attending Saturday Market and the Ukrainian Catholic Church. I toured Greenhill Humane Society, watched American football, and woke to raccoons playing in the trees outside my window.

In my last two weeks, in addition to my English studies and work with ELAW staff, I will visit local courts, learn more about recycling processes, and possibly travel to Seattle or Portland.

Thank you ELAW for hosting me, and to everyone who helped while I was here.

Nataliya Horodetska
ELAW Fellow

Ana Lucía Maya Aguierre at the Oregon Coast

Ana Lucía at the Oregon Coast

Last week, ELAW Fellow Ana Lucía Maya Aguirre returned home to Bogotá, Colombia after nearly six months of studying English at the American English Institute (AEI) and collaborating with ELAW in Eugene. During her Fellowship, Ana focused on strengthening the Asociación Ambiente y Sociedad (Association for Environment and Society), a newly formed organization of which Ana is a member.

Asociación Ambiente y Sociedad has four programs:

1. Climate Change, human rights and poverty
2. Citizenship, access to information, and participation
3. Biological and cultural diversity
4. Socio-environmental justice

Within these focus areas, the organization employs an array of strategies: providing legal support and trainings for communities working to protect their right to a healthy environment; researching policies and regulations; and working with ELAW and other international networks to create a broader, collective impact within Colombia and across borders.

During her Fellowship, Ana worked with ELAW staff to develop a strategic plan for Asociación Ambiente y Sociedad, exchange information about climate change and Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) and potential for future projects in Colombia, learn more about funding opportunities, and formulate research questions for a report on mining cases in Latin America.

ELAW volunteers helped Ana study English, conduct research for the mining report,  design a brochure, and translate the website for Asociación Ambiente y Sociedad.

ELAW is eager to collaborate with Ana and her colleagues at Asociación Ambiente y Sociedad to help realize their vision of a culture that understands the interdependence of humans and the environment, promotes environmental defense and human and environmental rights, and improves environmental governance and effective participation of civil society in environmental matters.

A huge thank you goes to all of the volunteers who helped make Ana’s Fellowship a success and to AEI for its generous support of ELAW Fellows. Find more information about ELAW’s Fellowship Program here.

Melanie Giangreco
Latin America Program Assistant

Ana (left) and Lottie

Last week, Lottie Cunningham Wren and Ana Lucia Maya arrived in Eugene for ELAW Fellowships.

Lottie is a Miskito attorney from Nicaragua who has worked for decades to conserve biological diversity, sustain cultural practices, and advocate for sustainable fisheries.  Her organization, CEJUDHCAN, collaborates with indigenous communities on Nicaragua’s Atlantic coast.

Ana gives voice to afro-descendant and other marginalized communities in Colombia that face problems involving hydroelectric dams, mining, hydrocarbons, agro fuels, and more.  Ana is a staff attorney at the Instituto Latinoamericano para una Sociedad y un Derechos Alternativos.

ELAW is thrilled to be collaborating with Ana and Lottie and connecting them with our local community and colleagues in the Northwest. We will post updates about our work throughout the summer.

Maggie Keenan
Communications Director
ELAW Fellows Program Coordinator

In 2001, I traveled to Kenya to bring technology tools to Nixon Sifuna.

ELAW has long used cutting edge technology to connect communities across borders. In the mid-1990’s, we brought Internet and email tools to partners in places as far flung as Mongolia, Indonesia, and Zimbabwe. Today, we’re using open source software to help our partners build websites.

The beauty of open source software is that our partners can use it in their home countries at very little cost. Software like Plone and Drupal is versatile and allows our partners to obtain just about any functionality they need. By using website content management systems (CMS), even non-technical staff can create and upload content to a website very easily.

Most recently, we’ve been helping our partners at l’Association Haitienne de Droit de l’Environnement (AHDEN) build a website. Attorney Rolès Théard visited Eugene earlier this month for an ELAW Fellowship. While here, Rolès worked with ELAW staff to learn how to use Drupal and make updates to AHDEN’s site. Now, Rolès will teach AHDEN staff and volunteers how to do the same.

Jen and Rolès work on the AHDEN website

By helping our partners build websites, we hope to enhance their capacity to use technology tools and demonstrate the impact of their work to the world.

I hope you will visit the following sites to learn more about our partners’ great work:

Climate Justice Programme

Belize Institute of Environmental Law and Policy

Green Advocates

If you are considering building your own website, I highly recommend the Drupal Installation Profile, “Drupal and NGO” (DaNGO). DaNGO provides a collection of Drupal modules commonly used on non-profit websites in one convenient package. It includes tools for blogs, wikis, discussion forums, photo sharing, donation processing, and membership management.

Many thanks to the programmers who make open source software available to all. With your help, grassroots advocates are connecting across borders to protect people and wildlands all around the world.

Glenn Gillis
Information Technology Manager

Emilio d’Cuire, Honduras

Grassroots advocates are eager to travel to Eugene for individually-tailored ELAW Fellowships that help them  collaborate and build skills to better protect communities and the environment back home. In 2011, ELAW hosted 12 advocates from 11 countries in Africa, Latin America, and Europe.

ELAW seeks support for Emilio d’Cuire and other promising environmental advocates who seek ELAW Fellowships in 2012.  Support for the ELAW Fellowship Program will make it possible for Emilio to gain the skills and resources he needs to craft a greener future.

“I want to protect nature and improve the quality of life for the dispossessed,” says Emilio.  “I want to empower civil society.”

Emilio received a degree in biology from Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Honduras and took his passion to the Environmental Law Institute of Honduras (IDAMHO).   Short-sighted  tourism development schemes threaten the coast of Honduras, protected areas, and small fishing communities. Emilio and his co-workers are doing excellent work strengthening the rule of law and protecting the Mesoamerican Reef.

Meanwhile, Honduras is becoming increasingly violent.  The Peace Corps recently pulled out of Honduras and this is an excellent time for Emilio to travel to Oregon to gain skills and work with ELAW.  Honduras has the highest homicide rate in the world, and violent attacks against environmental activists are increasingly common.

Emilio has landed a tuition scholarship for the University of Oregon’s American English Institute’s Intensive English Program.  Stronger English skills, he says, will open up “a world of information.”  Many ELAW partners have gained English skills through the American English Institute and found it tremendously valuable

For more information about how you can support the ELAW Fellowship Program, contact Maggie Keenan at

Maggie Keenan
Communications Director

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