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Remains of an ancient alerce tree.          Photo: Carlos Poblete

Last week, the Supreme Court of Chile affirmed decisions from lower courts finding a former Mayor of a southern Chilean town guilty of illegally trading an endangered tree species.  More than a decade after ELAW partner Miguel Fredes of Chile set out to prove the “Chilean redwood tree” – the Chilean Larch (known as Alerce in Spanish) – was being illegally trafficked, the Supreme Court of Chile handed down the final verdict.

In December 2005, ELAW reported that Fredes had scored a major victory against a multi-million dollar illegal logging racket that was devastating ancient forests in southern Chile.  Seven years later, we are thrilled to report that the Chilean Supreme Court has affirmed this important victory.

The Santiago Times reported that Schwerter, the former mayor of a southern Chilean town was found guilty of “building an illegal network of loggers and squatters who stole much of the Alerce they trafficked from Forestal Sarao company property. Forestal Sarao is one of Chile’s several privately owned natural reserves, established in 1988 to protect Alerce.”

ELAW lawyers helped Fredes obtain the evidence he needed to prove his cases.  ELAW Board Chair Cheryl Coon first started working with ELAW as a volunteer helping with this case ten years ago!

Congratulations, Miguel!

Jen Gleason
Staff Attorney

Green Advocates

ELAW partner Alfred Brownell won a tremendous victory for Liberia’s forests, the rule of law, and citizens who want a voice in decisions about how their natural resources are managed.

Just a few years ago, Liberia’s forests were being cut with no regard for their long-term health or the wishes of local communities. Alfred and his organization, Green Advocates, are making tremendous progress. (Alfred is in the center of the staff photo, at the right.) They have helped craft basic environmental laws and are helping the government enforce those laws.

Liberia’s new laws require logging companies to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) before any logging operation is approved. The EIS system is designed to inform citizens about potential impacts of logging and give them an opportunity to participate in decisions about proposed logging.

In 2007, Tarpeh Timber Corporation submitted an EIS to move forward on one of the first timber sale contracts issued by the government since enactment of Liberia’s forestry reform law in 2006.

ELAW Staff Scientist Mark Chernaik assisted Green Advocates by reviewing the EIS for the proposed project. Mark discovered many significant flaws in the EIS, which Green Advocates included in a letter to Liberia’s Environmental Protection Agency.

The timber company characterized the forest as “highly degraded.” Mark reviewed satellite images that showed a completely intact forest. The logging company also neglected to include any baseline information about flora and fauna in the timber sale area, and had not incorporated best practices into its logging plan.

Liberia’s Environmental Protection Agency rejected the logging company’s EIS and cited many of the flaws identified by Green Advocates. The Agency directed the company to prepare a new EIA and said it must identify and protect critical habitats.

This is a big victory for:

  • citizens who want a voice in managing Liberia’s natural resources;
  • critical habitats in Liberia’s forests;
  • the rule of law, because the government has now demonstrated that it will enforce Liberia’s environmental laws; and
  • for Green Advocates, which has again proven that it is an organization of skilled, committed advocates.

Congratulations to Alfred and everyone at Green Advocates!

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