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Central America is home to breathtaking beaches, islands, mountains, and forests.  Unfortunately, proposed mining threatens many of these natural treasures.

Panama river

Sediment laden water flows from the river to the reef.

ELAW Board Member and mining expert Glenn Miller traveled to Panama and Honduras last week to collaborate with ELAW partners at the Environmental Advocacy Center (Centro de Incidencia Ambiental, CIAM) and the Environmental Law Institute (Instituto de Derecho Ambiental de Honduras, IDAMHO) to protect communities and the environment from mining industry abuses.

In Panama, Glenn flew by helicopter to see first hand the destruction caused by copper and gold mines.

We followed the erosion to the coast and saw a large plume of sediment that was being sent to the coral reef…  We also saw a reportedly bankrupt gold mine that had ponds that were near overflowing and no real management of the excess water,” said Glenn.

Open mine

Open pit mine

In both countries, Glenn met with regulators, public health experts, NGO staff, and community members interested in learning about the real impact of mining operations.  Photos from his helicopter tour make clear the hazards of unregulated mining.

It has been amazing and a great success to have Glenn in Panama,” says Sonia Montenegro.  “CIAM staff and the conference participants keep talking about how much they learned.

Public interest attorneys communicating with the government and affected communities are key to protecting the environment through law and key to ELAW’s work.  Courageous ELAW partners like the team at CIAM are working to prevent and remedy mining abuses and ensure that all Panamanians and Hondurans have access to a healthy, clean environment.

Michele Kuhnle
Donor Liaison

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

[español a continuación]

ELAW partners in Honduras have obtained a good preliminary decision from an important international body in their fight to protect critical coastal zones.

In 2006, the Honduran government issued a license to build the Infinity Bay Spa and Beach Resort even though the proposed development had not undergone a full environmental impact review, which is required under Honduran law. Concerned about the potential impacts of the project on the fragile marine environment and the Mesoamerican Reef, Clarisa Vega and Emilio d’Cuire of the Honduran Environmental Law Institute (IDAMHO for its initials in Spanish) sought enforcement of the law.  After years of working with the government to address the violation of law, the government did not stop the construction on the resort.

In 2011, fearing that more hotels would be built in the critical coastal zone without proper evaluation, IDAMHO worked with staff at ELAW to file a complaint with the Secretariat for Environmental Matters of the Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR).

The Secretariat found that the petition from IDAMHO merited a response from the Honduran government.  Last month, after analyzing the response from the government, the Secretariat recommended the preparation of a factual record related to the resort development.

Congratulations to IDAMHO for successfully engaging the Secretariat! ELAW hopes the factual record will highlight the importance of adequately studying the likely impacts of proposed developments, particularly in coastal zones and other fragile ecosystems.

Jen Gleason
Staff Attorney

Nuestros socios de ELAW en Honduras han obtenido una buena decisión preliminar de un organismo internacional importante en su lucha para proteger zonas costeras de importancia crítica.

En el 2006 el Gobierno de Honduras emitió una licencia para construir el desarrollo turístico Infinity Bay Spa and Beach Resort, aún cuando las autoridades no habían realizado una evaluación de impactos ambientales completa, tal y como lo requieren las leyes Hondureñas.  Preocupados por los impactos potenciales del proyecto en este frágil ambiente marino y en el Arrecife Mesoamericano, Clarisa Vega y Emilio d’Cuire del Instituto de Derecho Ambiental de Honduras (IDAMHO) buscaron que se hiciera cumplir la ley. Después de trabajar durante años con el gobierno para que atendiera y resolviera estas violaciones a la ley, el gobierno no detuvo la construcción del hotel.

En el 2011, temiendo la construcción de más hoteles en dicha zona costera crítica sin una evaluación apropiada, IDAMHO trabajó con personal de ELAW para presentar una petición con la Secretaría para Asuntos Ambientales del Tratado de Libre Comercio entre la República Dominicana- Centroamérica- y los Estados Unidos (CAFTA-DR).

El Secretariado resolvió que la petición de IDAMHO ameritaba una respuesta del gobierno Hondureño. El mes pasado, después de analizar la respuesta del gobierno, el Secretariado recomendó la preparación de un expediente de hechos relacionado con este desarrollo turístico.

¡Felicitaciones para IDAMHO por involucrar exitosamente al Secretariado! ELAW espera que el expediente de hechos destaque la importancia de realizar un estudio adecuado de los probables impactos de cualquier desarrollo que sea propuesto, y específicamente en el caso de proyectos en zonas costeras y otros ecosistemas frágiles.

Jen Gleason
Staff Attorney

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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