June 2020 Newsletter
LOS CEDROS UPDATES
We have completed our package of materials to formally launch the international campaign to save Los Cedros. This has been a time of incredibly hard work for a diverse team of activists and scientists across three continents.
VIDEO: here’s the link! John Seed, founder of the Rainforest Information Centre, explains what is special about Los Cedros Reserve and why we are fighting to save it.
We also now have a brand new website devoted to Los Cedros and the campaign. This contains detailed information about the incredible natural history of the reserve, including lists of birds, reptiles, amphibians and insects (Lepidoptera) and links to iNaturalist.
Here is a shareable PDF summarising what’s at stake.
Here is our updated petition. Please sign to give weight to our voice and the voices of Ecuadorians who want to keep their lands pristine and free of mining.
Finally, here once again is the link to our crowdfund. Thank you so much to all those who have donated in the past few days since the first mailout … this has been a very positive start to our campaign!
Pristimantis cedros, Los Cedros Reserve, credit: Morley Read
Here’s a summary once again of the developments this year at Los Cedros and what we hope to achieve:
In an exciting development, the Constitutional Court of Ecuador announced in May that they will hear arguments in the case to preserve this threatened forest from mining.
This follows a year of frustration for defenders of Los Cedros. In June 2019, an Action for Protection for Los Cedros was won at the Provincial Court of Imbabura. This stripped the mining company Cornerstone Capital Resources of its mining permits. However, the Ecuadorian government, working alongside the mining companies, appealed against the decision.
Subsequently Cornerstone Capital Resources, despite overwhelming opposition in the region, has continued exploration within the protected area.
The Constitutional Court has now chosen to hear the case in order to set a precedent for application of the Ecuador's unique Rights of Nature laws within legally titled Protected Forests.
This development has implications not just for Los Cedros, but for other protected forests in Ecuador which are under threat from grand-scale mining.
Ecuador was the first (and remains the only) nation in the world to have enshrined the Rights of Nature in its constitution. This gives the campaign global implications. Sir Jonathon Porritt, former CEO of Friends of the Earth UK, says:
"Ecuador could now become the first (nation) to actually protect large swathes of biodiversity based upon this constitutional innovation, and set an invaluable precedent worldwide".
Critically endangered northwestern jaguar. Credit: Murray Cooper
Defenders of Los Cedros will be presenting arguments that mining in Protected Forests is a violation of Articles 57, 71, and 398 of the Constitution: the collective rights of indigenous peoples, the Rights of Nature, and the right of communities to prior consultation before environmental changes, respectively.
Los Cedros is one of the most biologically diverse habitats on the planet. The protected forest consists of more than 4,800 hectares (nearly 12,000 acres) of primary cloud forest, and it safeguards the headwaters of four important watersheds.
The reserve protects over 200 species with high extinction risk, five of which are regarded as critically endangered by the Ecuadorian government. These include the black and chestnut eagle, the brown-headed spider monkey and the northwestern subspecies of jaguar (see Roy et al. 2018 and the Los Cedros website for more information).
In 2017, the Ecuadorian government announced new concessions for mining exploration on over 2.4m hectares (6m acres) of land, a roughly 300% increase. Many of these exploratory concessions are in previously protected forests and indigenous territories, as well as in headwater ecosystems and biodiversity hotspots of global importance. They appear to be in violation of Ecuadorian law and international treaties.
As well as the usual legal costs for this Constitutional Court case we are expecting opposition from the mining sector in Ecuador, who will be certain to try and fight any positive ruling.
As Ecuador struggles under the weight of economic catastrophe due to Covid, people need to remember that the country's most important asset is its nature, its biodiversity, its pristine watersheds ... and that the Rights of Nature laws are there to protect this asset.
So please hop onto our crowdfund and help us reach our $50,000 target!
New donations up to $5000 will be matched dollar for dollar by former CEO of Greenpeace Australia and Greenpeace International, Paul Gilding.
The second $5000 will be matched by RIC’s founder John Seed.
Donations $2 and over are tax-deductible if you are living in Australia.
MELBOURNE RAINFOREST ACTION GROUP
For updates on RIC's other work supporting people on the frontline in Ecuador and exposing the dirty deeds of Australian mining companies, you can visit the website of our intrepid volunteers at Melbourne Rainforest Action Group.
MRAG has been busy throughout the Covid-19 lockdown period keeping track of how the mining industry is exploiting the pandemic for its own gain, not only in Ecuador, but also in Australia, and in many countries around the world, particularly Canada, Papua New Guinea, the Phillipines, Peru and Chile.
Closer to home in Victoria, just last week it came to MRAG's attention that the Wombat State Forest (an area the Victorian government’s environmental assessment body says should become a national park) is slated for gold mining.
Exploratory drilling in the forest is currently being undertaken by Currawong Resources, a private Australian-based company that is wholly owned by Fosterville South Exploration. Ltd, which has its headquarters in Vancouver and is listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange. MRAG did some research for the local No Wombat Gold community group, which was scooped up for this article in The Age.
MRAG's informative website contains lots of media releases, articles, interactive maps and research reports. Check it out!
INDIA: Save the Adivasi Forest Nursery!
Earlier this month RIC received a devastating report from project partner Rajeev Khedkar, who manages the Native Forest Nursery Project supporting livelihoods and land rights of indigenous Katkari Adivasi people.
RIC has supported Rajeev and the Katkari, one of India's poorest and most marginalised groups, since 1988. For some of this history, here is a video made in 2003 by John Seed in partnership with the Academy of Development Science.
In 2015, a RIC grant of $4000 helped with infrastructure to set up the Native Forest Nursery. Forests are a crucial support system for Katkari communities despite the Government's push for industries in this region.
The Adivasi Nursery Project's aim is to promote growing of native forest tree species in degraded forest areas and on common lands around villages. Since its establishment the project has grown and planted 8,000 to 10,000 forest tree seedlings every year.
But 2020 has been a disastrous year. All in one month (May) brutal Covid-19 lockdowns, a wildfire and a cyclone hit the nursery and the villages, causing so much irreparable damage that the nursery has had to be shut down.
From Rajeev Khedkar, project manager ...
"We initiated the nursery in January (2020) and by the end of February the seedlings had been transferred to nursery bags. Unfortunately, the coronavirus epidemic started and a strict nation-wide lockdown was announced by the Government.
The Gram Panchayat of the village where the nursery is located asked the staff at our nursery to go back to their villages as part of their strategy to prevent infections. The seedlings could not be watered for 6 days during which we desperately tried requesting the Gram Panchayat to permit one staff member to stay at the nursery site for watering the seedlings.
Nearly 1,200 seedlings perished due to lack of water for 6 days. We were somehow able to revive the other seedlings and by the end of April the growth of seedlings was quite satisfactory.
Then in the month of May there was a wildfire which came inside the nursery area and destroyed over 70% of the seedlings and part of the nursery infrastructure since the single staff member was not able to bring the fire under control.
Even before we were able to get the repairs done cyclone Nisarga made a landfall in Raigad District on 3 June and the strong winds and heavy rainfall caused considerable damage to the remaining seedlings and nursery infrastructure.
We had no option but to bid goodbye to the nursery ... It was a terrible loss for us. More than the infrastructure we are sad that we lost over 7,000 seedlings of native tree species."
RIC has set up a crowdfund with a $5000 initial target to raise support for nursery workers and their communities and to start rebuilding the nursery as soon as possible. We have made a good start with this fund but there's still a lot to go before our target is reached. So if you would like to contribute your end-of-financial-year donation to this, it would be immensely appreciated!
Closer to home, RIC is partnering with other local environmental collectives including Nature Conservation Council NSW and Bellingen Environment Centre in our campaign for protection of koalas endangered by logging of NSW old growth habitats.
We will issue a detailed report on what's happening in NSW in our next newsletter. For now, if you want to donate to help save our koalas, we are gratefully receiving money through our NSW campaign crowdfund.
Funds are going towards supporting our partners to continue their frontline work trying to convince the NSW government to stop this madness.
For our precious Earth
John, Liz, Susie and the rest of the RIC team
The Rainforest Information Centre