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Date Posted: 06:12:13 04/24/06 Mon
Author: Carolin Wenzel
Subject: PNG Forest campaigner wins global environment prize

PNG Forest campaigner wins global environment prize

San Francisco, April 24, 2006 - A Papua New Guinean lawyer and a Brazilian activist are among six people to have been named as winners of the world’s top grassroots environmental award, in recognition of their work to protect some of the last ancient forests on earth.

Anne Kajir from Papua New Guinea and Tarcísio Feitosa da Silva from Brazil - both working intensively in separate parts of the globe – have risked their lives and livelihoods to protect some of the world’s last remaining forests. The $125,000 Goldman Environmental Prize, now in its 17th year, is awarded annually to six grassroots environmental heroes and is the largest award of its kind in the world.

“These winners are among the most important people you have not heard of before,” said Goldman Prize founder Richard N. Goldman. “All of them have fought, often alone and at great personal risk, to protect the environment in their home countries. Their incredible achievements are an inspiration to all of us.”

Anne Kajir, 32, uncovered evidence of widespread corruption and complicity in the Papua New Guinea government, which allowed rampant, illegal logging that is destroying the largest remaining intact block of tropical forest in the Asia Pacific region. In 1997, her first year practising law, Kajir successfully defended a precedent-setting appeal in the Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea that forced the logging interests to pay damages to indigenous land owners.

Tarcísio Feitosa da Silva, 35, led efforts to create the world’s largest group of protected tropical forest regions in a remote, lawless region in northern Brazil threatened by illegal logging. Despite death threats, Feitosa worked with local organizations to create protected lands for local residents and exposed illegal logging activities to the Brazilian government.

Greenpeace joined with the Goldman Foundation in congratulating the winners, and in particular Tarcísio and Anne, who have both been involved in Greenpeace forest campaigns in the past. “Without lawyers like Anne, and her organisation - the Environmental Law Centre - PNG’s resource owners would stand no chance against the corruption and human rights abuses inflicted on them.” said Greenpeace campaigns manager, Danny Kennedy. “Through her fearless commitment, Anne has made it possible for communities to protect their land and develop ecologically sustainable solutions that safeguard their forests and traditional way of life.”

Greenpeace is currently working in PNG’s Western Province with customary land owners and partner NGOs, including the Environmental Law Centre, to develop eco-forestry projects as an alternative to large-scale illegal logging. In the heart of the Amazon Greenpeace campaigns to prevent forest being cleared to grow agricultural product such as soy.

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