Eco Americas: A monthly report on development and the environment in Latin America


March 2018

Vol. 20 – No. 5


  • Around the region 2
    Text for region’s first environmental-rights
  • treaty wins approval 3
    Indigenous groups using maps to fight
  • Chaco deforestation 4
    Climate bill in Peru is overshadowed by
  • road-impact worries 5
    Offshore-oil plans in Brazil seen as threat to unusual reef off Amazon River mouth 6
  • Q&A: Rainforest advocate Atossa Soltani sees grassroots push for Amazon conservation 12

Border-wall critics continue fight after court loss

Donald Trump declared a “big victory” on Feb. 28, the day after a U.S. court affirmed his administration’s authority to waive environmental laws impeding plans for construction of barriers along the length of the U.S.-Mexican border. But the win was overshadowed when the U.S. Congress this month passed a $1.3 trillion spending bill with just $1.6 billion for border barriers—well below the $25 billion sought by Trump, who nevertheless signed the legislation to avoid a government shutdown.

Meanwhile environmental groups whose challenges of the waiver authority were rejected in U.S. District Court insist they will fight on. “There is too much at stake,” says Randy Serraglio of the U.S.-based Center for Biological Diversity.

“We can’t throw up our hands and cede these issues to the Trump administration.” The  Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Sierra Club, Animal Legal Fund and the State of California were among the plaintiffs in three suits challenging plans to replace border fencing in the San Diego area and build prototype walls. U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel—whom Trump had accused of bias because of his “Mexican heritage” in an earlier, unrelated case—ruled against the plaintiffs in all three cases, which had been consolidated.

In his Feb. 27 decision, Curiel endorsed the administration’s authority unambiguously, holding that the Department of Homeland Security is well within its authority under the…

Ecuadorians express support for forest protection

Indigenous communities and environmentalists in Ecuador are denouncing a newly unveiled
plan by President Lenín Moreno to offer more oil-development concessions in the country’s
Amazon region. The government on Feb. 27 announced that by year’s end it will auction 16 concessions in the relatively untouched southeastern portion of the Ecuadorian Amazon and an unspecified number of others in the northern portion between oilfields already in operation.

But the announcement followed a Feb. 4 national referendum in which 70% of voters supported a 50,000-hectare (124,000-acre) expansion of an area earmarked for the exclusive use of indigenous people living in voluntary isolation inside Yasuní National Park, a prized rainforest reserve. The measure also requires that the space allowed for oil-extraction activity ina concession inside Yasuní known as Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini (ITT), or Block 43, be reduced from 1,030 hectares to 300 (2,545 acres to 740.) Critics of oil drilling and other extractive industry in the Ecuadorian Amazon were disappointed by the announcement that new oil concessions would be auctioned. But they praised the Yasuní referendum as proof of public support for a new model of development that preserves the Amazon region’s natural resources…

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