Trump’s global resorts put profit first, environment last, critics say

first_imgAdaptation To Climate Change, Animals, Biodiversity, Biodiversity Crisis, Biodiversity Hotspots, Climate, Climate Change, Climate Change Denial, Climate Change Politics, climate policy, Climate Politics, Conservation, Conservation and Religion, Deforestation, Drinking Water, Ecology, Ecosystems, Endangered Species, Environment, Environmental Ethics, Environmental Law, Environmental Policy, Environmental Politics, Extinction, Featured, Global Environmental Crisis, Global Warming, Globalization, Green, Green Energy, Habitat, Habitat Degradation, Habitat Destruction, Habitat Loss, Human-wildlife Conflict, Overconsumption, Religions, Tropical Deforestation, Water Crisis, Water Scarcity, Wildlife, Wildlife Conservation Article published by Glenn Scherer Donald Trump’s negative environmental record in Scotland and elsewhere has conservationists concerned in Bali, where Trump firms are developing a major resort and golf facility known as Trump International Hotel & Tower Bali.Another resort under development, the Trump International Hotel & Tower Lido, a 700-hectare facility including a six-star luxury resort, theme park, country club, spa, villas, condos and 18-hole golf course threatens the nearby Gunung Gede Pangrango National Park, one of Java’s last virgin tropical forests.Mongabay looked into Trump’s claims that he is an environmentalist, winning “many, many environmental awards.” We were able to locate just two — one a local New York award, and another granted by a golf business association. The Trump Organization did not respond to requests to list Mr. Trump’s awards.Trump’s environmental record as president, and as a businessman, is abysmal, say critics. His attempt to defund the U.S. Energy Star program, they say, is typical of a compulsion to protect his self interest: Energy Star has given poor ratings to nearly all Trump’s hotels, which experts note has possibly impacted his bottom line. Trump Tower in New York City. A Mongabay review of Donald Trump’s claim that his properties have received “many, many” environmental awards only uncovered two minor awards, one of them from a golf association. The Trump organization, when requested, did not provide any information on the topic. Photo by Brad_T/Flickr under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic licenseWho doesn’t like a luxury resort and 18-hole golf course set atop a sheer cliff with breathtaking views of the Indian Ocean? Revered Hindu Gods that inhabit the temple nearby, according to the local Balinese concerned over plans to open the Trump International Hotel & Tower Bali. Local environmentalists aren’t keen on the resort either.The Balinese worry that the Trump development will loom over the centuries-old Tanah Lot, a temple that sits upon a rock off the west coast of the wildly Instagrammed and oft visited Indonesian island.This particular holy site is one of the most venerated temples of the “Island of Gods.” And while the Balinese are ever welcoming to tourists — important to the island’s economy —their religion, and laws, stipulate that all non-religious buildings not exceed 15 meters, or the height of temples, and more or less the height of a coconut tree.The Tanah Lot Temple in Bali, Indonesia, which is about to become a next-door neighbor to a Trump resort. Photo by Justine Hong/Flickr under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic licenseThe Trump tower, resort and golf course, now still in the planning stage, also pose environmental concerns. Suriadi Darmoko believes the island does not need more hotel suites and jacuzzis. Darmoko is executive director of the Indonesian NGO, Wahana Lingkungan Hidup Indonesia (WALHI) / the Indonesian Forum for the Environment, Eksekutif Daerah Bali.A 2010 study by Indonesia’s Culture and Tourism Ministry, he notes, found Bali had a surplus of 9,800 hotel rooms. And according to a report by the HVS consulting firm, the average occupancy of upper luxury hotels in 2013 in Bali achieved only 60 percent.Darmoko is especially worried about the Trump project’s plans to expand the property around the existing Pan Pacific Nirwana Bali Resort. The amount of “farmland in Bali drops” when land is transferred to “becoming tourist accommodations and supporting facilities” he told Mongabay. “What Bali needs is a tourism accommodation moratorium,” during which the government could “conduct a study to calculate the supporting capacity and supporting ability of the environment in Bali.”The Trump tower project will be developed by MNC Group, Indonesia’s leading investment firm, and will be managed by the Trump Hotel Collection. As reported by Reuters last February, Herman Bunjamin — the vice president director at PT MNC Land Tbk (MNC Group’s property unit) — has assured the Balinese that the company would follow local government environmental regulations, and respect the Hindu religion.Donald Trump speaking to supporters at a rally at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in Phoenix, Arizona. During the campaign Trump declared: “[W]e’ll be fine with the environment. We can leave a little bit, but you can’t destroy businesses.”Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic licenseHowever, this is not the first time a Trump construction project has experienced a swirl of controversy around its potential environmental impacts. And that worries local Balinese communities and conservationists, even though Trump himself has claimed many times that he is an award-winning environmentalist — a claim we’ll explore in some detail later in this article.Ever since the 70-year-old billionaire was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States in January 2017, watchdog organizations have paid extra close attention to the past, and ongoing, international environmental record of Trump’s companies, especially considering that Trump has largely retained his ownership interest in his businesses.Trump: mixing politics, golf and the environmentAccording to Investopedia, before becoming president, Donald Trump had amassed a net worth of an estimated $3.5 billion. The Trump Organization LLC acts as the primary holding for Trump’s firms, and serves as an umbrella company for his investments in real estate, brands and other businesses, ranging from golf courses to hotels.Among its key executives are two of his sons: Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, who last March told Forbes he will not talk business with his father in order to prevent the appearance of a conflict of interest, but will only pass financial reports to him. Ivanka Trump, the President’s elder daughter, resigned from her father’s company in January and today works as an unpaid adviser to him in the White House.Ivanka Trump speaks in Aston, PA on 13 September 2016, during the presidential campaign. The President’s elder daughter resigned from her father’s company in January 2017 and today works as an unpaid adviser to him in the White House. Photo by Michael Vadon/Flickr under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic licenseGolf is one of the many businesses that made Trump rich. According to the financial disclosure form published last June by the Office of Government Ethics, Trump’s golf courses alone reported $288 million in income from January 2016 through April 15, 2017.In recent years the sport has increased wildly in popularity, and today golf is a multi-billion dollar industry: as of year-end 2016 there were golf facilities in 208 of the 245 countries in the world. However, the perfect manicured green color of the globe’s 33,161 courses comes at a high price to the environment.A study by Kit Wheeler and John Nauright of Georgia Southern University found that golf course construction often consists in “clearing of natural vegetation, deforestation, destruction of natural landscapes and habitats and changes in local topography and hydrology” in order to roughly replicate the barren Scottish Highlands in which the game originated. That unnatural landscaping often leads to erosion and habitat loss, not to mention the fact that the maintenance of a standard 9-hole needs a great deal of synthetic chemicals — many deemed hazardous to wildlife — to keep it lush and green, including fertilizers, insecticides, pesticides and fungicides.The environmental problems associated with golf, the authors note, are particularly acute in Southeast Asia due to the sudden boom of the sport there and due the fact that golf course maintenance in the tropics is far more difficult than in other parts of the world because of the higher levels of rainfall, greater numbers of pests, diseases and weeds.According to UNEP, golf course maintenance can also deplete freshwater resources — an average course in a tropical country needs 1,500 kilograms (3,307 pounds) of chemicals annually, and uses as much water as 60,000 rural villagers. This astronomical use of resources is hard to justify in the developing world where competition for water and cropland, amid soaring populations, is intense. The problem is further complicated by weak environmental regulation and enforcement plus corruption, all too typically seen in developing countries.Golf Course at the Trump International Doral Miami. Golf courses generally use tremendous amounts of chemicals to create and maintain Scottish Highland-like settings in the tropics and sub-tropics, and they can do significant harm to habitat. Photo by slgckgc/Flickr under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic licenseToday, Trump Golf boasts a portfolio of 17 courses across the globe stretching from the jagged California cliffs to the (previously) barren desert of Dubai. This empire is expanding, and 2018 will see the opening of Trump International Hotel & Tower Lido, a 700-hectare (1,730 acre) development including a six-star luxury resort, theme park, country club, spa, luxury villas, condominiums, and, of course, an 18-hole signature championship golf course.This new Trump-branded property will be set in the mountains of West Java, around 65 kilometers (40 miles) south of Jakarta and beside the Gunung Gede Pangrango National Park, one of the island’s last virgin tropical forests.The project has become a major concern to RMI, the Indonesian Institute for Forest and Environment, an NGO whose goal is the promotion of community-based natural resource management and biodiversity conservation in the region.“[T]here are major concerns from the local villagers on [how much of the] water supply that will still be available to them because the project is estimated to demand [lots] of water for their luxury facilities,” RMI’s Executive Director Mardha Tillah told Mongabay, pointing out that the Trump facility will be built in an important water catchment area.2018 will see the opening in Java, Indonesia, of the Trump International Hotel & Tower Lido, a 700-hectare (1,730 acre) development including a six-star luxury resort, theme park, country club, spa, villas, condominiums, and an 18-hole championship golf course. Its location next to Gunung Gede Pangrango National Park (pictured here) has environmentalists alarmed. Photo by Lip Kee/Flickr under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic licenseAfter “a public discussion that was organized by local youth, the local sub-regency government officials stated that the environmental impact assessment was not complete yet, although some construction had been undergone — e.g. a reservoir,” she said.The Associated Press reports, that the development is causing concern among Indonesian environmentalists, who fear for the nearby national park and its threatened animals, including the Critically Endangered Javan slow loris (Nycticebus javanicus), the Endangered Javan leaf monkey (Presbytis comata), the Vulnerable Javan leopard (Panthera pardus melas), and Endangered Javan silvery gibbon (Hylobates moloch).Tillah shares these fears. “I am very much keen on looking at the EIA [Environmental Impact Assessment] document that shows how this resort does not affect any wildlife in this area,” she said.Considering the President’s abysmal environmental record and his anti-environmental pro-business views, it is hard not to imagine that this anti-regulatory philosophy permeates Trump’s companies. During the election, Donald Trump stated that, “[W]e’ll be fine with the environment. We can leave a little bit, but you can’t destroy businesses.”Both Trump’s Balinese and Javan projects will be developed in partnership with MNC Group, who is also building the new Bogor-Sukabumi toll road, scheduled for completion at the end of 2017 which will provide direct access to Lido Lakes, reducing the drive time from Jakarta.The Vulnerable Javan leopard (Panthera pardus melas), seen here in a zoo, could be put more at risk by one of Trump’s new resorts in Indonesia. Photo by Vachovec1 CC BY-SA 4.0The highway, like tropical pavement around the world, is transforming the pastoral region. “The toll road has changed the landscape of rural areas of Bogor — paddy fields are replaced by the toll road projects,” said RMI’s Tillah. “If only it was not for this resort project, [the] toll road might not be constructed, because it was neglected due to lack of investors for more than a decade.”“On the other hand,” she added, “improvement in [regional] train service and an increase of [operating] frequency [could] already [have served as an alternative] solution for [moving] people.”ABC revealed that Donald Trump personally lobbied for the road with senior Indonesian politicians in September 2015 at Trump Tower in New York, when he was both in negotiations over the Lido development and running for the presidency. According to ABC, the meeting was not authorized by the Indonesian Government, and was held with the direct assistance of Trump business partner Hary Tanoesoedibjo, President Commissioner and Founder of the MNC Group.Tanoesoedibjo, a media mogul who created his own Indonesian political party in 2015, attended Trump’s inauguration last January. As the Nikkei Asian Review pointed out, he is the subject of a police investigation for allegations of intimidation and corruption, which he claims are politically motivated.A Javan Gibbon in Gunung Gede, Java, Indonesia. No one really knows with certainty what impacts the Trump resort, or the new road to it, will have on the region’s biodiversity. Photo by Francesco Veronesi/Flickr under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic licenseThe Scottish sagaOne of the best places to view the ongoing relationship between Trump’s businesses and the environment is in Scotland; the fact that golf originated there has done little to make that association run more smoothly.For more than a decade, Trump’s golf course on the coast of Aberdeenshire, Scotland, has been at the center of a heated dispute between those who support and oppose it. Trump International Golf Course Scotland won planning permission in 2008, but conservationists objected to the project because it would radically transform large parts of one of the country’s rarest coastal dune habitats.“The construction of Trump International Links has had an irreversible and unjustified impact on a fragile dune system, in particular a large area of the internationally important Foveran Links Site of Special Scientific Interest [SSSI],” Bruce Wilson, Senior Policy Officer of the Scottish Wildlife Trust, told Mongabay.“Unfortunately this planning application was approved by the Scottish Government despite evidence that it was easily possible to build two world class courses on the Menie Estate without destroying the SSSI,” he added.Trump has also been involved in a long-running row with the Scottish government over the impact of windfarms on his golf course.Before his White House campaign, he sent letters to the then first minister of Scotland Alex Salmond to urge him to withdraw his support for windfarm development. In this series of messages, obtained by the Huffington Post thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request, Trump labeled windfarms as “monsters,” suggested without evidence that “wind power doesn’t work,” and told Salmond “your economy will become a third world wasteland that investors will avoid,” if the green energy alternative was embraced by Scotland.Trump Golf Course Scotland restaurant place setting. Trump has repeatedly butted heads with Scottish authorities regarding an offshore wind power facility near his golf course. Photo by Chris Hoare/Flickr under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic licenseTrump’s resistance didn’t end there. The U.S. president-elect exhorted the leader of UK Independence party (UKIP) Nigel Farage and key associates to lobby against the Scottish windfarms. However, none of this aided Trump’s crusade against the turbines, and in December 2015 he lost a Scottish Supreme Court battle against the installation of an windfarm located several miles offshore of his course.Last July the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, the country’s principal environmental regulator, also raised formal objections to the Trump company’s proposals for a second 18-hole course in Aberdeenshire. Now the organization will have to revise its plans to make sure its project does not violate sewage pollution, environmental protection and groundwater conservation rules.A statement by Trump International Golf Links published by the BBC reads in part:The recent correspondence between Trump International, the local authority and statutory consultants is a normal part of the planning process and the regular ongoing dialogue conducted during the application process. SNH and Sepa always reference a range of policy considerations and factors which is standard practice and nothing out of the ordinary. Our application is making its way through the planning system and this dialogue will continue until it goes before committee for consideration. The Dr Martin Hawtree designed second golf course is located to the south of the Trump estate and does not occupy a Site of Special Scientific Interest therefore is not covered by any environmental designations.We are extremely confident in our proposal and that this process will reach a satisfactory conclusion acceptable to all parties on our world class development.Trump’s EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, speaking at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. Pruitt is a long time enemy of the agency he now heads. Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic licenseWhat’s good for Trump is good for the U.S. and world…During his campaign Donald Trump said he wanted to get rid of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) “in almost every form.” Now that he is President, Trump appears to be moving toward that goal, and some of his businesses are among the institutions that could benefit from a dramatic roll back in environmental regulations. A look at Trump’s attacks on the U.S. EPA, and the business rationale for those assaults, is enlightening when studying the actions of Trump businesses around the world.For instance, Trump issued an executive order commanding the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers to review the Obama-era Clean Water Rule, also known as the Waters of the United States rule (WOTUS) — a rule that greatly irks golf course developers.Last March, Bob Helland, director of congressional and federal affairs of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA), issued a statement that makes clear why his association opposes the Clean Water Rule as written: “Under the rule, golf courses could likely be required to obtain costly federal permits for any land management activities or land use decisions in, over or near these waters, such as pesticide and fertilizer applications and stream bank restorations and the moving of dirt. The impact on golf course management could be dramatic.”In 2016, the GSCAA praised Trump as “a president who understands the value of the game of golf, both as a golfer and golf course owner,” who “is also familiar with the H-2B Visa program that a number of golf facilities utilize, including one of his own in Florida.” This visa program allows U.S. employers, or agents who meet specific regulatory requirements, to bring foreign nationals to the U.S. to fill temporary nonagricultural jobs. “This could lead to a breakthrough in the red tape that makes using the program so frustrating,” said GSCAA. These statements shine a bright light on the imbalance between the administration’s business, environmental and immigration policies.Protesting Trump’s global assets at the People’s Rally, Washington DC. Photo credit: Lorie Shaull via Visualhunt.com / CC BY-SAWorld-class hotels form another cornerstone of the Trump financial empire. So when the president proposed cutting all funding to EPA’s very successful 25-year-old Energy Star Program, a program meant to save energy and cut greenhouse gas emissions, CNN launched an investigation to see how Trump businesses might benefit from its elimination.It turns out that the government’s Energy Star for Hotels ranking process provides an assessment of the energy performance of a property relative to its peers, taking into account local climate, weather and business activities at the property. Energy Star claims these ratings can affect the value of a property — the media investigation discovered that Trump’s properties tend to receive low ratings.According to CNN, “[t]he most recent scores from 2015 reveal that 11 of his 15 skyscrapers in New York, Chicago and San Francisco are less energy efficient than most comparable buildings. On a scale of 1 to 100 for energy efficiency, Manhattan’s old Mayfair Hotel, which Trump converted into condos, rated a 1,” the lowest rating possible.The House Appropriations Committee rejected the Trump’s administration proposal to eliminate Energy Star, but its spending bill for 2018, which came out in early July, proposed reducing funding by roughly 40 percent, a cut to $31 million.Critics say that such a deep reduction will be significantly harmful to the environment. “We appreciate that the committee has rejected the administration’s proposal… but a 40 percent cut would be crippling as well,” said the President of the Alliance to Save Energy Kateri Callahan in a press statement.In 2014, EPA estimated that Energy Star has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 2.5 billion metric tons since 1992, while also providing energy cost savings to consumers, hotels and other industries.“I have to wonder where this is coming from,” Callahan said, stressing the fact that Energy Star is one of the most popular government programs in U.S. history and has enjoyed broad bipartisan support since it was created under President George H.W. Bush.Trump’s properties have often not received good grades from the U.S. Energy Star for Hotels program, which aims at preventing energy waste. Critics say this is the likely reason that the Trump administration is now trying to defund the long-running, highly successful program. The Trump Taj Mahal, pictured here, was once considered an Atlantic City, NJ crown jewel; it went bankrupt in 2016. Photo credit: iirraa via Visualhunt.com / CC BY-NCDonald Trump, award-winning environmentalist?Donald Trump has been claiming he is an environmentalist at least since 2011, when he told Fox & Friends that “I’ve received many, many environmental awards”.“I am a big believer in clean air and clean water. I’m a big believer. I have gotten so many awards for the environment,” Trump said during a campaign rally in Des Moines, Iowa. “I won many environmental awards, I have actually been called an environmentalist, if you believe it,” he repeated at a rally in Atkinson, New Hampshire.Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross echoed that assessment on NBC’s Today show. Trump, he said, “is an environmentalist. I’ve known him for a very long time. He’s very pro-environment.”Politifact found a grain of truth in Trump’s statements. A decade ago two local groups did award Trump for specific projects. In 2007, he received the Friends of Westchester County Parks’ inaugural Green Space Award for donating 436 acres to the New York state park system, and in the same year his Bedminster New Jersey Trump National Golf Course received the first annual environmental award of the The Metropolitan Golf Association (MGA).MGA’s press statement reads: “Through the leadership of Donald J. Trump, [director of grounds] Nicoll has implemented an environmental strategy that has resulted in the preservation of a dedicated 45 acre grassland bird habitat on the property, as well as intensive erosion control and stream stabilization management plan. The impacts of golf construction and operations on this land have resulted in a significant environmental net gain from the previous land use. Trump National has made itself readily available to Bedminster Township officials by way of monthly meetings to keep them up to date on the club’s environmental monitoring activities.”The Trump International Doral Miami. Trump’s facilities routinely replace native habitat with unnatural landscaping, including vast stretches of mown grass. However, if there is a tax break to be gained from adding a goatherd to crop high grass, as at the Bedminster, NJ, resort, or adding a little farmland for hay production as a tax write-off, then Trump’s businesses may participate. Photo by slgckgc/Flickr under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic licenseMGA also said that, while planning the construction of an additional course, the club integrated environmental awareness into their golf course maintenance and construction plans by maintaining more stringent standards than those required by state and local regulations.However, critics note, if Donald Trump is an environmentalist, he is not an orthodox one. In his tweets, he has referred to global warming as “a canard,” something “mythical,” “based on faulty science and manipulated data,” “nonexistent” or “created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive,” and also as “a total, and very expensive, hoax,” not to mention “bullshit.”Nor does he show his environmentalism in the associates with which he surrounds himself. When choosing someone to lead his transition team for the Environmental Protection Agency, Trump picked climate science denier Myron Ebell, who believes the environmental movement is “the greatest threat to freedom and prosperity in the modern world.” His EPA head is the former Oklahoma attorney Scott Pruitt, a climate change skeptic whose LinkedIn profile says he is “a leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda.” Pruitt in the past sued EPA 14 times to block clean air and water safeguards, and recently denied that carbon dioxide causes global warming.However, big business can save big bucks by being environmentally friendly, and that is something that did not go unnoticed at Trump’s environmental award-winning New Jersey golf courses. The Wall Street Journal reported that both of them qualify as a farmland because they are not only sports fields, but also home to activities associated to farming such as hay production and woodcutting. The Bedminster golf course is even home to a small goat herd that grazes overgrown grass. It is not clear exactly how much the tax breaks save Trump, but the Journal estimates the courses pay less than $1,000 in annual taxes instead of the $80,000 that would be standard for such properties.Trump’s high end real estate empire has a poor environmental reputation, and has seen regular opposition from those concerned about the impact of Trump’s golf courses and hotels on local wildlife, habit, aquifers, and even religious traditions. Photo by kellybdc/Flickr under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic licenseStill, experts note, anyone saying that Donald Trump always puts profit and his assets ahead of the environment would be wrong. In truth, Trump’s policies could do serious harm to his businesses. As Buzz Feed News notes, Trump’s withdrawal of the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement likely means continuing rising sea levels and more extreme storms, which both threaten his low-lying properties, including the Trump National Doral in the Miami suburbs, a luxury golf resort that could end up submerged. Indeed, had Hurricane Irma tracked east of Florida instead of west, as originally expected, it’s likely the storm, supercharged by some of the warmest Caribbean waters on record, would have made a direct hit on Mar-A-Lago, the so-called Winter White House.Conflict of interest?The U.S. Congress has exempted the president and vice president from conflict-of-interest laws Title 18 Section 208 of the U.S. code. This decision was based on the premise that the presidency wields so much power that virtually any possible executive action might pose a potential conflict of interest (COI).Last November, during his first news conference since his election, Trump declared: “I have a no-conflict situation because I’m president, which is — I didn’t know about that until about three months ago, but it’s a nice thing to have, but I don’t want to take advantage of something.”Many watchdog organizations have been less complacent than Congress and the President concerning COIs — including those involving presidential power, the Trump companies, and the environment. These NGOs are watching to see if Trump international and domestic business deals have political implications, or if any policies promoted by his administration seem designed to benefit Trump businesses.The President’s just proposed tax reforms are a case in point — watchdog groups, the media and financial experts began looking for COIs and policy points benefiting Trump’s tax bracket and his businesses within hours of the announcement of the merest sketch of a tax reform plan.“Presidents have historically understood that there can be a conflict of interest even if the law doesn’t technically apply, and they have followed the same standards that apply to other federal employees,” Clark Pettig, American Oversight’s Communications Director, told Mongabay.American Oversight (AO) is a watchdog organization that is investigating numerous COIs across the Trump administration. For instance, it sued EPA to force the release of communications between regulators and industry groups, and to uncover the role investor Carl Icahn has played in setting policy. AO has also launched a broad investigation of the administration’s payments to Trump-owned businesses, and has submitted FOIA requests for documents related to the withdrawal of the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement.“Stop Pruitt” rally to oppose EPA nominee Scott Pruitt, Washington, DC. Pruitt, like almost all others in the Trump administration, comes from the business sector, which critics say has turned the so called “level playing field” on its head. Photo by Lorie Shaull/Flickr under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic licensePettig believes Trump clearly has a conflict of interest as he serves as President while also owning and profiting from a global business empire.“Rather than “draining the swamp,” the Trump administration has brought unprecedented conflicts of interests to Washington,” he said. “From rolling back environmental regulations that could impact his golf courses, to using diplomatic events to promote his own resorts, President Trump seems determined to use his power to enrich himself and his business empire,” Pettig said.Laura Friedenbach, Deputy Communications Director of Every Voice, a Washington-based watchdog organization whose aim is to reduce the influence of money in politics, is concerned as well. “When a public official is making decisions on behalf of the American people and also has a large personal stake in the outcome, it presents a conflict of interest,” she told Mongabay.“The conflicts of interest facing President Trump and his cabinet raise real questions about where the Trump administration’s priorities lie,” Friedenbach said. “Are they doing what’s best for the American people, or are they letting their own interests and the interests of their business partners get in the way?”“If President Trump and his cabinet are more concerned with boosting profits for companies they have a stake in, and personal ties with, including fossil fuel companies, then the result will be slowing down progress on combatting the effects of climate change,” she declared.The Trump Organization, Trump Hotels, Trump Golf, and MNC Land did not reply to Mongabay’s multiple requests to comment for this article; nor did they answer questions sent to them concerning their projects’ environmental impacts, Energy Star ratings, Trump’s environmental awards, and steps to reduce project carbon footprint.FEEDBACK: Use this form to send a message to the author of this post. If you want to post a public comment, you can do that at the bottom of the page.Despite protests like the March for Truth in Washington, DC, seen here, Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement, a move that, because of rising sea levels and intensifying hurricanes and other worsening extreme weather events, could harm his global assets. Photo by kellybdc/Flickr under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic licensecenter_img Popular in the CommunitySponsoredSponsoredOrangutan found tortured and decapitated prompts Indonesia probeEMGIES17 Jan, 2018We will never know the full extent of what this poor Orangutan went through before he died, the same must be done to this evil perpetrator(s) they don’t deserve the air that they breathe this has truly upset me and I wonder for the future for these wonderful creatures. So called ‘Mankind’ has a lot to answer for we are the only ones ruining this world I prefer animals to humans any day of the week.What makes community ecotourism succeed? In Madagascar, location, location, locationScissors1dOther countries should also learn and try to incorporateWhy you should care about the current wave of mass extinctions (commentary)Processor1 DecAfter all, there is no infinite anything in the whole galaxy!Infinite stupidity, right here on earth.The wildlife trade threatens people and animals alike (commentary)Anchor3dUnfortunately I feel The Chinese have no compassion for any living animal. They are a cruel country that as we knowneatbeverything that moves and do not humanily kill these poor animals and insects. They have no health and safety on their markets and they then contract these diseases. Maybe its karma maybe they should look at the way they live and stop using animals for all there so called remedies. DisgustingConservationists welcome China’s wildlife trade banThobolo27 JanChina has consistently been the worlds worst, “ Face of Evil “ in regards our planets flora and fauna survival. In some ways, this is nature trying to fight back. This ban is great, but the rest of the world just cannot allow it to be temporary, because history has demonstrated that once this coronavirus passes, they will in all likelihood, simply revert to been the planets worst Ecco Terrorists. Let’s simply not allow this to happen! How and why they have been able to degrade this planets iconic species, rape the planets rivers, oceans and forests, with apparent impunity, is just mind boggling! Please no more.Probing rural poachers in Africa: Why do they poach?Carrot3dOne day I feel like animals will be more scarce, and I agree with one of my friends, they said that poaching will take over the world, but I also hope notUpset about Amazon fires last year? Focus on deforestation this year (commentary)Bullhorn4dLies and more leisSponsoredSponsoredCoke is again the biggest culprit behind plastic waste in the PhilippinesGrapes7 NovOnce again the article blames companies for the actions of individuals. It is individuals that buy these products, it is individuals that dispose of them improperly. If we want to change it, we have to change, not just create bad guys to blame.Brazilian response to Bolsonaro policies and Amazon fires growsCar4 SepThank you for this excellent report. I feel overwhelmed by the ecocidal intent of the Bolsonaro government in the name of ‘developing’ their ‘God-given’ resources.U.S. allocates first of $30M in grants for forest conservation in SumatraPlanet4dcarrot hella thick ;)Melting Arctic sea ice may be altering winds, weather at equator: studyleftylarry30 JanThe Arctic sea ice seems to be recovering this winter as per the last 10-12 years, good news.Malaysia has the world’s highest deforestation rate, reveals Google forest mapBone27 Sep, 2018Who you’re trying to fool with selective data revelation?You can’t hide the truth if you show historical deforestation for all countries, especially in Europe from 1800s to this day. WorldBank has a good wholesome data on this.Mass tree planting along India’s Cauvery River has scientists worriedSurendra Nekkanti23 JanHi Mongabay. Good effort trying to be objective in this article. I would like to give a constructive feedback which could help in clearing things up.1. It is mentioned that planting trees in village common lands will have negative affects socially and ecologically. There is no need to even have to agree or disagree with it, because, you also mentioned the fact that Cauvery Calling aims to plant trees only in the private lands of the farmers. So, plantation in the common lands doesn’t come into the picture.2.I don’t see that the ecologists are totally against this project, but just they they have some concerns, mainly in terms of what species of trees will be planted. And because there was no direct communication between the ecologists and Isha Foundation, it was not possible for them to address the concerns. As you seem to have spoken with an Isha spokesperson, if you could connect the concerned parties, it would be great, because I see that the ecologists are genuinely interested in making sure things are done the right way.May we all come together and make things happen.Rare Amazon bush dogs caught on camera in BoliviaCarrot1 Feba very good iniciative to be fallowed by the ranchers all overSponsoredlast_img read more

Indonesian president recognizes land rights of nine more indigenous groups

first_imgCommunity Development, Community Forestry, Community-based Conservation, Conservation, Environment, Environmental Law, Environmental Policy, Environmental Politics, Forests, Happy-upbeat Environmental, Indigenous Peoples, Indigenous Rights, Land Reform, Land Rights, Land Use Change, Rainforests Indonesian President Joko Widodo last month gave several indigenous communities back the land rights to the forests they have called home for generations.The total amount of customary forests relinquished to local groups under this initiative remains far short of what the government has promised, and looks unlikely to be fulfilled before the next presidential election in 2019.At a recent conference in Jakarta, a senior government official said the president would sign a decree to help more communities secure rights. JAKARTA — The Indonesian government has relinquished control over nine tracts of forest to the indigenous communities that have lived there for generations, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo announced at a recent conference on land tenure in Jakarta.The move follows the government’s recognition last December of nine other communities’ rights to their ancestral forests, in line with a 2013 decision by Indonesia’s highest court that removed indigenous peoples’ customary forests from under state control.“The spirit of agrarian reform and community forestry program is how lands and forests, as part of natural resources in Indonesia, can be accessed by the people, and provide economic justice and welfare for the people,” the president said in a speech to open the conference on Oct. 25.President Jokowi hands over a land certificate to a representative of an indigenous group on Oct. 25. Photo courtesy of Indonesia’s Cabinet Secretary.The nine newly designated “customary forests,” or hutan adat in Indonesian, cover a combined 33.4 square kilometers (13 square miles), on the islands of Sumatra, Borneo and Sulawesi.The move is consistent with Jokowi’s campaign pledge to give indigenous and other rural communities greater control over 127,000 square kilometers of land, which helped him earn the first-ever presidential endorsement of the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN) ahead of the 2014 election.Three years into his presidency, however, the program is running behind schedule. The administration has rezoned just 10,800 square kilometers of community forests, of which 164 square kilometers are customary forests, according to data from the Presidential Staff Office. The latter figure includes the nine customary forests the administration recognized at the beginning of the year and the nine last month.Dozens of other indigenous communities are hoping to secure rights to their ancestral lands, too. The day after Jokowi’s speech, three groups from Enrekang district in South Sulawesi province submitted their own proposals to the Ministry of Environment and Forestry. The proposed customary forests there would cover 4.04 square kilometers.“The government hasn’t really been performing in making this promise happen,” AMAN researcher Arman Mohammad said.Indigenous groups in Enrekang district, South Sulawesi province, submitted on Oct. 26 a proposal to the Indonesian government to obtain rights to their forests. Photo by Wahyu Chandra/Mongabay Indonesia.AMAN has mapped out 19,000 square kilometers of land, home to 607 indigenous communities, which it says must be rezoned as customary forests. These groups have already obtained the required documents from district and provincial governments for state recognition of their rights, Arman said.The official recognition last month represented just a fraction of what AMAN had proposed, he said.As the agrarian reform conference wrapped up, a senior official said the president would issue a decree by year’s end to help indigenous groups like that in Enrekang obtain control of their forests. Yanuar Nugroho, a deputy at the Presidential Staff Office, told reporters that the decree would lay out the framework for regulation, bureaucracy and accountability.Details of the decree were not immediately available. However, Yanuar said at the time that one of the key points was to iron out overlapping authorities between related ministries.For instance, he said, the environment ministry would concentrate on recognizing land rights inside forests, while the Ministry of Agrarian Affairs and Spatial Planning would oversee those outside forests. Currently, the matter is handled by those two ministries as well as the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Villages, Underdeveloped Regions and Transmigration.“The country is returning sovereignty to the people, and I believe this program for community forestry and agrarian reform is the spearhead,” Yanuar said.Some observers welcomed the promise of a decree, saying it would help streamline the process for indigenous communities in obtaining state approval of their land rights.“There should be a single agency focusing on the land reform program so that the people don’t get confused,” said Dewi Kartika, general secretary of the Agrarian Reform Consortium, an NGO.Arman called on the government to involve NGOs in drawing up the decree in order for it to be effective once implemented on the ground.Momonus, chief of the Dayak Iban indigenous group in West Kalimantan province. For years, the group has been in conflict with a major oil palm company in Indonesia. Photo by Basten Gokkon/Mongabay.But even with a decree in place, the government may miss its target.Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar noted at the conference that the government would only realistically be able to approve a total 43,800 square kilometers, just over a third of the promised total, for community forestry schemes by 2019, when President Jokowi will stand for re-election.To achieve even that pared-down goal, the minister called on local governments to accommodate indigenous groups, who depend on district chiefs and local legislatures to issue decrees that recognize them as indigenous.“We must now push for getting more areas that will potentially be appointed as customary lands in order to reduce conflicts,” Siti said on the sidelines of the conference.Observers say the Jokowi administration’s actions and policies in general have failed to resolve land conflicts, which have led to the wrongful eviction of indigenous communities from their homes over the years.“The locations that the government has been targeting so far are not the ones with agrarian conflicts or where there are overlapping claims between local communities,” Dewi said.She added that policies issued by the federal government often failed to be implemented at the local level.“A clean and just bureaucracy is our top concern,” said Rukka Sombolinggi, AMAN’s general secretary. “We have trust in the president and the ministries, but not quite in [officials at] the regional levels.”Others also highlighted land conflicts resulting from other government programs, including its flagship infrastructure development projects and issuance of plantation permits. Efforts at land reform have also been criticized for overlooking communities in coastal areas.“The president must take groundbreaking actions so that land reform will truly happen, otherwise it’s just a fake agrarian reform,” Rukka said.A list of the new customary forests, per the Presidential Staff Office:Hutan Adat Tawang Panyai (Sekadau district, West Kalimantan province, 0.4 square kilometers)Hutan Adat Marena (Sigi district, Central Sulawesi province, 7.6 square kilometers)Hutan Adat Batu Kerbau (Bungo district, Jambi province, 3.2 square kilometers)Hutan Adat Belukar Panjang (Bungo district, Jambi province, 3.3 square kilometers)Hutan Adat Bukit Bujang (Bungo district, Jambi province, 2.2 square kilometers)Hutan Adat Hemaq Beniung (West Kutai district, East Kalimantan province, 0.5 square kilometers)Hutan Adat Baru Pelepat (Bungo district, Jambi province, 8.2 square kilometers)Hutan Adat Bukit Pintu Koto (Merangin district, Jambi province, 2.8 square kilometers)Hutan Adat Rimbo Penghulu Depati Gento Rajo (Merangin district, Jambi province, 5.3 square kilometers)Banner image: An indigenous Dani man in Indonesia’s Papua region, one of the most linguistically diverse regions in the world. Photo by Rhett A. Butler for Mongabay.FEEDBACK: Use this form to send a message to the author of this post. If you want to post a public comment, you can do that at the bottom of the page. Article published by Basten Gokkoncenter_img Popular in the CommunitySponsoredSponsoredOrangutan found tortured and decapitated prompts Indonesia probeEMGIES17 Jan, 2018We will never know the full extent of what this poor Orangutan went through before he died, the same must be done to this evil perpetrator(s) they don’t deserve the air that they breathe this has truly upset me and I wonder for the future for these wonderful creatures. So called ‘Mankind’ has a lot to answer for we are the only ones ruining this world I prefer animals to humans any day of the week.What makes community ecotourism succeed? In Madagascar, location, location, locationScissors1dOther countries should also learn and try to incorporateWhy you should care about the current wave of mass extinctions (commentary)Processor1 DecAfter all, there is no infinite anything in the whole galaxy!Infinite stupidity, right here on earth.The wildlife trade threatens people and animals alike (commentary)Anchor3dUnfortunately I feel The Chinese have no compassion for any living animal. They are a cruel country that as we knowneatbeverything that moves and do not humanily kill these poor animals and insects. They have no health and safety on their markets and they then contract these diseases. Maybe its karma maybe they should look at the way they live and stop using animals for all there so called remedies. DisgustingConservationists welcome China’s wildlife trade banThobolo27 JanChina has consistently been the worlds worst, “ Face of Evil “ in regards our planets flora and fauna survival. In some ways, this is nature trying to fight back. This ban is great, but the rest of the world just cannot allow it to be temporary, because history has demonstrated that once this coronavirus passes, they will in all likelihood, simply revert to been the planets worst Ecco Terrorists. Let’s simply not allow this to happen! How and why they have been able to degrade this planets iconic species, rape the planets rivers, oceans and forests, with apparent impunity, is just mind boggling! Please no more.Probing rural poachers in Africa: Why do they poach?Carrot3dOne day I feel like animals will be more scarce, and I agree with one of my friends, they said that poaching will take over the world, but I also hope notUpset about Amazon fires last year? Focus on deforestation this year (commentary)Bullhorn4dLies and more leisSponsoredSponsoredCoke is again the biggest culprit behind plastic waste in the PhilippinesGrapes7 NovOnce again the article blames companies for the actions of individuals. It is individuals that buy these products, it is individuals that dispose of them improperly. If we want to change it, we have to change, not just create bad guys to blame.Brazilian response to Bolsonaro policies and Amazon fires growsCar4 SepThank you for this excellent report. I feel overwhelmed by the ecocidal intent of the Bolsonaro government in the name of ‘developing’ their ‘God-given’ resources.U.S. allocates first of $30M in grants for forest conservation in SumatraPlanet4dcarrot hella thick ;)Melting Arctic sea ice may be altering winds, weather at equator: studyleftylarry30 JanThe Arctic sea ice seems to be recovering this winter as per the last 10-12 years, good news.Malaysia has the world’s highest deforestation rate, reveals Google forest mapBone27 Sep, 2018Who you’re trying to fool with selective data revelation?You can’t hide the truth if you show historical deforestation for all countries, especially in Europe from 1800s to this day. WorldBank has a good wholesome data on this.Mass tree planting along India’s Cauvery River has scientists worriedSurendra Nekkanti23 JanHi Mongabay. Good effort trying to be objective in this article. I would like to give a constructive feedback which could help in clearing things up.1. It is mentioned that planting trees in village common lands will have negative affects socially and ecologically. There is no need to even have to agree or disagree with it, because, you also mentioned the fact that Cauvery Calling aims to plant trees only in the private lands of the farmers. So, plantation in the common lands doesn’t come into the picture.2.I don’t see that the ecologists are totally against this project, but just they they have some concerns, mainly in terms of what species of trees will be planted. And because there was no direct communication between the ecologists and Isha Foundation, it was not possible for them to address the concerns. As you seem to have spoken with an Isha spokesperson, if you could connect the concerned parties, it would be great, because I see that the ecologists are genuinely interested in making sure things are done the right way.May we all come together and make things happen.Rare Amazon bush dogs caught on camera in BoliviaCarrot1 Feba very good iniciative to be fallowed by the ranchers all overSponsoredlast_img read more