Happy New Year from NWEI! Celebrating Top Positive Environmental Stories of 2017

As we head into a new year, we not only have a lot to look forward to – but we are also celebrating the top environmental news stories of this past year. In a time when negative news cycles abound, taking pause to acknowledge the positive accomplishments of the year serves as a reminder of how our work together contributes to a more vibrant and sustainable future. Throughout 2017, scientists discovered new wildlife and rediscovered species that were once thought to be extinct. Some countries created large marine protected areas – and other granted new land rights to indigenous communities. We also saw the emergence of new technologies that are positively contributing to conservation efforts.

As Northwest Earth Institute kicks off its celebration of 25 years of changemaking in 2018, we’re celebrating our part in both educating and taking action for a more sustainable future. Join us in acknowledging the good news – and setting intentions for more change for good in the year to come. To read the full story on the Top 10 Happy Environmental Stories of 2017, click here. Here are a few of our favorite positive stories from 2017. Thanks to Mongabay, News and Inspiration from Nature’s Frontline, for these excerpts.

1. New populations of rare wildlife were found.
This year, conservationists discovered some new populations of threatened wildlife. Take, for example, the helmeted hornbill (Rhinoplax vigil). A research team recorded a new and “unexpectedly rich population” of this critically endangered bird in western Borneo. For a species that is now nearly extinct because of poaching, this discovery boosts hope for its future. It was good news for the Grauer’s gorilla (Gorilla beringei graueri) as well…The researchers think that there might be many more gorillas living inside the largely unexplored 10,885-square-kilometer (4,000-square-mile) park. First-of-a-kind surveys of forests in Karen state in southeast Myanmar also yielded records of at least 31 species of mammals, including tigers, Asian elephants, Phayre’s langurs and dholes. The region was previously out-of-bounds for scientists due to security and political reasons. Similarly, surveys in Thailand’s Eastern Forest Complex revealed the world’s second known breeding population of Indochinese tigers (Panthera tigris corbetti), making Thailand home to two breeding populations of this tiger subspecies.

2. Some species thought to be extinct were spotted after decades.
2017 was also a year of rediscoveries. A guard at a recently created amphibian reserve in the Cuchumatanes Mountain range in Guatemala, for example, chanced upon the brilliantly colored Jackson’s climbing salamander (Bolitoglossa jacksoni) more than 40 years after it was first recorded. A naturalist in India spotted an extremely rare cobra lily that had not been seen for nearly 80 years. Scientists also reported the rediscovery of the Táchira antpitta (Grallaria chthonia), a plump brown bird that was first recorded during an expedition in the mid-1950s in a remote part of the Andes in Venezuela. In yet another expedition exploring the western Amazon, a field guide spotted the Vanzolini’s bald-faced saki (Pithecia vanzolinii), a large black monkey with a long fluffy tail and golden fur, leaping from one tree branch to another. This was the first living evidence of this monkey in 80 years, researchers say.

3. A U.S. subnational delegation committed to keeping America’s Paris Climate Goals. 
In June this year, U.S. President Donald Trump announced that the country would be pulling out of the Paris Agreement on climate change. However, a rival coalition of U.S. governors, mayors, business and religious leaders paid for, and opened, an unofficial pavilion dubbed “America’s Pledge: We Are Still In.” This delegation, representing non-federal actors in 15 U.S. states, 455 cities, 1,747 businesses and 325 universities, proclaimed its commitment to the Paris Agreement on behalf of the American people. Governor Jerry Brown of California and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg led the delegation.

4. Philanthropists and companies made big commitments for the environment.
With Trump turning his back on climate change issues, philanthropists and big companies stepped up to tackle the problem. The Gates Foundation, for example, announced a $300 million grant to support agriculture research that would help farmers in Africa and Asia adapt to climate change. The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation also announced a $600 million donation over five years, from 2018 to 2023, to nonprofits that are working on climate change solutions. Other foundations have pledged their support for conservation efforts. The U.S.-based Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, for example, has announced $20 million in grants to local and global nonprofit organizations that are working in the areas of conservation, human rights and the environment.

5. Indigenous land rights were granted to communities.
Indigenous and rural communities in Indonesia are slowly reclaiming their ancestral rights to their land. In December last year, the Indonesian government for the first time recognized the rights of nine indigenous communities to the forests they have traditionally called home. This year, it granted land rights to some more indigenous communities. So far, the administration has restored the rights to 164 square kilometers (63 square miles) of land to indigenous communities. In another rare victory for indigenous communities, Brazil’s Temer government, which has previously attacked indigenous rights, established the 12,000-square-kilometer (4,630-square-mile) Indigenous Territory of Turubaxi-Téa along the Middle Negro River in Amazonas state.

The waters off Revillagigedo Islands are home to giant manta rays. Photo by Elias Levy

6. Large marine reserves were created.
Niue, a small island country in the South Pacific with a population of just 1,600, established a new marine protected area that covers 40 percent of the island’s exclusive economic zone… In September this year, Chile announced a 740,000-square-kilometer (285,700-square-mile) marine reserve around its remote Easter Island. The Rapa Nui Rahui Marine Protected Area region is home to over 140 marine species found nowhere else on Earth, and the park will not allow industrial fishing, mining and other extractive activities… Mexico has also announced the expansion of the Revillagigedo marine park to create the largest marine reserve of its kind in North America to protect sharks, rays, whales, turtles and other important marine species.

To read more positive environmental news stories, and to read the full article, click here. 



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