Tarahumara forest-defender wins Goldman award

This year’s North American winner of the Goldman Prize, awarded annually to the most courageous environmental activists on five contients, is Isidro Baldenegro of Chihuahua, Mexico, a Tarahumara Indian who has long defended the forests of the Sierra Tarahumara against the chain-saws of the timber mafia. As reported in WW4 Report 90, Baldenegro was imprisoned in 2003 on trumped-up terrorism charges, and released following an international campaign.

From the April 21 press release:

North America: Isidro Baldenegro López, 38, Chihuahua, Mexico
Baldenegro is a subsistence farmer and community leader of Mexico’s indigenous Tarahumara people who live in the country’s Sierra Madre Mountains. After witnessing the 1987 assassination of his father Julio Baldenegro, an Indian leader who also opposed logging, Baldenegro has spent much of his life defending old growth forests from unregulated logging in a region torn by violence, corruption and drug-trafficking.

In 2002, he organized non-violent sit-ins and marches, prompting the government to temporarily suspend logging in the area. The following year he mobilized a massive human blockade of mostly women whose husbands had been murdered, resulting in a special court order outlawing logging in the area.

In 2003, soon after that blockade, Baldenegro was suddenly arrested and jailed on trumped-up charges. He was released 15 months later.

Baldenegro has now formed his own environmental group, The Commission for Community Conscience, and his work has led to new logging bans throughout the Sierra Madre region.

Baldenegro said he is working, “To seek a better future for the communities and the coming generations, to denounce the injustices committed against the indigenous people and to protect the forest and natural resources of the Tarahumara Sierra.”

The other winners are:

Corneille Ewango of the Democratic Republic of Congo, a botanist who protected the Okapi Faunal Reserve through a decade of civil war.

Kaisha Atakhanova of Kazakhstan, who led a campaign against the commercial importation of nuclear waste.

Stephanie Roth of Romania, who led a campaign against construction of Europe’s largest open-cast gold mine, slated for Rosia Montana, in the Apuseni Mountains.

Father José Andrés Tamayo Cortez of Honduras, who organized peasants to protect local forests from timber mafias. (See WW4 REPORT #91)