Global Conservation Rollbacks Tracker

Conservation International is tracking rollbacks to conservation efforts – including regulations, rules, laws, and other policies – around the world that are occurring during the global COVID-19 pandemic. 


Last updated on October 13, 2020. The tracker includes any announcements and proposals made since March 1, 2020 as well as the reported advancement or implementation of decisions made before that date. See below for our methods.

 

Albania

Land and water protections, Water
"Part of the larger Vjore-Narte Protected Area, Narta Lagoon is a stunning Key Biodiversity Area (KBA) rich in marine life, including the Mediterranean Monk Seal (Endangered), diverse plant species and a key ‘landing’ and refueling site for waterbirds – not aeroplanes. The Albanian government continues to push for the construction of an airport here, despite a failed attempt last year and coordinated opposition from NGOs." Learn More

Land and water protections, Water
"The construction of a new hydropower plant is threatening the Lure-Mali i Dejes National Park in Albania." Learn More

Australia

General environmental regulations
"Coalition is aiming to change Australia's environment laws before review is finished" Learn More

General environmental regulations
"Scientists have expressed dismay and frustration at Scott Morrison’s latest push to deregulate the environmental approval process for major developments, noting it comes just months after an unprecedented bushfire crisis and during a review of national conservation laws." Learn More

General environmental regulations
"The Streamlining Environmental Approvals Bill brought by Environment Minister Sussan Ley would create a 'one-touch regime' for assessments of major projects, which would hand state governments responsibility for approval and management of major project development impacts on threatened species, habitat and biodiversity as well as World Heritage areas." Learn More

General environmental regulations
"Legislation to change Australia’s environmental laws has been rammed through the lower house by the Morrison government prompting outrage from Labor, the Greens and the crossbench. The government’s bill would amend the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act, clearing the way for the transfer of development approval powers to state and territory governments." Learn More

Land and water protections
"The suspension of conservation laws in the logging industry for the next decade by the State of Victoria is a direct deregulatory measure in agriculture and forestry. While it is not a law imposed across the entire country, the repeal of this legislation places natural forests at risk of logging. This suspension is a part of the Regional Forestry Agreement that was reaffirmed during the COVID-19 crisis which exempts loggers from compliance with certain federal conservation laws, including the Environmental Protection Biodiversity Conservation Act." Learn More "

Climate, Land and water protections
""Almost 7,000 square kilometres of land will be released for coal and gas exploration as part of a raft of measures to ensure the survival of the resources sector through the coronavirus pandemic, the Queensland Government has announced.""  Learn More "

Austria

Water
"WWF-Austria reports that under cover of coronavirus curfews, a dam is now being built on the Ötztaler Ache River while legal complaints are still pending." Learn More / Take Action

Brazil

IPLC rights, Land and water protections
"...a presidential decree awaiting congressional approval and new rules at the indigenous agency FUNAI effectively legalise land grabbing in protected forests and indigenous reserves." Learn More

IPLC rights, Land and water protections
"A public land regularization project has generated so much criticism from environmentalists that foreign companies have already threatened to cut the import of Brazilian products." Learn More

IPLC rights, Land and water protections
"Brazil’s lower house of Congress delayed voting on a land bill seen by some as contributing to deforestation in the Amazon rainforest, which has dozens of European companies threatening to boycott Brazilian exports. The bill allows squatters on public land to more easily receive deeds to their properties, a policy that environmental advocacy group Imazon warns will accelerate deforestation of up to 16,000 square kilometers in the world’s largest rainforest by 2027." Learn More

Land and water protections
"President Jair Bolsonaro has revived a plan, conceived in the 1970s, to extend the BR-163 highway, the main soy corridor in Brazil, north to the border with Suriname." Learn More

Land and water protections
"Brazil faces a critical decision on licensing Highway BR-319, in the Purus / Madeira river basins of Amazonas state, which would 'chop the Amazon rainforest in half.'” Learn More

Land and water protections, IPLC rights
"Anglo American, one of the biggest mining companies in the world, and its two Brazilian subsidiaries have submitted nearly 300 applications to dig for gold and other minerals inside indigenous territories in the Brazilian Amazon, records seen by Mongabay show. Also at stake is the Renca national reserve, a massive protected area that Bolsonaro has indicated he wants reduced or stripped of its status in order to allow mining." Learn More

Land and water protections, IPLC rights
"Though mining is still illegal in indigenous reserves under Brazilian law, President Jair Bolsonaro has introduced a bill awaiting a vote in Congress that would to allow mining, oil and gas extraction and other uses of these lands." Learn More

Land and water protections, IPLC rights
"Brazilian Environment Minister Ricardo Salles called on the government to push through further deregulation of environmental policy while people are distracted by the coronavirus pandemic, in a video the Supreme Court ordered released" Learn More

Land and water protections
"As in the rest of Legal Amazonia, farmers located in western Maranhão are subject to Brazil’s Forest Code, and must conserve 80% of the standing forest on their land. In places like Maranhão, most of those Legal Reserves contain secondary forests, including important communal forests such as babassu stands. However, the new zoning policy approved by the Maranhão State Parliament in May reduces the official Legal Reserve size from 80% to 50% of a property, if the land is not old-growth forest — freeing up 30% of those secondary forests for potential deforestation and potentially rewarding previous illegal logging." Learn More

General environmental regulations
"Brazil dismantles environmental laws via huge surge in executive acts: Study. 'What we already know is that most of the noteworthy acts change the institutional structure. They point, mainly, to a greater concentration of power in the figure of the Minister of the Environment. We detected acts of flexibility — alteration, temporary or not, of deadlines or conditions for compliance with environmental rules, norms and laws — and of deregulation.'" Learn More

General environmental regulations
"The Bolsonaro government accelerated publication of acts on the environment during the months of the greatest growth of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country" Learn More

Cameroon

Land and water protections
"The Cameroon government recently approved a logging concession for Ebo Forest, which would allow trees in 68,385 hectares (169,000 acres) of the region to be harvested, despite opposition from conservationists and local communities. Ebo Forest was previously slated to be transformed into a national park, an effort spearheaded by WWF, but plans were dashed in 2013, reportedly because of lack of funding." Learn More / Take Action

Land and water protections (rollback reversed)
"The Cameroonian government on Tuesday, August 11, canceled a decree endangering 68,000 hectares of the primary forest of Ebo, in central Cameroon. A positive decision for the local communities strongly attached to their land but also for the preservation of biodiversity." Learn More

Canada

Climate
"On March 4, 2020, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Jonathan Wilkinson authorized a derogation of the Impact Assessment Act (IAA) to allow exploratory, offshore oil-and-gas drilling on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, pending an online consultation process." Learn More / Take Action

Climate
"Alberta’s energy minister says it’s a good time to build a pipeline because public-health restrictions limit protests against them." Learn More

General environmental regulations, Climate
"Alberta suspended reporting requirements under several environmental acts, except for drinking water facilities. Later changes by the Alberta Energy Regulator removed many monitoring requirements for oil companies, including monitoring surface water, ground water and wildlife in tailings ponds. ... Monitoring was also temporarily put on hold in fisheries.... Ontario removed the requirements for consultation on environmental issues during the current state of emergency. ... Alberta also opened much of the eastern Rocky Mountains and foothills to open-pit coal mining without public consultation." Learn More

Land and water protections
Proposal to eliminate protective status for provincial parks in Alberta, following a quiet amendment that removed the requirement for public consultation in these types of decisions. "A total of 175 parks are slated to be closed and/or removed from Alberta Parks system and revert to public land (including the 20 slated for full or partial closure some of which overlap with the 164 for future “partnership”). Public lands management and vacant public land-use do not adequately protect fish and wildlife or recreation values." Learn More

Land and water protections
"20 Alberta parks to be fully or partially closed, while dozens opened up for 'partnerships.' Critics say move could lead to the provincial parks running as for-profits" Learn More

General environmental regulations
"The government used its majority to pass the legislation, Bill 197, on Tuesday night over the objections of opposition parties. The omnibus bill makes sweeping changes to 20 pieces of legislation, including major rewrites of environmental law. Green advocates have said measures in the bill amount to a rollback of environmental protections. It includes a rewrite of environmental assessment rules — the government will now decide which projects get environmental assessments, rather than reviewing most public sector projects by default." Learn More

Chile

Climate, Land and water protections
"In the midst of a pandemic, on April 20, the Evaluation Commission of the Valparaíso region - in charge of the classification of projects submitted to the Environmental Impact Assessment System (SEIA) - unanimously approved the Environmental Impact Statement (DIA) of the “Las Tejas Pre-Feasibility Mining Soundings” project, by the Compañía Minera Vizcachitas Holding, a subsidiary of the Canadian Los Andes Copper. This project contemplates the realization of 350 drillings to estimate the quantity and quality of existing mineral reserves in the Putaendo mountain range, with a view to generating an open-pit mine." (Original: "En pleno contexto de pandemia, el pasado 20 de Abril, la Comisión Evaluadora de la región de Valparaíso -encargada de la calificación de proyectos sometidos al Sistema de Evaluación de Impacto Ambiental (SEIA)- aprobó por unanimidad la Declaración de Impacto Ambiental (DIA) del proyecto “Sondajes Mineros de Prefactibilidad Las Tejas”, de la Compañía Minera Vizcachitas Holding, filial de la canadiense Los Andes Copper. Este proyecto contempla la realización de 350 sondajes para estimar la cantidad y calidad de reservas minerales existentes en la cordillera de Putaendo, en miras a generar una mina a rajo abierto." Learn More

Colombia

Water, Climate
"In the midst of a pandemic, the government is insisting on pilot fracking projects despite the collapse in the price of oil." (Original: "En plena pandemia, el gobierno también insiste en los proyectos pilotos de fracking a pesar del desplome en el precio del petróleo.") Learn More

Cook Islands

Land and water protections
"The Cook Islands government will allow miners to prospect for minerals on its seabed, with an eye to commencing mining within five years. Officials justify the decision on the need to ease the country’s economic dependence on tourism, which has taken a hit from coronavirus-related travel restrictions." Learn More

Ecuador

Land and water protections, IPLC rights, Climate
"New oil road deeper into Yasuni National Park (Ecuador) ...beginning in mid-March 2020, we detected the construction of a new access road heading further south from the last platform ... As of early May, this road construction was 3.7 km through primary forest. ... This finding is concerning because it brings oil development closer to the “Zona Intangible,” a reserve created to protect the territory of indigenous people in voluntary isolation (Tagaeri, Taromenane), isolated relatives of the Waorani. ... It is also concerning because construction is occurring during the coronavirus pandemic." Learn More

Land and water protections, General environmental regulations
Layoffs of 398 staff of the Ministry of Environment and Water, including 30 staff who worked in the National System of Protected Areas. Learn More

El Salvador

Land and water protections, General environmental regulations
"The Executive requested a cut of $ 16 million to eight institutions to pay salaries for three months, goods and services and financial expenses of the National Administration of Aqueducts and Sewers (ANDA). Among those institutions that were cut is Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, with a reduction of $ 1.4 million, depleting budget to manage natural protected areas and wildlife." Learn More

Greece

Land and water protections, Climate
"Greek lawmakers approved a controversial environmental bill that changes regulations on land use, environmental licensing, the management of protected areas and sells another stake in Greece's power grid operator ADMIE, partly owned by State Grid Corporation of China. ... It will also allow oil and gas exploration in protected areas, while reducing the ability of local governments to block such investments." Learn More "

Hungary

Land and water protections
""The Hungarian government is planning to develop a tourism complex inside the following Natura 2000 site: Fertő tó SPA. .. The tourism complex is to cover roughly 60 hectares and includes the following elements: Reconstruction of the existing beach area with its catering facilities; Building new tourism facilities: 4-star hotel, motel, camping, sport complex with indoor sport facilities, 880 parking places for cars, harbour for 450+ sailing yachts and 350+ paddling boats, ecotourism centre which is to be used as visitor centre of the Fertő-Hanság National Park. The total investment will cover roughly 60 hectares within the concerned Natura 2000 sites, which is also a transboundary national park (Fertő-Hanság / Neusiedler See-Winkel National Park), transboundary UNESCO World Heritage site and transboundary Ramsar site. Within the 60 hectares, 13.6 hectares would be covered by artificial surface (roads and buildings)."" Learn More "

India

General environmental regulations
Government of India’s environment ministry has proposed a new set of rules to govern the country’s environment clearance regime for industrial projects like dams, mines, airports, highways etc. The draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification 2020, which was unveiled last week, proposes to ease processes for business, does away with the public hearings for many projects, ease rules for expansion of projects among other things. Learn More

Land and water protections
"Despite resistance, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC), has given the green signal to reduce the Eco-Sensitive Zone (ESZ) of the Bannerghatta National Park (BNP) by around 100 sq. km." Learn More

Land and water protections
"In the peak of the Covid-19 Pandemic, as the whole country is on a lockdown mode, there is something that has stopped: the opening up and clearing up of Protected Areas for various projects. A total of 31 proposals involving diversion of 185 acres of National Parks and Sanctuaries and about 3000 acres in the eco sensitive zone is to be considered by the Standing Committee of the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) headed by Prakash Javadekar, Union Minster for Environment, Forest and Climate Change." Learn More

Land and water protections
"India’s environment ministry has recently cleared multiple infrastructure projects in protected areas in the country. Assam’s Dehing Patkai which has rare and endangered species including elephants and Goa’s Bhagwan Mahavir which is part of an important tiger corridor are two among other wildlife sanctuaries where clearances for coal mining, power lines and roads have been given." Learn More

Land and water protections, Climate
"Environmentalists have intensified their protest against the decision of National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) for coal mining in Saleki of the Dehing Patkai Elephant Reserve." Learn More / Take Action

Land and water protections, Climate
"The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has given clearance for hydrocarbon drilling to Oil India Limited at seven locations under the Dibru Saikhowa National Park in Assam's Tinsukia district" Learn More

General environmental regulations
"Wildlife nod not required for railway projects: Ministry ... Railway projects, small-scale development works involving construction over less than 20,000 square metres, and under-25 MW capacity hydropower plants will not require approval from the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) even if they are located within eco-sensitive zones (ESZs) of national parks or wildlife sanctuaries, the environment ministry has said." Learn More

Climate, Land and water protections
"India plans to fell ancient forest to create 40 new coalfields. ... under a new “self-reliant India” plan by the prime minister, Narendra Modi, to boost the economy post-Covid-19 and reduce costly imports, 40 new coalfields in some of India’s most ecologically sensitive forests are to be opened up for commercial mining." Learn More

Indonesia

Land and water protections
"Authorities on the Indonesian island of Lombok say they want to build a cable car to Mount Rinjani to allow more non-hikers to visit the national park. The proposed cable car line would be built outside the park boundaries, but critics say the impact to the environment will ripple into the park itself." Learn More

Water, Land and water protections
"Indonesia’s parliament has passed a controversial bill that effectively gives miners bigger concessions and longer contracts, with fewer environmental obligations. Among the biggest changes it introduces to the 2009 mining law is the removal of a limit on the size of mining operations under a single permit, capped by the previous law to 15,000 hectares (37,000 acres)." Learn More

Kenya

Land and water protections
"In its new 10-year management plan for the Nairobi National Park, the Kenya Wildlife Service intends to construct an eco-lodge, a high-end restaurant and an amphitheatre, which could threaten the park." Learn More / Take Action

Land and water protections
"The construction of the road that cuts through the Nairobi National Park is ongoing. Initially, plans by the Kenya Railways to build an access road linking the Nairobi Inland Container Depot to the Southern Bypass along the boundary of Nairobi National Park (in 2018) drew opposition. The road has eaten into sections of the park." Learn More

Malaysia

Land and water protections, IPLC rights
"The current Movement Control Order (MCO) and the suspension of activities by NGOs by the Registrar of Societies, have made it impossible to have any proper assessment of impacts or dialogue on the proposed degazettement of the Kuala Langat North Forest Reserve. So it came as a surprise when the Selangor state government announced it would soon conduct a public hearing session for the proposed degazettement." Learn More / Take Action

Mexico

Land and water protections
Budget cuts announced by the President to reduce the operational budget of almost all government entities by 75%, including for the National Natural Protected Areas Commission (CONANP). Learn More " "

Poland

Land and water protections, climate
Adjustment of the definition of the type of wood that can be burned in powerplants, including ""deadwood and dying trees"" and allowance of sanitary logging; may lead to forest harvest in protected Natura 2000 sites. Would affect biodiversity, carbon storage, and ecosystem regeneration potential.  Learn More "

Russia

Land and water protections
"A new Russian law that allows deforestation and construction near the shores of Siberia’s Lake Baikal has sparked backlash among environmental activists who say the law threatens protected natural areas. ... The new law, signed by President Vladimir Putin on Friday, effectively permits deforestation in specially protected natural areas through 2024 in order to build or upgrade transport infrastructure. The law also suspends requirements for state environmental impact evaluations to be carried out ahead of transport construction and modernization projects." Learn More

Slovenia

General environmental regulations
"In the shadow of the coronavirus, the new Slovenian government is taking rights from environmental and nature conservation NGOs. ... The law regarding building permits for facilities that have greater impact on the environment (integrated building permit) prevents most NGOs with the status of operating in the public interest for environmental protection and nature conservation from accessing legal funds - entry into the procedures for issuing an integrated building permit for facilities with environmental impacts. ... The law opens a time window when construction will be allowed in a single-stage administrative procedure (in the integral procedure under the Construction Act, the Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning decides), practically without the possibility of 'verifying legality regarding environmental and nature protection' and thus starting the construction. ... The current government has, despite the public protest in front of the Slovenian Parliament and several thousands of email sent to members of the Parliament, proposed and adopted a new amendment, which imposes the same conditions as mentioned above, in the Nature Conservation Act. ... By imposing such harsh and unreasonable conditions, a vast majority of nature conservation NGOs will lose the right to defend nature in all administrative and court proceedings – by our rough estimation, only 4 nature conservation NGOs meet these conditions." Learn More

South Africa

Air quality
"Government "locks" SA into deadly air pollution amid Covid-19 pandemic. Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries Barbara Creecy gazetted air pollution standards for sulphur dioxide (SO2) twice as weak as the previous standards on the first day of South Africa's national lockdown." Learn More

Land and water protections
"Mpumalanga Agriculture and Environment Member of the Executive Council has vowed to make sure that mining in the Mabola Protected Environment protected area will go ahead despite vehement protests from environmentalists." Learn More

United Kingdom

Land and water protections
"Plans to build 1,000 new homes near Thomas Hardy land as part of development the size of 63 football pitches - the biggest ever on an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in England – gets the go ahead from High Court." This is a proposed protected area. Learn More

Land and water protections
"A change to permitted development rights will see a growth in the height of telecoms masts that will be exempt from the need for planning permission. ... Of immediate concern is that masts on existing sites in both protected and non-protected areas can be increased in height to 20 meters without prior approval, while an existing mast can grow from 20 meters to 25 meters in non-protected areas without approval." Learn More

Land and water protections, Climate
"Highland councillors approve Sutherland Space Hub. Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) wants to build the satellite launch site on peatland on the Moine Peninsula near Tongue. Highland Council had received 457 objections to the plans and 118 representations in support of them. The councillors' decision will be referred to the Scottish government for review." Learn More

Land and water protections, Climate
"Council approves Scottish ‘spaceport’ plans in protected area despite environmental concerns. It would be located in Caithness & Sutherland Peatlands, which is both a special area of conservation and special protection area, protected under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017." Learn More

United States of America

Climate
"The Climate Deregulation Tracker identifies steps taken by the Trump administration and Congress to scale back or wholly eliminate federal climate mitigation and adaptation measures." Since March 1, 2020, 6 rollbacks to climate regulations have been announced or finalized. Learn More

Climate, Land and water protections
"The Drilled News Climate & COVID-19 Policy Tracker is tracking climate change-related rollbacks by the Trump administration and state governments amid the coronavirus crisis, along with favors to oil and gas, and other energy and climate-related industries." Learn More

Climate, Species, Water, Land and water protections
"Harvard Regulatory Rollback Tracker: We are tracking environmental regulatory rollbacks of the Trump Administration." Since March 1, 2020, 40 rollbacks to environmental protections have advanced or been finalized, including those that affect climate, water, species, and public lands (including protected areas). Learn More

Land and water protections
"Launched in January, 2020, an ongoing analysis by the Center for Western Priorities has identified 79 policies the Interior Department is seeking to implement, further weakening protections for wildlife and expanding fossil fuel development on public lands." Learn More

 

METHODS

Complementing efforts (e.g. here, here, and here) to track rollbacks to environmental protections in the United States, Conservation International is compiling information on rollbacks to environmental protections globally, with a focus on conservation policies, their advancement, and/or implementation. The list was compiled by searching news feeds (e.g. Parkwire) and Google (terms including: protected area*, degazette*, national park, national park boundary, conservation), reviewing government documents, and reaching out to experts. The list includes legal changes (e.g. laws, regulations, court decisions) that were finalized, in progress, or proposed debated, implemented, or advanced as reported as of March 1, 2020, and affect (1) land and water protections, (2) wildlife, (3) water quality, (4) climate mitigation, and/or (5) rights of indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs). It also includes statements by officials expressing intent to weaken protections, and information on cuts to budgets and staff that would affect capacity to enforce environmental protections. Some rollbacks affect more than one category; the primary, and occasionally, secondary category is listed. Some of these rollbacks to land and water protections may be cases of protected area downgrading, downsizing, and degazettement (PADDD) events – legal changes that temper restrictions, shrink boundaries, and eliminate protected areas (see PADDDtracker.org), but further research is needed to confirm this.

This list is illustrative, rather than exhaustive – as finding this information relies on transparency, including access to government records and/or media reports. It is not meant to be a quantitative assessment of rollbacks, but rather provides qualitative information; multiple articles linked above may refer to the same rollback, but are included as they each provide unique descriptions or analysis. Understanding the full ecological and social impacts of these recent rollbacks requires further study. The list also focuses on decisions made by national governments that affect environmental protections directly, including the advancement of proposed or enacted legal changes and their implementation. It does not include:

  • Delays to environmental meetings and negotiations 
  • Changes to donations or funding for conservation work 
  • Suspensions of enforcement
  • Increases in illegal activities – deforestation, bushmeat harvesting, etc. 
  • International environmental policy processes or decisions
  • Natural disasters (e.g. floods, fires, oil spills) 
  • Changes to funding for environmental protection or environmentally harmful subsidies; see Energy Policy Tracker and Vivid Economics 2020 for fossil fuel and clean energy spending information. 
  • Appointments of officials who have previously expressed interest in environmental rollbacks 

The list will be updated as changes are proposed or enacted. You can help us fill the gaps! Contribute additional information on ongoing rollbacks to environmental protections.

Read more about the range of impacts that COVID-19 is having for protected and conserved areas in this Editorial in PARKS here.