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Environmental Protection & Preservation

Six Grassroots Environmentalists Win Goldman Environmental Prize

A Vietnam veteran fighting Pentagon plans to incinerate chemical weapons stockpiles, a man who tipped the United Nations to illegal logging in war-torn Liberia and the person behind the creation of the world's largest area of protected tropical rainforest are among the winners of this year's prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize (b-roll/satellite feed available; see below).

"These six winners are among the most important people you have not heard of before," said Goldman Prize founder Richard N. Goldman. "All of them have fought, often alone and at great personal risk, to protect the environment in their home countries. Their incredible achievements are an inspiration to all of us."

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Wangari Maathai, former Goldman Environmental Prize winner and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, will address the audience at the invitation-only ceremony tonight (Monday, April 24, 2006) at 5 p.m. at the San Francisco Opera House.

The $750,000 Goldman Environmental Prize, now in its 17th year, is awarded annually to six grassroots environmental heroes and is the largest award of its kind in the world.
This year's winners are:

    -- North America:  Craig E. Williams, 58, Kentucky:  Williams convinced
       the Pentagon to stop plans to incinerate old chemical weapons
       stockpiled around the United States and has built a nationwide
       grassroots coalition to lobby for safe disposal solutions.  Williams
       co-founded the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation, which won the
       1997 Nobel Peace Prize for its international campaign to ban landmines.
    -- Africa:  Silas Kpanan'Ayoung Siakor, 36, Liberia:  Siakor exposed
       evidence that former Liberia President Charles Taylor used profits of
       unchecked, rampant logging to pay the costs of a brutal 14-year war.
       Such evidence -- collected at great personal risk to Siakor -- led the
       United Nations Security Council to ban the export of Liberian timber,
       part of wider trade sanctions that remain in place today.
    -- Asia:  Yu Xiaogang, 55, China:  Yu spent years creating groundbreaking
       watershed management programs while researching and documenting the
       socioeconomic impact of dams on Chinese communities.  His reports are
       considered a primary reason that the central government paid additional
       restitution to villagers displaced by existing dams and now considers
       social impact assessments for major dam developments.
    -- South & Central America:  Tarcisio Feitosa da Silva, 35, Brazil:
       Feitosa led efforts to create the world's largest group of protected
       tropical forest regions in a remote, lawless region in northern Brazil
       threatened by illegal logging.  Despite death threats, Feitosa worked
       with local organizations to create protected lands for local residents
       and exposed illegal logging activities to the Brazilian government.
    -- Europe:  Olya Melen, 26, Ukraine:  Melen, a lawyer, used legal channels
       to temporarily halt construction of a massive canal that would have cut
       through the heart of the Danube Delta, one of the world's most valuable
       wetlands.  For her efforts, she was denounced by the notoriously
       corrupt and lawless pre-Orange Revolution government.
    -- Islands & Island Nations:  Anne Kajir, 32, Papua New Guinea:  Kajir
       uncovered evidence of widespread corruption and complicity in the Papua
       New Guinea government, which allowed rampant, illegal logging that is
& nbsp;      destroying the largest remaining intact block of tropical forest in the
       Asia Pacific region.  In 1997, her first year practicing law, Kajir
       successfully defended a precedent-setting appeal in the Supreme Court
       of Papua New Guinea that forced the logging interests to pay damages to
       indigenous land owners.

About the Goldman Environmental Prize

The Goldman Environmental Prize was established in 1990 by San Francisco civic leader and philanthropist Richard N. Goldman and his late wife, Rhoda H. Goldman. It has been awarded to 113 people from 67 countries.

Prize winners are selected by an international jury from confidential nominations submitted by a worldwide network of environmental organizations and individuals.

Previous Prize winners have been at the center of some of the world's most pressing environmental issues, including seeking justice for victims of environmental disasters at Love Canal and Bhopal, India; leading the fight for dolphin-safe tuna; fighting oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge; and exposing Monsanto's role in introducing rBGH milk-stimulating hormone in the dairy industry.

Since receiving a Goldman Prize, eight winners have been appointed or elected to national office in their countries, including several who became ministers of the environment. The 1991 Prize winner for Africa, Wangari Maathai, won the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize.

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