April 22, 2007 / 4:48 AM / in 11 years

Irish farmer among environmental prize winners

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - An Irish farmer jailed for his work in opposing a natural gas pipeline and an entrepreneur who set up a system for brokering salmon fishing rights were two of six recipients on Sunday of one of the world’s most prominent environmental awards.

“This year’s prize recipients have succeeded in combating some of the most important environmental challenges we face today,” Richard Goldman, founder of the Goldman Environmental Prize, said in a statement. “Their commitment in the face of great personal risk inspires us all to think more critically about what ordinary people can do to make a difference.”

Each winner will receive $125,000. The prizes, established by a foundation set up by insurance brokerage founder Goldman and his wife, were first awarded in 1990.

Irish farmer Willie Corduff and a group of local residents and landowners in the small farming community of Rossport, Corduff were able to force Shell Oil to halt construction on an illegally approved pipeline through their land.

Icelandic entrepreneur Orri Vigfusson brokered huge international fishing rights buyouts with governments and commercial interests, helping bring to an end destructive commercial salmon fishing in the North Atlantic region.

Other prize recipients were Sophia Rabliauskas of Canada, Hammerskjoeld Simwinga of Zambia, Ts. Munkhbayar of Mongolia and Peru’s Julio Cusurichi Palacios.

Rabliauskas, working on behalf of Poplar River First Nation, secured interim protection for a portion of the boreal forest of Manitoba.

Simwinga created a sustainable community development program that successfully restored wildlife and transformed Zambia’s North Luangwa Valley, where rampant illegal wildlife poaching had decimated the wild elephant population and left villagers living in extreme poverty.

Munkhbayar worked with government and grassroots organizations to shut down destructive mining operations along Mongolia’s scarce waterways.

In the remote Peruvian Amazon, Cusurichi secured a national reserve to protect both sensitive rain forest ecosystems and the rights of indigenous peoples living in voluntary isolation from the devastating effects of logging and mining.

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