Environmental Leaders in El Salvador Announce Campaign to Give Legal Rights to Natural Forests
Today, a coalition of environmental and social leaders - including lawyers, engineers, and university students - announced the formation of a group called Yes for the Rights of Nature (“Sí por los Derechos de la Naturaleza”). The group’s first campaign is to recognize El Salvador’s natural forests as living entities possessing fundamental rights.
Recognition of the Rights of Nature is increasing worldwide. In 2008, Ecuador became the first country to constitutionally recognize Nature’s rights. More recently, a 2017 treaty agreement in New Zealand recognized the Whanganui River as “an indivisible and living whole” and “a legal person.” Last year, the Supreme Court of Colombia ruled that the entire Colombian Amazon is a subject of rights.
The proposed Declaration would acknowledge that natural forests are living entities with certain inalienable rights, including rights to life, to integral health, to support native biodiversity, and to independent legal guardianship, amongst others. The proposed amendment also recognizes related human rights, including the right to a healthy and sustainable climate.
“Giving legal rights to El Salvador’s natural forests is a gift, not only to ecosystems and species, but to all of El Salvador, particularly its future generations,” said lawyer Eneas Wilfredo Martínez Santos, one of the proponents of the project. “Without thriving natural forests, our planet cannot support humans nor millions of other species.”
El Salvador has lost about 85 percent of its native forests since the 1960s, and the planet as a whole has lost about 80 percent of its native forests, resulting in the extinction of countless species. Forests support about 80 percent of the world’s land-based species and play a key role in the water cycle, carbon cycle, nutrient cycle, and other key processes that act as the very foundation of life on our planet.
Yes for the Rights of Nature (“Sí por los Derechos de la Naturaleza”) expressed optimism that governmental authorities in El Salvador will support the proposal considering their recent support of ecosystem restoration. For example, in 2011, El Salvador committed to restoring one million hectares of degraded land by 2020 through the Bonn Challenge global restoration goal. El Salvador is also a leader within Initiative 20x20, which aims to restore and protect deforested and degraded lands across Latin America and the Caribbean.
Yes for the Rights of Nature (“Sí por los Derechos de la Naturaleza”) is dedicated to establishing Rights of Nature in El Salvador.
Earth Law Center (www.earthlawcenter.org) works to transform the law to recognize and protect nature’s inherent rights to exist, thrive and evolve.
 Michal Nachmany et al., "Climate Change Legislation in El Salvador," (2015) (citing World Bank statistics).