Student Conservation Efforts Pay Off

Published: November 29th, 2004

Category: News Briefs

UF law student Erika Zimmerman (3L) worked on a petition to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization on behalf of the Belize Institute of Environmental Law and Policy (BELPO), a UF law Conservation Clinic client, to list the Belize Barrier Reef as a threatened world heritage site under the World Heritage Convention.


“The petition is particularly noteworthy because it served as the model for two simultaneously- filed petitions involving Mt. Everest and a World Heritage site in Peru,” said Environmental and Land Use Law Program Director Alyson Flournoy. “Since there is no preconceived format for these petitions, Erika developed this one, which was emulated by the non-government organizations submitting the other two. All three petitions are based in part on the impacts of climate change on these world heritage resources, and the Belize petetion included supporting letters from some of the world’s leading reef scientists.”


Clinic Director Tom Ankersen provided editorial support, and the petition was further edited by the client prior to submission, but the work was primarily done by Zimmerman.


“The petition demonstrates what our best students can do when they are motivated,” said Flournoy.


The submissions were noted by the New York Times and BBC this month.


“This is what I came to law school to do,” said Zimmerman.


The concept for the petition originated as an idea presented at the Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide (E-LAW) 2002 annual meeting in Guadalajara, Mexico, which BELPO attended. Work began with the efforts of the University of Florida/University of Costa Rica Joint Program in Environmental Law and its Conservation Clinic to evaluate the legal status of protection of the entire Mesoamerican reef system. Zimmerman provided research support, with Ankersen’s assistance.


Working with BELPO and other environmental law NGOs, the Joint Program Conservation Clinic in Costa Rica helped examine different threats to the multi-national reef system. Support was provided by the John D. and Katherine T. MacArthur Foundation and to E-LAW from the Summitt Foundation, which allowed the participation of environmental lawyers from each of the reef countries, including Belize.


Technology allowed Zimmerman to work on the project from Gainesville. “I worked on the petition while here in the Conservation Clinic, only communicating with our client in Belize via e-mail,” said Zimmerman.


More information and photos connected with the project are online at media/UNESCO.petitions.release.”