Citizens and activists can help stop environmental crime, but they need to know which laws apply, how to collect evidence and when to get a lawyer.
Different approaches to the role of citizens in collecting and reporting evidence of environmental crime were discussed last week by a three panelists at the Environmental Law Institute in Washington, DC.
In many cases, there is no meaningful law enforcement to stop environmental crimes. That’s where citizens can come in.
By understanding how to collect evidence and navigate whistleblower programs, anyone can help enforce environmental laws. Anyone includes, NGO staff, those impacted by crime or insiders, such as cruise ship crews.
John Kostyack, director of National Whistleblower Center, talked about a range of existing federal laws with provisions that reward citizens who come forward with credible information about environmental crime. Shaun Goho of the environmental law clinic at Harvard Law School talked about how the courts are likely to interpret evidence and expert testimony. Stevie Lewis of the Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science said the EPA has been slow to act on the recommendations in a 2016 report on promoting citizen science. But, her group hasn’t.
Kostyack started his talk with a slide of a small, endangered porpoise known as the vaquita, according to a video of the event.
“It’s really a fitting symbol of what we’re up against,” he said. “The forces that are driving this beautiful animal to extinction in its home in the Gulf of California are the same forces that are driving much of the environmental devastation around the world and those are the forces of crime.”