In case you missed it: 3 big stories from our world

The Brazilian government reconsiders how it decides to build dams. (© Conservation International/photo by Bailey Evans)

Editor’s note: News about conservation and the environment is made every day, but some of it can fly under the radar. In a new feature, Human Nature shares three stories from the past week that you should know about. 

Trump moves to open nearly all offshore waters to drilling

The story: The Trump administration announced Thursday that it would allow new offshore oil and gas drilling in nearly all United States coastal waters. The move would give energy companies fresh access to areas off California for the first time in decades and open more than a billion acres in the Arctic and along the Eastern Seaboard to development. President Barack Obama banned such drilling during his term in office. Read more here.

The big picture: This decision continues a trend by the Trump administration to open formerly protected areas for use by the energy sector. Last month Congress opened the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil and gas drilling as part of the tax bill. In November, the White House cut land from Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which could open the region for mining. Environmentalists have roundly opposed the Trump administration’s plans.

Brazil raises hopes of a retreat from new mega-dam construction

The story: In a surprise statement, a senior government official in Brazil said hydropower policy needed to be rethought in the face of environmental concerns, indigenous opposition and public unease. The government will propose a new model for evaluating dam projects to the Brazilian congress this year that will delve deeper into the social and environmental costs of hydropower. Read more here.

The big picture: Brazil gets more than 70 percent of its electricity from hydropower — one of the highest proportions in the world. The government appeared set to expand the country’s hydropower capacity with a huge new project deep in the Amazon, brushing aside environmental concerns, court battles and resistance from indigenous residents. The government’s decision to reconsider is a win for these interests — a momentary one, at least.

Farmland could turn into meadows after Brexit, says Michael Gove

The story: U.K. farmers will get subsidies for turning fields back into natural meadows after the country’s departure from the European Union (EU), according to environment secretary Michael Gove. The current farming subsidy system will be replaced by a system focused on supporting environmental benefits such as wildlife conservation and water filtration. “After a transition, we will replace [the current program] with a system of public money for public goods,” Gove said in a speech on Thursday. “The principal public good we will invest in is environmental enhancement.” Read more here.

The big picture: Gove, a member of the governing Conservative party, said that leaving the EU, a process commonly known as Brexit, will allow Britain to focus more on improving environmental policies. However, major conservation groups are concerned that existing environmental protections, which mainly derive from EU law, could be lost after Brexit. Advocates have pushed the government to further detail its plans for environmental regulation apart from the EU.

Morgan Lynch is a staff writer for Conservation International.

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