• Kyodo


The U.N. Forum on Forests held a ceremony Thursday for the recipients of its Forest Hero award at U.N. headquarters in New York.

The six people honored included Japan’s fisherman-turned-environmentalist Shigeatsu Hatakeyama, 68, from Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture. Hatakeyama is the founder and chairman of Mori wa Umi no Koibito (Forests are Lovers of the Sea), a nonprofit environmental conservation organization.

Hatakeyama has been planting trees upstream of the Okawa River, which flows into Kesennuma Bay. He also runs oyster and scallop farming businesses in the city.

“Even though I lost nearly everything in the (March 11) disasters, the sea came back very quickly,” Hatakeyama said. “I believe it was because the river and the forest behind it had solid foundations.”

In choosing Hatakeyama as an award recipient Wednesday, UNFF recognized his devotion to the area. “He is known as ‘Grandpa Oyster,’ after spending more than 20 years developing the forest environment that keeps the Okawa River clean and his oysters healthy,” UNFF said.

It also said Hatakeyama’s personal tree-planting efforts evolved into a regionwide conservation movement, promoting water drainage regulation and farming practices that use fewer chemicals.

Other recipients were Paul Mzeka of Cameroon, Anatoly Lebedev from Russia, Paulo Adario from Brazil, and U.S. teens Rhiannon Tomtishen and Madison Vorva.

The six were among 90 people from 41 countries nominated for the award, which honors innovation and grassroots activities for protecting forests. Nominations were solicited last year, which was declared the International Year of Forests.

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