A blogger became the first citizen journalist in China to win a prize for environmental reporting at China’s Environmental Press Awards this April for his coverage of the destruction of a rare forest in the Hainan province.

Liu Futang, 65, used to work in the government. He caused a stir in the blogosphere last year when he posted articles on how developers were destroying endangered water coconut trees to make way for a yacht marina, The Guardian reported. Liu posted 40 articles on his microblog and finally attracted the attention of mainstream media across the country.

Liu was awarded $1,600 from the hosts of the award: The Guardian; Sina, a Chinese web portal; and China Dialogue, an independent website focussing on environmental issues.

In this third year of the awards, other winners included 20 other professional journalists for stories including coverage of the offshore oil leaks in Bohai, cadmium-contaminated rice and accidents at chemical plants, according to China Digital Times.

The award to a blogger comes at an interesting time; since March microblog users in China are required to register with their real names. Microblog services also filter topics being discussed. One recent block was related to the removal of a high-ranking Chinese official, according to the BBC.