Newswise — Washington, DC – January 17, 2014 – The Wildlife Conservation Society hailed the omnibus Fiscal Year 2014 spending bill passed this week by Congress, which maintains key conservation accounts and creates a new funding source to combat wildlife trafficking while ensuring budgetary stability over the next fiscal year.
The omnibus bill directs $45 million in new money from the US State Department and US Agency for International Development (USAID) to combat the transnational threat of wildlife poaching and wildlife trafficking, the result of public engagement and raised awareness over the past year of issues such as the drastic decline in the African elephant populations fueling the illegal ivory trade.
Support for USAID’s Biodiversity Program went to $212.5 million, its highest level ever, including funding for key landscapes such as the Andean Amazon, Brazilian Amazon, Central Africa, Maya Biosphere and other critical areas that were impacted by federal sequestration measures in the last fiscal year. In addition, the U.S. contribution to the Global Environment Facility was fully funded at $143.8 million, up from $129.4 million last year. Global Health and Climate accounts also received boosts over last year.
Within Interior appropriations, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) Multinational Species Conservation Funds maintained solid support at $9.061 million, preserving a key source of funding for conservation of tigers, elephants, rhinos, marine turtles and great apes. FWS Law Enforcement, key to enforcing international and domestic laws on wildlife trafficking, received an increase to $64 million.
The illegal killing and trafficking crisis threatens more than wildlife. Security, diplomacy, development and conservation are all inextricably linked together. Armed militias, local insurgencies and extremist groups are using the trade of wild animals and illegal wildlife products to finance their other illicit operations. The products travel through organized crime networks, especially between Africa and high-end markets in East Asia. These links make the conservation programs funded in the FY14 omnibus bill an important bulwark against international terrorist activities, political instability and other national security threats.
“The renewed support for biodiversity and conservation priorities conveys Congress’s view that conservation issues such as illegal wildlife killing, trafficking, and resource sustainability are serious economic, national security, and environmental threats,” said John Calvelli, WCS Executive Vice President of Public Affairs. “The programs funded by this omnibus bill help conserve iconic species and make the world a safer and more prosperous place.”
Federal biodiversity programs have been impacted over the past several years by fiscal uncertainty created by the government shutdown, budget sequestration mandates, and a series of short-term continuing resolutions to fund the government. The passage of the FY14 omnibus instills constancy and confidence that allow these critical programs to operate free of worry about politically-based fiscal disruption.
Support for conservation, biodiversity and anti-poaching programs has been building momentum over the past year. Since the beginning of 2012, President Obama signed an Executive Order on wildlife trafficking, the FWS publicly crushed six tons of confiscated ivory, and conservation groups joined 11 African heads of state at the Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting to urge countries to declare national moratoria on any trade in ivory because of the elephant poaching crisis. WCS also launched 96 Elephants, a public outreach campaign aiming to bolster support for elephant protection by calling for additional funding to address the poaching and trafficking, for a moratorium on US domestic ivory sales, and to educate the public about ivory trade and consumption. So far more than 100,000 people have taken action to share their support and sent a message to government leaders about the issue.
Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)
MISSION: WCS saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature. VISION: WCS envisions a world where wildlife thrives in healthy lands and seas, valued by societies that embrace and benefit from the diversity and integrity of life on earth. To achieve our mission, WCS, based at the Bronx Zoo, harnesses the power of its Global Conservation Program in more than 60 nations and in all the world’s oceans and its five wildlife parks in New York City, visited by 4 million people annually. WCS combines its expertise in the field, zoos, and aquarium to achieve its conservation mission. Visit: www.wcs.org; http://www.facebook.com/TheWCS; http://www.youtube.com/user/WCSMedia Follow: @thewcs.