Washington, DC -- Conservation International, The Nature Conservancy, the World Wildlife Fund and the Wildlife Conservation Society praise the House of Representatives International Relations committee for passing the reauthorization of the Tropical Forest Conservation Act (TFCA) of 1998 last week.
These four leading conservation organizations also applaud U.S. Congressmen Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) for their efforts to ensure that this legislation continues to be a cost-effective way to protect the world's tropical forests.
These groups are proud to have participated in the protection of millions of acres of environmentally significant tropical forests and watersheds that this Act has enabled and are enthusiastic about what can be accomplished in the future.
Since its enactment six years ago, the TFCA has been a valuable tool for achieving important conservation outcomes in some of the world's most biodiverse regions while simultaneously easing the foreign debt burden of developing nations. The tens of millions of dollars -- including more than $5 million from private donors -- that have been channeled into conservation as a result of the Act have served to better protect millions of acres of tropical forests, from the Philippines to Belize.
Local currency funds generated by a TFCA agreement may be used for a broad variety of in-country forest conservation activities identified in the Act. These include:
- the establishment, restoration, protection and maintenance of parks, protected areas and reserves
- the development and implementation of scientifically sound systems of natural resource management, including land and ecosystem management practices;
- training programs to increase the scientific, technical and managerial capacities of individuals and organizations involved in conservation efforts;
- restoration, protection, or sustainable use of diverse animal and plant species;
- research and identification of medicinal uses of tropical forest plant life to treat human diseases, illnesses, and health-related concerns; or
- the development and support of the livelihoods of individuals living in or near a tropical forest in a manner consistent with protecting such tropical forest.
For example, earlier this year, a debt-for-nature swap was signed with Colombia, which has pledged to invest at least $10 million over the next 12 years to protect nearly 11 million acres of its tropical forests. Among the areas that will benefit is Tuparro National Park, a UNESCO Natural Biosphere Reserve in the Orinoco River basin. The park is home to dozens of unique species including jaguars, river dolphins, the endangered giant armadillo and the critically endangered Orinoco crocodile, which is found only in this part of South America. The area is also a major wintering ground for migrating bird species from North America.
Reauthorization of the TFCA will ensure the conservation of threatened tropical forests in many more countries around the world.