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Hundreds of Illinois Members Participate in WWF Forum About Conservation Funding

Experts Say Small Fraction of Budget Does Disproportionate Amount of Good

WASHINGTON, DC, September 23, 2011 – Today, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) announced the results of a telephone town hall meeting convened by the conservation organization late last week for many of their 55,000 Illinois members.

During the telephone town hall, which can be heard online, here, WWF experts highlighted the importance of the tiny sliver of the federal budget – less than 1 percent – that is dedicated to addressing conservation, climate change, global poverty and hunger. WWF is eager to protect these funds, which stimulate export markets and create jobs. Ninety-five percent of consumers are outside of the U.S. and fifteen major trade partners are former foreign assistance recipients.

“International conservation funding helps us make great strides toward a future in which people live in harmony with nature, and it does so with a disproportionately small investment. The world’s conservation challenges are also our own and they pose enormous social, economic, and national security costs to American taxpayers. In contrast, addressing these challenges hold great promise: fewer deadly armed conflicts abroad, an alleviation of global poverty, and rebounding fish and wildlife populations,” said Todd Shelton, WWF’s Vice President for U.S. Government Relations. “Members of Congress would be wise to protect these funds from additional cuts.”

A telephone town hall operates like a large-scale conference call where participants may ask and respond to questions about conservation issues. In total, more than 1,000 WWF members participated in the hour-long forum, 300 of whom stayed on the line for more than 20 minutes. Participants responded to several conservation-related survey questions by entering numbers on their telephone key pads.

Participating members were encouraged to contact Illinois Senators Richard Durbin and Mark Kirk and their congressional representative to voice support for conservation funding, and were asked about their favorite species, priority regions, which threats to nature they perceive as the most severe, and the wide range of conservation work in which WWF engages. WWF members clearly appreciated the forum as ninety-seven percent of respondents found the telephone town hall “very” or “somewhat” informative.

Background on International Conservation Funding

The National Intelligence Council predicts that scarcities of water, arable land, and food will increasingly be the causes of international conflict this century. International conservation funds increase stability, security, and prosperity around the world by reducing poverty and investing in education and economic development. Sustainable development promotes stable societies and can help prevent costly conflicts between nations.

Natural ecosystems like forests, reefs, wetlands, and oceans provide an array of services vital to human welfare, businesses, and the global economy. However, two-thirds of the world’s “ecosystem services” – where natural areas provide fresh water, food, fibers, biochemical products, pollination, flood control, and other services – are currently degraded, costing the global economy more than $2 trillion per year, the Alliance for Global Conservation reports.

Protecting the world’s remaining natural areas and biodiversity benefits business and communities alike by:

  • Promoting ocean health and sustainable fishing would create jobs and revenues and level the playing field for American fishermen.  Right now, over 85% of the world’s fish stocks are fully exploited or overfished.  Illegal fishers alone account for up to 30 percent of the catch in some areas and sell in the same markets as, and at a competitive advantage to, fishers that follow laws aimed at maintaining sustainable fish supplies  Experts estimate that the global value of economic losses from illegal fishing ranges from $10 to over $23 billion a year.
  • Preventing the loss of ecosystems services, which, at current rates of environmental degradation, experts project could account for a 7 percent decline in the global gross domestic product (GDP) by 2050, making it more expensive for businesses and governments to operate.
  • Leveling the playing field for law-abiding companies operating in the United States and Internationally. Responsible U.S. companies are being undercut by companies engaging in illegal logging, fishing and mining around the world, which flood the international market with low-cost products. Illegal timber producers abroad decrease U.S. exports of wood products by about $1 billion per year.
  • Optimizing the ability of companies to provide for the needs of a growing global population. A comprehensive network of global protected areas would create more than $4 trillion in economic value per year – a figure that is approximately 100 times greater than the cost to establish and maintain such a network.