Envisioning efforts to save or rescue animals doesn’t usually conjure images of people in suits walking the halls of government. Yet, advocacy and policy work is foundational to IFAW’s success. Strong conservation policy provides the legal frameworks needed to prosecute wildlife traffickers, to protect species and their habitats from exploitation and destruction, and to ensure that funding is available to support rangers and others working on the front lines to protect our precious wildlife.
Wildlife laws, regulations and policies of the United States have far-reaching impacts for animals — domestically and around the world. We can no longer ignore the immediate and urgent need to address the issues of climate change, biodiversity loss, and ecosystem degradation that confront our nation and the broader global community.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare has identified several priority actions Congress and the Biden-Harris Administration should take immediately to address these pressing challenges and advance the well-being of people and wildlife from sea to shining sea and around the world.
Strengthening bedrock conservation laws
IFAW is working to preserve and provide fresh thinking for federal laws that protect animals, habitat, and landscapes across the U.S. and abroad. Priorities include maintaining a strong Endangered Species Act (ESA), Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Each of these laws — which benefit species including the North Atlantic right whale, bald eagle, Bengal tiger and African elephant, among others — have come under heavy assault in recent years. Despite their clear success, special interests consistently attack these long-standing biodiversity safeguards from all angles, seeking to undermine key provisions, weaken protections for various species, eliminate environmental review requirements, and disrupt the public’s ability to support enforcement. IFAW is partnering with conservation-minded members of Congress and relevant U.S. government departments and agencies to advance America’s domestic and international conservation agendas.
To learn more: One Act For All
US global leadership in conservation and animal welfare
United States leadership within the global community is a key driver in persuading other nations to protect endangered wildlife, combat poaching and trafficking, preserve habitats, and mitigate the crippling effects of climate change. Free trade agreements provide an opportunity for the U.S. to drive industry innovation and to extend strong environmental and animal welfare standards that promote fair trade. U.S.-supported conservation programs administered by the US Agency for International Development, the Department of State, and Department of Interior, protect and preserve more than natural ecosystems and wildlife. They are also critical to national security interests, economic prosperity, food security, and disaster resilience.
To learn more: Combating Wildlife Crime in the Malawi-Zambia Landscape
Saving the North Atlantic right whale
Fewer than 400 North Atlantic right whales remain in the world. The ancient migratory routes of this critically endangered great whale run right along the U.S. and Canada’s Atlantic coastline — one of the world’s most industrialized areas of ocean. Since 2017, a staggering 45 right whales have died or are presumed dead, representing more than 10 percent of the remaining population. Twelve right whales — that we know of — have died since the summer of 2019 alone. IFAW and our partners are pioneering new tools and technologies and technologies for fishermen, mariners and recreational boaters that protect coastal livelihoods while making the ocean safer. Leveraging industry know-how and ingenuity to eliminate lethal entanglements in fishing gear and avoid deadly strikes with high speed vessels leads to a more sustainable future for all. To drive change in and on the water, IFAW is educating elected and appointed decision makers and pursuing state and federal policies that fund the research, development, and implementation of state of the art solutions and smart regulations that protect North Atlantic right whales while also helping to maintain vital coastal economies.
To learn more: Saving the North Atlantic right whales
Take action: Tell NOAA that right whales can't wait
Protecting big cats and public safety
All across the country, untold numbers of tigers, lions, and other big cats are kept in makeshift cages and backyard menageries. IFAW works with partners across the U.S. to rescue big cats from these horrible situations and place them in qualified sanctuaries where they receive the care they need. Our team has a long history of working to spread awareness about the dangers of keeping big cats as “pets” and exploiting them as photo props. We work on federal and state policies to end the private ownership of dangerous wild cats in the U.S. and end the mistreatment of captive big cats nationwide. Sign our petition to tell Congress to protect big cats.
To learn more: Big Cats in Captivity
Ending illegal wildlife trade
The U.S. is a source, transit point, and destination for illegally traded wildlife. Thousands of native turtles are illegally taken from the wild each year and shipped across the globe, often bound in tape or stuffed into socks to keep them from moving. Elephant ivory and trinkets made from endangered species, can be found in collectible and consignment stores. Rare species, sought after for the exotic pet trade, face inhumane and deplorable conditions in transport, with many dying on the journey. The internet facilitates a largely unregulated and relatively anonymous marketplace for illegal wildlife and wildlife products that’s open 24/7. IFAW works on federal and state policies to end the trade in elephant ivory and other imperiled species, strengthen protections for wildlife traded online, and ensure that law enforcement agencies have the capacity and resources to combat these heinous crimes.
To learn more: Preventing Wildlife Cybercrime
One health, one welfare
Our own behavior is causing many of the most pressing security and stability issues of the 21st century. These issues will only increase if we do not change our relationship with nature. At the root of emerging high impact socio-economic and public health issues like the COVID-19 pandemic, lies the destruction of nature, which is causing increased contact and conflict between wildlife and humans. The COVID-19 pandemic will not be the last of its kind if we do not change the way we interact with our natural surroundings.
Conserving and connecting wildlife habitat
Roads and water transit routes are critical to our own way of life — our mobility, our sense of perceived freedom. What many fail to realize is that these same transit routes also represent physical barriers that can be insurmountable for wildlife and dangerous for everyone. In addition, structures such as walls, fences, and dams immensely affect and impede migratory routes, cutting off food and water supplies, and otherwise disrupting important wildlife habitats. Not only can this lead to problems for wild animals, but to increased frustrations for their human neighbors.
To learn more: The path to success is actually a wildlife corridor
Coexisting with wildlife
Each year the U.S. government kills millions of animals via the use of deadly poisons, body-gripping traps, snares, and numerous inhumane tools including cyanide ejectors (M-44s), all the while ignoring science and avoiding accountability. IFAW’s coexistence campaign focuses on driving policy change at all levels of government, shifting the public’s perception of wildlife in human-dominated landscapes, and working with communities to develop solutions and legislation that change negative behaviors.
Contact for more information
Danielle Kessler, Acting Director, United States
Carson Barylak, Campaigns Manager-Policy
CT Harry, Campaigner, Marine Conservation
Mark Hofberg, Campaigns Officer-Policy
Kate Wall, Senior Legislative Manager
firstname.lastname@example.org for interviews
Helpful policy resources
2020 post-election statementread more
when humans are the cause, humans must be the solutionread more
the path to success is actually a wildlife corridorread more
the 21st century threat to wildlife is "cyberpoaching"Read more
a renewed bill takes aim at the illegal online wildlife traderead more
mobilizing Congress to save the right whaleread more