December 20, 2019 (Washington, DC) –The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) welcomed the conservation measures included in the latest budget appropriations package for FY20 passed by the U.S. Congress. The package includes the Rescuing Animals With Rewards (RAWR) Act to combat wildlife trafficking, contains critical funding increases for international and U.S. conservation programs, advances efforts related to North Atlantic right whale conservation, and reinstates sales of the iconic Tiger Stamp for another year. All of these are priorities which IFAW has actively supported in the legislative space.
Led by Representatives Buchanan (R-FL) and Titus (D-NV), and Sens. Merkley (D-OR) and Collins (R-ME), the RAWR Act (HR 97/S 1590) modifies an existing U.S. State Department rewards program aimed at cracking down on international organized crime to specifically include crimes related to wildlife trafficking. Hence, individuals with insider knowledge of criminal wildlife trafficking syndicates will be incentivized to share that knowledge with law enforcement for a potential monetary reward. Wildlife trafficking remains the fourth most lucrative criminal enterprise globally, with estimated revenue streams in excess of $8-10 billion annually. This law provides a critical tool through which to break up criminal syndicates and disrupt the flow of illegally trafficked wildlife. IFAW led coalition efforts to convince members of Congress to support the bill as a key legislative priority for 2019.
The Endangered Species Act of 1973, one of the most influential conservation laws, and one which continues to enjoy broad support by the American public, also saw a moderate funding increase as a result of the approved appropriations package. This is especially welcome at a time when the ESA is under attack by the current administration. The spending bill also reinforces the fundamental concept that any decisions to delist species from the Act should be based on ‘best available science,’ and not on politics.
On a species-specific note, the North Atlantic right whale also garnered a big win from the FY20 appropriations package, providing an increase of $2M (up from $1M in FY19) for research, development, and conservation related to the species, of which only around 400 individuals are in existence today. Driven to the precipice of extinction by anthropogenic threats including entanglement in fishing gear and vessel strikes, $1M of the FY20 funds are to be allocated for an extensive ropeless fishing gear-testing program focusing on the New England Lobster fishery. This pilot program is designed specifically to reduce the entanglement threat to right whales from vertical buoy line.
The final spending bills also included strong funding increases for IFAW priority areas including the Multinational Species Conservation Funds (MSCF), the International Affairs program at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the FWS Office of Law Enforcement, and the U.S. Agency for International Development biodiversity programs. In addition, the MSCF received further support in the bills by requiring the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) to again offer for sale the popular semi-postal Tiger Stamp, which allows USPS customers to support international conservation efforts for species like tigers, elephants, great apes, and rhinos, at no cost to taxpayers.
According to Kate Wall, Senior Legislative Manager for IFAW, “We are encouraged by the strong support for international conservation demonstrated in the FY20 appropriations package. As we face unprecedented threats to biodiversity in the United States and around the globe, the push for progress must continue this year and beyond. We have only one shared Earth, and by investing in conservation today, we invest in our collective health and well-being tomorrow.”
To learn more about IFAW’s impact in, visit ifaw.org.
About The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW):
The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) is a global non-profit helping animals and people thrive together. We are experts and everyday people, working across seas, oceans, and in more than 40 countries around the world. We rescue, rehabilitate, and release animals, and we restore and protect their natural habitats. The problems we’re up against are urgent and complicated. To solve them, we match fresh thinking with bold action. We partner with local communities, governments, non-governmental organizations, and businesses. Together, we pioneer new and innovative ways to help all species flourish. See how at ifaw.org.
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