U.S. Support for International Conservation

U.S. Support for International Conservation
August 26, 2020
The United States supports international conservation efforts through foreign assistance
programs, diplomatic engagement, and other tools. Members of Congress have supported such
Pervaze A. Sheikh
efforts on a bipartisan basis and have debated the level, scope, prioritization, and potential
Specialist in Natural
unintended consequences of U.S. international conservation activities. International conservation
Resources Policy
efforts focus on protecting species, restoring habitats, and recovering forests, among other things.

Multiple federal departments and agencies administer and implement these initiatives, and
Congress appropriates funding for them via several annual appropriations laws. Congress has
Nick M. Brown
Analyst in Foreign
shaped U.S. policy on international conservation through its authorization and appropriation of
Assistance and Foreign
foreign assistance in part, as well as through its oversight activities.

Congressional interest in international conservation issues stems from a range of factors,
including concerns about human-caused threats to global biodiversity; constituent engagement;
Emily M. Morgenstern
interest in global biodiversity and protected areas; potential connections between conservation
Analyst in Foreign
and U.S. national security; and concerns about conservationists’ respect for human rights.
Assistance and Foreign
Reports of global biodiversity loss due to human interactions and recent focus on zoonotic
diseases in the context of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic have amplified

these concerns for some Members.
Katarina C. O'Regan
Analyst in Foreign Policy
Congress might consider several issues as it authorizes, appropriates funding for, and continues

oversight of U.S. international conservation activities. Members may debate how much foreign
Richard K. Lattanzio
assistance, if any, to provide for international conservation programs ; the goals and objectives of
Specialist in Environmental
international conservation programs; interagency coordination of international conservation
programs; whether assistance is aligned with host countries’ priorities; and the implications of

international conservation spending for human rights and indigenous peoples.

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Introduction ................................................................................................................... 5
Selected Federal Activities by Department or Agency ........................................................... 6
U.S. Department of State ............................................................................................ 6
Multilateral Treaties, Conventions, and Initiatives ..................................................... 6
State Department-Administered Foreign Assistance Programs ..................................... 7
U.S. Agency for International Development................................................................... 8
Biodiversity Conservation ................................................................................... 10
Sustainable Landscapes ....................................................................................... 14
U.S. Department of the Treasury ................................................................................ 15
Global Environment Facility ................................................................................ 15
Tropical Forest Conservation Act .......................................................................... 15

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Department of the Interior)............................................ 16
International Affairs............................................................................................ 16
Multinational Species Conservation Fund .............................................................. 17
Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Fund....................................................... 18
U.S. Forest Service (Department of Agriculture)........................................................... 18
Issues for Congress ....................................................................................................... 18
Level of Funding for International Conservation........................................................... 18
Goals and Objectives of Foreign Conservation Assistance.............................................. 20
Interagency Coordination.......................................................................................... 21
Alignment with Host Country Priorities and Length of Commitment ............................... 22
Foreign Assistance for Conservation and Consequences for Human Rights....................... 23
Free, Prior, and Informed Consent of Indigenous Peoples .............................................. 24

Figure 1. Biodiversity Tier One Areas, by FY2018 Funding ................................................. 12

Table 1. SFOPS Appropriations for Conservation Sectors, FY2016-FY2020 ............................ 8

Table A-1. Enacted Appropriations for Selected Federal Programs That Address
International Conservation, FY2018 to FY2020 .............................................................. 25

Appendix. Selected Appropriations for International Conservation Activities ......................... 25

Author Information ....................................................................................................... 27
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The United States supports international conservation of wildlife and ecosystems through
diplomatic efforts, foreign assistance, and other activities. At the diplomatic level, the United
States works both multilaterally and bilaterally to set international conservation policy. The
United States provides foreign assistance in the form of financial, programmatic, and technical
support to address international conservation activities, such as species protection, habitat
restoration, and forest recovery, among other priorities. Several federal departments and agencies
administer these programs, including the U.S. Department of State (State), U.S. Agency for
International Development (USAID), U.S. Department of the Treasury (Treasury), U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service (FWS), and U.S. Forest Service (FS).
Congress has shaped U.S. policy and global activities related to conservation through its
authorization and appropriation of foreign assistance resources, as wel as through oversight
activities. Several Members of the 116th Congress have demonstrated interest in international
conservation, especial y with respect to biodiversity, environmental conservation, and il icit
wildlife trade.1 Some Members also maintain an active interest in international conservation
treaties in which the United States takes part, such as the Convention on International Trade of
Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) (see the “Multilateral Treaties,
Conventions, and Initiatives” section, below).
Congressional concerns over global conservation efforts escalated in the wake of a 2019
Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES)
report asserting a significant loss of biodiversity due to human interactions with natural
resources.2 Reports of human rights violations by U.S. conservation aid implementers have also
prompted congressional action. In addition, connections between the wildlife trade, ecosystem
alterations, and the emergence of zoonotic diseases, such as Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-
19), have stimulated congressional interest in international conservation efforts.3
Congress provides international conservation funding through several annual appropriations
measures, including the following:
 State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs (SFOPS) appropriations (e.g.,
U.S. diplomatic activities, foreign assistance programs administered by State and
USAID, and some programs implemented by Treasury and FWS);
 Department of the Interior (DOI) appropriations (the Multinational Species
Conservation Fund and the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Fund); and
 Department of Agriculture appropriations (FS international programs).
This report describes selected U.S. international conservation activities. (It does not represent a
comprehensive list of al programs.) This report also identifies a number of issues for Congress,

1 Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, “President T rump Signs Bipartisan Wildlife Conservation
Legislation into Law,” press release, March 12, 2019, at https://www.epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/2019/3/
president -trump-signs-bipartisan-wildlife-conservation.
2 Sandra Díaz et al., Global Assessment on Biodiversity and Ecosystems Services, Intergovernmental Science-Policy
Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), 2019, at https://www.ipbes.net/system/tdf/
spm_global_unedited_advance.pdf?file=1&type=node&id=35245. Hereafter Díaz et al., Global Assessm ent on
, 2019.
3 For example, see Letter from Senator Cory Booker et al. to Dr. T edros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the
World Health Organization (WHO), April 8, 2020, at https://www.booker.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/
04.08.20_Booker_Graham_Quigley_McCaul_sblock.pdf .
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including funding levels, objectives and evaluations of international conservation programs, and
potential unintended consequences of these programs. Table A-1, in the Appendix, provides
funding information on the programs discussed in this report.
Key Terms in Conservation Programming
This report uses USAID definitions for common conservation terms, as fol ows:
Biodiversity. The variety and variability of living organisms and the ecological complexes in which they occur.
The term biodiversity comprises the fol owing three categories: (1) genetic diversity is the combination of different
genes within a species; (2) species diversity is the variety and abundance of different types of organisms that inhabit
an area; and (3) ecosystem diversity is the variety of ecosystems in a given region.
Indigenous Peoples. Rather than having a unified definition, the U.S. Agency for International Development uses
a set of criteria to identify indigenous peoples, only some of which may be applicable to any particular group. These
include self-identification as a distinct group; recognition of that group by others; historical continuity with
precolonial or pre-settler societies; attachment to a specific territory, distinct customary institutions, language,
and/or culture; and/or resolve to maintain a distinctive community.
Landscapes and Seascapes.
Large areas of diverse and interacting ecosystems embedded within diverse and
interacting social, cultural, legal, political, and economic systems. (USAID notes that this definition is broader than
that used within the field of ecology general y.)
Protected Areas. Clearly defined geographical spaces recognized, dedicated, and managed, through legal or
other effective means, to achieve the long-term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and
cultural values.
Stakeholders. Those who have widely recognized, though not always legal, rights to a territory, ecosystem, or
resource. Stakeholders may include nearby communities, particularly indigenous peoples, and marginalized groups,
such as women and the very poor, as wel as local, state, and national government, nongovernmental
organizations, and private businesses.
Wildlife Trafficking. The il egal trade in live wildlife or wildlife products, estimated to be worth $10 bil ion to
$20 bil ion annual y. It ranges from smal -scale local bartering to international commercial shipments facilitated by
transnational criminal organizations.
Sources: U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), USAID Biodiversity and Development Handbook,
October 2015, p. 3. Hereafter USAID, Biodiversity Handbook, 2015. USAID, Policy on Promoting the Rights of
Indigenous Peoples,
March 2020, p. 8.
Selected Federal Activities by Department or
The following section offers information on the various U.S. diplomatic and foreign assistance
efforts focused on international conservation, organized by department and agency. These include
State’s role in various multilateral fora, USAID’s administration of foreign assistance programs,
Treasury’s financial assistance and loan relief programs, and FWS’s and FS’s international
U.S. Department of State
State focuses its conservation efforts at the policy and diplomatic levels. Foreign assistance
program administration is largely conducted by USAID, except for certain wildlife trafficking
programs focused on law enforcement.
Multilateral Treaties, Conventions, and Initiatives
State negotiates and participates in, on behalf of the United States, multilateral conservation
treaties and conventions to which the United States is a party, including the following:
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CITES. A multilateral treaty established in 1975, CITES seeks to protect
endangered and threatened species of animals and plants through the regulation
of trade in those species. Although CITES is legal y binding upon its parties, it
does not supersede existing national laws and statutes and does not have
enforcement authority. The United States was the first signatory to CITES and
ratified the treaty in 1974.4
Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar). Established in 1975, Ramsar aims
to conserve wetlands using local, national, and international cooperation for
sustainable development.5 The United States entered into this treaty in 1986.
International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO). Operational in 1987,
ITTO promotes the sustainability of tropical forests and the broadening of
international trade in tropical timber harvested from sustainable and legal
forests.6 The United States is a party to the organization as a consuming member
(i.e., a member who consumes, and does not produce, tropical timbers).
U.N. Forum on Forests (UNFF). Established in 2000 as a subsidiary of the U.N.
Economic and Social Council, UNFF is an intergovernmental body that promotes
conservation and sustainable development. Among other objectives, it aims to
reverse global forest cover loss through sustainable forest management and
strengthen the ability for sustainable forest management.7 UNFF is currently
tasked with overseeing the first U.N. Strategic Plan for Forests 2017-2030.8
State also represents the United States with regard to those treaties and conventions to which the
United States is not a party but which may affect U.S. activities overseas. For example, many
foreign assistance programs seek to align activities with strategic plans developed pursuant to the
Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).9 The CBD is a multilateral treaty with three main
goals: (1) the conservation of biological diversity, (2) the sustainable use of biodiversity
components, and (3) the fair and equitable sharing of benefits from genetic resources. State
participates as a nonvoting entity in the Conference of the Parties held by the CBD Secretariat
because the United States has signed but not ratified the treaty.
State Department-Administered Foreign Assistance Programs
State Department-administered programs aim to strengthen regional and international
partnerships to address wildlife poaching and trafficking, improve foreign countries’ law

4 Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CIT ES), “ List of Contracting
Parties,” at https://www.cites.org/eng/disc/parties/chronolo.php. For further information on the relationship of treaties
to national law, see CRS Report RL32528, International Law and Agreem ents: Their Effect upon U.S. Law, by Stephen
P. Mulligan.
5 Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, “ The Convention on Wetlands and Its Mission,” at https://www.ramsar.org/about/
the-convention-on-wetlands-and-its-mission. T he official title is “ Convention on wetlands of international importance,
especially as waterfowl habitat.” Department of State (State) Office of T reaty Affairs, Multilateral Treaties in Force as
of January 1, 2019
, p. 512.
6 International T ropical T imber Organization, “ About IT TO,” at https://www.itto.int/about_itto/.
7 United Nations, U.N. Forum on the Forests, “ Department of Economic and Social Affairs: Forest ,” fact sheet, at
https://www.un.org/esa/forests/wp-content/uploads/bsk-pdf-manager/81_FACT _SHEET _UNFF.PDF.
8 U.N. General Assembly, “71/285. United Nations Strategic Plan for Forests 2017-2030,” A/RES/71/285.
9 For example, the United States has funded the Global Environmental Facility, which implements programs of the
Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). U.S. agencies often design their programs to align with CBD initiatives,
such as recipient National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans.
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enforcement capabilities, and tighten anti-trafficking legislation in foreign countries.10 State
administers programs to combat wildlife trafficking in foreign countries through its Bureau of
International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL). INL carries out some capacity-
building activities through wildlife trafficking courses at its International Law Enforcement
Academies. State’s Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs also
works to strengthen international cooperation on wildlife trafficking and conducts analyses to
identify “focus countries” and “countries of concern,” consistent with the Eliminate, Neutralize,
and Disrupt Wildlife Trafficking Act of 2016 (P.L. 114-231).11 State has also partnered with
multilateral organizations, such as the U.N. Office of Drugs and Crime and the World Bank, as
wel as numerous bilateral partners.
U.S. Agency for International Development
USAID administers environmental conservation programs in an effort to curb biodiversity loss,
strengthen conservation efforts abroad, and combat wildlife trafficking, among other objectives.
USAID conservation programs are largely authorized under Section 118 and Section 119 of the
Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (P.L. 87-195, as amended), which emphasize the importance of
biodiversity efforts to preserve tropical forests and to protect endangered species, respectively.
Congress provides funds for USAID biodiversity and conservation programs in annual SFOPS
appropriations. Congress directs these funds toward three sectors, which account for the majority
of international conservation programming: (1) biodiversity conservation, (2) wildlife poaching
and trafficking, and (3) sustainable landscapes.12 USAID draws on several foreign assistance
accounts to meet these directives. Since FY2016, Congress has provided either level or increased
funding for these three sectors each successive year (see Table 1).
Table 1. SFOPS Appropriations for Conservation Sectors, FY2016-FY2020
(in mil ions of U.S. current dol ars)

Biodiversity Conservation
Of which Wildlife Poaching & Trafficking
Sustainable Landscapes
Sources: P.L. 116-94, P.L. 116-6, P.L. 115-141, P.L. 115-31, and P.L. 114-113.

10 H.J.Res 31; and State, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, “ Combating Crime and
Corruption,” November 27, 2018, at https://www.state.gov/combating-crime-and-corruption/.
11 A “focus country” refers to a foreign country determined by the Secretary of State to be a major source of wildlife
trafficking products, a major transit point of wildlife trafficking, or a major consumer of wildlife trafficking products. A
“country of concern” is a foreign country with similar characteristics as a focus country but in which the government
has actively engaged in or knowingly profited from wildlife trafficking. According to the 2019 END Wildlife
T rafficking Report, focus countries were Bangladesh, Brazil, Burma, Cambodia, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of
the Congo, Gabon, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Laos, Madagascar, Malaysia,
Mexico, Mozambique, Nigeria, People’s Republic of China, Philippines, Republic of Congo, South Africa, T anzania,
T hailand, T ogo, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe. Countries of concern were Democratic
Republic of Congo, Laos, and Madagascar.
12 Sector allocations are directives contained in State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs (SFOPS) General
Provisions (usually T itle VII of the SFOPS appropriations measure). T hese allocations def ine ways in which funds
already appropriated in the legislation shall be used. In addition to the sectors highlighted in this report, FY2020 sector
allocations included those for basic education and higher education; development programs; food security and
agricultural development; and programs to combat trafficking in persons; among others.
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Notes: SFOPS = State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs. The U.S. Agency for International
Development (USAID) considers wildlife poaching and trafficking a “sub-directive” under the biodiversity
conservation sector; as such, funding for wildlife poaching and trafficking programs is also counted toward the
biodiversity conservation congressional directive. The majority of funding in Table 1 is administered by USAID;
the rest is administered by the Department of State.
Many biodiversity conservation and sustainable landscapes activities are similar in practice, even
if their stated goals differ. Formal y, sustainable landscapes programs prioritize reducing carbon
emissions from land degradation, and biodiversity programs must explicitly set biodiversity as a
program objective. USAID often combines objectives across sectors when designing and
implementing its programs (e.g., a single mission may add a sustainable landscapes objective to a
biodiversity effort.) A single program may also have latitude to designate the sector based on
funding considerations (e.g., USAID Natural Resource Management projects may be designated
as either sustainable landscapes or biodiversity programs).13 Details about the three sectors are
provided below the text box, which gives an example of a cross-sector USAID program.
Central Africa Regional Program for the Environment (CARPE)
CARPE was established in 1995 as a long-term, multifaceted program to “promote sustainable forest management,
biodiversity conservation, and climate change mitigation in the [Central Africa] region through sustainable natural
resource management, and strengthened conservation policy development and implementation.” The program is
the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID’s) largest environmental program (by annual funding) and
involves numerous other federal entities as implementing partners, including the Departments of the Interior (U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Services [FWS], National Park Service, U.S. Geological Survey), Agriculture (U.S. Forest Service,
Foreign Agricultural Service), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, in add ition to
nongovernmental organizations.
Now in its third stage, referred to as CARPE III and slated to run through the end of FY2020, CARPE comprises
two interdependent projects: (1) Central Africa Forest Ecosystems Conservation, which focuses on sustainable
forest management and wildlife conservation, and (2) Environmental Monitoring and Policy Support, which targets
improving the region’s policy and regulatory environment. In practice, USAID aims to meet CARPE III objectives
through activities such as establishing public-private partnerships to manage wildlife reserves, tracking key wildlife
populations through wildlife density and abundance surveys, and developing and/or strengthening community
organizations to protect and monitor local forests, among others. For example, in the Democratic Republic of the
Congo, USAID and its implementing partner Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) helped to broker a partnership
with a local organization to better manage the Okapi Wildlife Reserve. With USAID support, WCS worked
through the partnership to increase law enforcement activity, train and equip park rangers, develop a law
enforcement strategy, and increase patrol efforts. USAID asserts that these types of activities build on the first
two phases of CARPE, which made gains in tropical forest management and conservation, and wil help the region
sustain that management capacity and strengthen governance.
In addition to these activities, and consistent with congressional priorities first articulated in the Congo Basin
Forest Partnership Act of 2004 (CBFP; P.L. 108-200), CARPE is the principal mechanism through which the U.S.
government supports the CBFP, a voluntary public-private partnership created to advance the Central African
Forests Commission priorities of sustainable Central African forest management with donor support. CARPE
spans the Republic of the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Congress has provided funding for
CARPE through annual State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs appropriations measures. In recent years,
Congress appropriated CARPE funds to USAID but required USAID to transfer 42% of funds to FWS through an
interagency agreement.
Sources: Information in this section is informed by USAID, “CARPE History,” at https://www.usaid.gov/central-
africa-regional/central-africa-regional-program-for-the-environment/history, last updated April 1, 2019. Nick
Radford, Central Africa Regional Operating Unit - CARPE, Wildlife Conservation Society, Final Report, Kinshasa, DRC,
March 26, 2020.

13 USAID, Environmental and Natural Resources Framework, July 2019, p. 5.
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Biodiversity Conservation
According to USAID, the agency’s biodiversity programs work “to conserve biodiversity,
leverage private sector funds, fight conservation crime, and support sustainable fisheries.”14
USAID cites five factors that drive its investment in biodiversity programs:
 approximately 1.6 bil ion people global y rely on forests for their livelihoods;
 biodiversity loss negatively affects global health and nutrition outcomes;
 industry related to environmental sectors may contribute to women’s economic
 biodiversity is critical to agricultural productivity; and
 environmental crime is linked to corruption, which reduces community safety
and the opportunity for legal livelihoods.15
The USAID Biodiversity Policy, issued in 2015 alongside an implementation handbook, set out a
tiered list of ecological y significant regions or countries at risk of degradation.16 USAID
missions in 14 “Tier One Operating Units” (i.e., priority geographic areas) are required to
integrate biodiversity as a major priority of their development strategies to be considered for
funding (Figure 1); Tier Two missions are strongly encouraged, but not required, to undertake
such programming.17 USAID has also developed a Biodiversity and Development Research
and a Biodiversity Conservation Gateway. The gateway serves as a repository for the
agency’s policy and procedural guidance related to international conservation programs.18

14 USAID, “ Conserving Biodiversity and Forests,” last updated February 28, 2020, at https://www.usaid.gov/
biodiversity. Hereafter USAID, “ Conserving Biodiversity and Forests.”
15 USAID, “ Conserving Biodiversity and Forests.”
16 USAID, USAID Biodiversity Policy, March 2014. T ier One countries are ranked in terms of biological criteria and
have a preponderance of globally significant ecoregions. T ier T wo countries have a combination of characteristics that
include a globally significant ecoregion, critical habitat for threatened or endangered species, and an area where
USAID has experience.
17 USAID, USAID Biodiversity Policy, March 2014, p. 21. USAID based its selections on the Global Environment
Facility’s (GEF’s) Global Benefits Index for Biodiversity and the World Wildlife Fund’s Global 200 list. Papua New
Guinea and the Democratic Republic of the Congo were both identified as T ier One countries, but mission presence
currently is limited in Papua New Guinea, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo is already supp orted through
Central Africa funding.
18 USAID, Biodiversity Conservation Gateway, “About the Gateway,” at https://rmportal.net/biodiversityconservation-
gateway/about -the-gateway.
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Foreign Assistance Act Sections 118/119 Country Analyses
In addition to dedicated biodiversity programming, Section 118 and Section 119 of the Foreign Assistance Act of
1961 (P.L. 87-195, as amended) require by law that al USAID overseas missions (regardless of biodiversity tier)
integrate tropical forests (Section 118) and biodiversity (Section 119) in their country or regional strategies.
Missions carry out these 118/119 Analyses prior to development of a new country strategy, identifying threats to
biodiversity, the actions needed to mitigate such threats, and the extent to which missions’ existing strategies have
addressed those threats. For example, the 118/119 analysis for the 2014-2018 Colombia country strategy made
several programming recommendations that appear in the resulting strategy, such as establishing an official survey
of rural land, formalizing artisanal mining activities, and fostering private financing mechanisms for carbon
sequestration. Similarly, the country strategy adopts the 118/119 analysis view that sustainable resource
management is a critical factor in rural conflict reconciliation.
Sources: Ignacio Gómez, Gloria Sanclemente, Fabián Navarrete, Ramón Laborde, and Simón Vieira,
USAID/Colombia’s 2014-2018 118/119 Tropical Forest and Biodiversity Assessment (Colombia Assessment), USAID,
March 2014, p. 6; USAID/Colombia, Country Development Cooperation Strategy 2014-2020: A Path to Peace
(Colombia Country Strategy), June 13, 2014, pp. 3, 24, 26.
Between FY2016 and FY2020, funding designated for biodiversity programs in annual SFOPS
appropriations grew by nearly 19% ($50 mil ion). More than 50 countries implement biodiversity
programs with USAID support,19 with nearly 61% of funding in FY2018 going to Tier One
countries.20 USAID in 2015 estimated that its activities consistently constituted approximately
two-thirds of al U.S. foreign assistance for biodiversity.21 USAID also transfers funding to
partner agencies, such as FWS, when those partners can address a programmatic need or at the
direction of Congress. The agency maintains a “Biodiversity Code,” which establishes guidelines
for counting projects toward the congressional biodiversity funding directive, including that only
projects with explicit biodiversity objectives may be counted.22

19 USAID, “ Conserving Biodiversity and Forests.”
20 FY2018 is the most recent fiscal year reported in the annual report. USAID, Report to Congress on Programs in
Forestry and the Conservation of Biodiversity during Fiscal Year 2018: Results and Funding
, March 10, 2020, at
https://www.usaid.gov/sites/default/files/documents/1865/USAID-Report -to-Congress-on-Forestry-and-
21 USAID, USAID Biodiversity and Development Handbook, October 2015, p. 6. Hereafter USAID, Biodiversity
, 2015.
22 USAID, Biodiversity and Conservation Gateway, “ Biodiversity Code,” updated November 8, 2018, at
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Figure 1. Biodiversity Tier One Areas, by FY2018 Funding

Source: U.S. Agency for International Development, Report to Congress on Programs in Forestry and the
Conservation of Biodiversity during Fiscal Year 2018: Results and Funding
, March 10, 2020. “Areas” are a combination
of regions and individual countries. For Papua New Guinea, USAID states that limited mission presence makes
investments in the country inadvisable.
USAID’s biodiversity program portfolio is organized under two core goals: (1) to conserve
biodiversity in target areas and (2) to integrate biodiversity as an essential component of human
development.23 USAID has stated that its programs reflect this connection between protecting
fragile habitats and promoting economic prosperity by addressing threats to biodiversity and
underlying drivers of those threats, such as economic activities of nearby communities and
national land management policies. USAID has linked livelihoods to conservation as a response
to findings that past conservation efforts failed because they did not take into account nearby
communities’ livelihoods and priorities in program design.24 USAID targets many of its activities
at an expansive, “landscape” or “seascape” scale—such as an entire watershed, a transboundary
fishery, or a protected area with its surrounding communities.25 Often this expansive scale is
meant to connect community stakeholders with vulnerable ecosystems. For example, USAID’s
Hariyo Ban Program in Nepal not only created new community-based anti-poaching units to
protect biodiversity but also supported the creation of new ecotourism activities to create
alternative livelihoods within those communities.26 USAID maintains that it seeks input on
program design and implementation from an array of stakeholders, particularly indigenous

23 USAID, USAID Biodiversity Policy, March 2014, p. 10. In addition to these two goals, the policy sets six objectives
for programs.
24 Secretariat of the CBD, Biodiversity Indicators & the 2010 Biodiversity T arget: Outputs, experiences and lessons
learnt from the 2010 Biodiversity Indicators Partnership, CBD T echnical Series no. 53, 2010, p. 6, at
https://www.cbd.int/doc/publications/cbd-ts-53-en.pdf. For further information on the Aichi Biodiversity T argets and
countries’ action plans, visit https://www.cbd.int/sp/targets/.
25 USAID Ridge to Reef programs, for example, operate along an entire watershed, seeking to facilitate cooperation
between downstream reef areas often affected by environmental degradation and upstream ridge communities. See, for
example, WorldFish, World Agroforestry Centre, and Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and
Research in Agriculture, From Ridge to Reef: An Ecosystem Based Approach to Biodiversity Conservation in the
Philippines Final Program Perform ance Report
, May 31, 2013.
26 World Wildlife Fund, Biodiversity, People and Climate Change: Final Technical Report of the Hariyo Ban Program,
First Phase
, Hariyo Ban Program, Kathmandu, Nepal, 2017, pp. vii-viii.
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communities. USAID support to the Partnership for Conservation of Amazon Biodiversity, for
instance, includes what it characterizes as significant engagement in indigenous-controlled lands;
research has found these lands may be more likely to sustain forest cover as formal y protected
areas.27 According to some stakeholders, Congress’s addition of coral reefs to USAID’s
legislative mandate for conserving biodiversity under the Tropical Forest Conservation
Reauthorization Act of 2018 (P.L. 115-440) may signal a new priority for biodiversity programs,
as seascapes historical y have received less USAID funding than tropical forests.28
Wildlife Poaching and Trafficking
USAID considers wildlife poaching and trafficking a “sub-directive” under the biodiversity
conservation sector. Further, USAID states that it is an issue for international development, as it
counteracts efforts to end extreme poverty, impedes the rule of law, and hinders sustainable
development programs that benefit from ecotourism.29 Wildlife trafficking also threatens wildlife
populations and the sustainability of community lands and may contribute to public health risks.30
U.S. government efforts to combat wildlife poaching and trafficking are broad and
multisectoral.31 SFOPS funds to combat wildlife poaching and trafficking grew by nearly 26%
($20.7 mil ion) between FY2016 and FY2020.
USAID has noted that it seeks not only to preserve wildlife populations but also to combat
transnational crime and preserve safe, sustainable ecotourism, among other priorities. USAID
wildlife poaching and trafficking activities target areas where wildlife are poached, transit hubs,
and high-demand markets for trafficked wildlife.
 In areas where wildlife are poached, USAID focuses on capacity building to
enhance policies and processes to end wildlife trafficking and to train local
rangers and scouts to counter wildlife trafficking with effective enforcement.
 Along prominent trafficking routes, USAID funds partnerships that seek to
disrupt trafficking supply chains. For instance, the Reducing Opportunities for
Unlawful Transport of Endangered Species partnership trains workers in the
transport and logistics sector to identify and respond to wildlife trafficking, as
wel as to work to strengthen law enforcement and data analytics capacities.32

27 USAID, Biodiversity Handbook, 2015, p. 82; and USAID, “ Bilateral Biodiversity Conservation,” last updated
September 6, 2019, at https://www.usaid.gov/brazil/our-work/environmental-partnerships.
28 USAID, Biodiversity Handbook, 2015, p. 92.
29 USAID, “ Combating Wildlife T rafficking,” last updated March 12, 2020, at https://www.usaid.gov/biodiversity/
30 Wildlife trade—both legal and illegal—often involves placing live wildlife in close proximity to each other and
people, potentially increasing risks of transmitting zoonotic diseases. Some Members of Congress have proposed
restrictions and increased enforcement on wildlife trade and associated markets. See Letter from Senator Cory Booker
et al. to Dr. T edros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of WHO, Monique Eloit, director-general of the World
Organisation for Animal Health, and Qu Dongyu, director -general of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization,
April 8, 2020, at https://www.booker.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/
04.08.20_Booker_Graham_Quigley_McCaul_sblock.pdf .
31 For more information on wildlife trafficking, part icularly as it relates to transnational crime, see CRS In Focus
IF10601, Transnational Crim e Issues: Global Trends Overview, by Liana W. Rosen.
32 Recent Reducing Opportunities for Unlawful T ransport of Endangered Species (ROUT ES) publications have focused
on air transport of illegal wildlife products. See, for example, ROUT ES Partnership, Runway to Extinction, 2019, at
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 In high-demand markets for trafficked goods, USAID works to reduce demand
through behavior change and community outreach campaigns. For example,
USAID developed and published the Wildlife Consumer Behavior Change Toolkit
with the wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC.33 USAID has also
launched specific campaigns, such as the “Beautiful Without Ivory” campaign in
Thailand, which sought to reduce the acceptability of ivory accessories among
female consumers.34
Some USAID projects also seek to monitor and track the global wildlife trafficking trade. The
Wildlife Trafficking Response, Assessment, and Priority Setting Project produces analyses of the
wildlife trafficking trade by identifying trends to educate policymakers and strengthen their
enforcement and investigation capabilities, including through increased forensic analysis of
wildlife products.35
Sustainable Landscapes
USAID sustainable landscapes programming addresses the “sound management of land and
forests [that] sustains livelihoods and strengthens resilience to natural hazards, protects water
resources, and biodiversity, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and land
management.”36 According to USAID, it supports 13 bilateral programs, 5 regional programs, and
numerous global programs that address sustainable landscapes.37 The programs are diverse in
their objectives, but many address deforestation, seek to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and
promote public-private partnerships.
Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+)
The body of policy and approaches to address deforestation and forest degradation as they pertain to emissions,
forest conservation, sustainable development, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks has been termed REDD+.
REDD+ policies attempt to create financial value for carbon stored in forests by using market approaches to
compensate landowners for not deforesting their lands. This new approach to financing forest conservation
projects is intended to reward landholders for preserving biodiverse landscapes that absorb large quantities of
carbon, such as tropical forests and peat bogs. USAID REDD+ projects support countries’ efforts to calculate
total carbon stocks stored in their national forests and may support countries’ marketing of carbon credits for
continued preservation of their carbon stocks. The SilvaCarbon project, for example, is an interagency initiative
funded primarily by USAID and the State Department to provide technical assistance to countries in measuring
and monitoring their forest and terrestrial carbon stocks.
Sources: U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), USAID Biodiversity and Development Handbook,
October 2015, p. 6. USAID, SilvaCarbon Performance Evaluation Final Report, March 13, 2015, p. ix.

33 Users can search information by species (e.g., elephants, tigers, and rhinoceroses), target audience (e.g., government
or consumers), or consumer actions (e.g., consumption trends). See Change Wildlife Consumers, at
34 USAID, “ T op Fashion Influencers Join USAID’s ‘Beautiful Without Ivory’ Campaign,” press release, September 20,
2019, at https://www.usaid.gov/asia-regional/press-releases/sep-20-2019-top-fashion-influencers-join-usaid-beautiful-
without -ivory-campaign.
35 USAID, “ Wildlife T rafficking Response Assessment and Priority Setting (Wildlife T RAPS),” 2018, at
assessment -and-priority-setting.
36 USAID, “ Sustainable Landscapes,” last updated April 29, 2020, at https://www.usaid.gov/climate/sustainable-
37 USAID has supported these programs as of November 2019.
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U.S. Department of the Treasury
Treasury addresses international biodiversity conservation through lending programs and
technical assistance. Treasury works with intergovernmental organizations and foreign
governments to provide financial assistance for a wide range of activities, including international
conservation activities.38 Treasury also works with other agencies, such as State, to implement
some international conservation programs.
Global Environment Facility
The Global Environment Facility (GEF) is a multilateral environmental trust fund supporting
projects with global environmental benefits. Treasury administers U.S. participation in the GEF,
but, as a multilateral assistance program, it is funded by Congress through annual SFOPS
appropriations.39 In FY2020, Congress provided $139.6 mil ion for the trust fund under the
Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020 (P.L. 116-94). The GEF provides grants and other
financing programs that support a variety of projects, such as Safeguarding Biodiversity from
Invasive Alien Species in the Federated States of Micronesia,40 the restoration of degraded forests
in Vanuatu,41 and efforts to conserve coastal wetlands in Chile.42 The GEF states that its programs
are approved by consensus of a council comprised of developed and developing member
Tropical Forest Conservation Act
The Tropical Forest Conservation Act authorizes debt-for-nature transactions,44 where a
developing country’s debt is exchanged for local funds to conserve tropical forests. Brazil, for
example, committed to develop and fund programs intended to protect the country’s tropical
forests; in exchange, the United States canceled an equivalent level of debt and deposited interest
from a portion of the debt into a Tropical Forest Fund for conservation grants to address forest
conservation in Brazil.45 Fourteen countries were beneficiaries of such agreements from 2000 to
2013.46 Congress did not appropriate funding for debt-for-nature transactions from FY2014 to
FY2019. In 2019, President Trump signed into law a new version of the act, entitled the Tropical

38 U.S. Department of the T reasury, “ International Programs,” 2019, at https://www.treasury.gov/about/budget-
performance/budget-in-brief/BIB19/24.%20International%20Programs.pdf. For more information on sanctions use, see
State, “2019 END Wildlife T rafficking Strategic Review,” November 7, 2019, at https://www.state.gov/2019-end-
39 State, Congressional Budget Justification: Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Fiscal
Year 2020
, 2019, at https://www.state.gov/fy-2020-international-affairs-budget/.
40 Global Environment Facility (GEF), “ Safeguarding Biodiversity from Invasive Alien Species in the Federated States
of Micronesia,” at https://www.thegef.org/project/safeguarding-biodiversity-invasive-alien-species-federated-states-
41 GEF, “ Ecosystem Restoration and Sustainable Land Management in T ongoa Island,” at https://www.thegef.org/
project/ecosystem-restoration-and-sustainable-land-management -tongoa-island.
42 GEF, “ Mainstreaming Conservation of Coastal Wetlands of Chile’s South Center Biodiversity Hotspot through
Adaptive Management of Coastal Area Ecosystems,” at https://www.thegef.org/project/mainstreaming-conservation-
43 GEF, “Organization,” at https://www.thegef.org/about/organization.
44 22 U.S.C. §2431.
45 USAID, “ Countries with T FCA Programs,” at https://www.usaid.gov/biodiversity/T FCA/programs-by-country.
46 For more information on the T ropical Forest Conservation Act, see CRS Report RL31286, Debt-for-Nature
Initiatives and the Tropical Forest Conservation Act (TFCA): Status and Im plem entation
, by Pervaze A. Sheikh.
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Forest Conservation Reauthorization Act of 2018 (P.L. 115-440), which adds coral reef
ecosystems to the protection of the act and authorizes activities for FY2019 and FY2020.
Congress appropriated $15 mil ion to debt-for-nature exchanges in FY2020 (P.L. 116-94).47
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Department of the Interior)
FWS administers international conservation funding through programs that focus on species and
habitat conservation, both domestical y and international y, and has been authorized to administer
a variety of funds for foreign conservation efforts.48 Examples include the Multinational Species
Conservation Fund (MSCF) and the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Fund. The FWS
International Affairs program addresses international wildlife conservation and international
wildlife trade. Various other programs address specific species or groups of species that are found
international y, as discussed below. Congress provides funding for FWS international
conservation activities largely through annual Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations Acts.
FWS also receives a funding transfer from USAID for biodiversity programming overseas (see
text box entitled “Central Africa Regional Program for the Environment (CARPE),” above).
International Affairs
FWS’s International Affairs program is split into two subprograms: International Conservation
and International Wildlife Trade. These subprograms provide technical and financial assistance to
partner countries and local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to address habitat
conservation, species conservation, and wildlife trafficking. These programs are implemented in
partnership with nonfederal stakeholders. FWS reports that from 1989 through 2018, it provided
more than 4,200 grants for international conservation, totaling more than $322 mil ion. This work
was done with more than 700 partners (e.g., other donors, NGOs, and foundations) in developing
countries, which, according to FWS, contributed more than $470 mil ion in matching funds for
grant projects.49
The International Conservation subprogram focuses on regional and species conservation
activities in foreign countries that are of importance to the United States.50 For example, the
Wildlife Conservation Capacity Development in Central Africa program aims to develop and
implement training and workforce capacity in Central Africa.51 Further, in a partnership with
Gabon’s National Parks Agency, FWS aims to create safeguards for multiple species, some
endangered, by supporting efforts to guard and protect parks in Gabon.52
FWS’s International Wildlife Trade program is responsible for implementing CITES for the
United States, issuing permits for listed species, and implementing other U.S. laws that address
wildlife trade and wildlife trafficking, including the END Wildlife Trafficking Act (P.L. 114-231)

47 USAID, “ Financing Forest Conservation: An Overview of the T ropical Forest and Coral Reef Conservation Act ,” at
https://www.usaid.gov/tropical-forest -conservation-act.
48 16 U.S.C. §742j.
49 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), Budget Justification and Performance Information Fiscal Year 2021 , p. IA-3,
at https://www.fws.gov/budget/2021/FY2021-FWS-Budget -Justification.pdf. Hereafter FWS, FY2021 Budget
50 FWS, FY2021 Budget Justification, p. IA-2.
51 FWS, “ Wildlife Conservation Capacity Development in Central Africa,” fact sheet, at https://www.fws.gov/
52 FWS, Budget Justification and Performance Information Fiscal Year 2020 , at https://www.fws.gov/budget/2020/
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and Executive Order 13773 on preventing international trafficking.53 The United States is one of
the world’s largest importers of legally traded wildlife products.54
FWS also works with governmental and nongovernmental entities in foreign countries through
technical and financial assistance to prevent poaching, lower wildlife trafficking, and reduce
demand for wildlife contraband. In 2016, FWS implemented the Combating Wildlife Trafficking
grants program to address trafficking in species that might not otherwise receive the same level of
attention as others. For example, FWS initiated a project in Sumatra to address wildlife
trafficking and to conserve species such as the Sumatran tiger, helmeted hornbil , and Malay
pangolin—according to some scientists, pangolins are the world’s most trafficked species.55 This
project is significant, according to FWS, because these species are often poached and trafficked
by the same criminal syndicates in the region.56 FWS enforces laws that guard against wildlife
trafficking through its Office of Law Enforcement, which is funded separately from these
Multinational Species Conservation Fund
The MSCF provides technical and financial assistance to local communities, wildlife authorities,
and NGOs in developing countries for conserving specific species, including African and Asian
elephants, rhinoceroses, tigers, great apes, and marine turtles. The MSCF is separated into several
sub-funds that support conservation efforts benefitting certain species, often in conjunction with
efforts under CITES. The sub-funds provide grants to address habitat conservation, law
enforcement, and technical assistance for conserving species under the MSCF. A summary of the
funds is below.
 The African and Asian Elephant Conservation Fund provides funding for projects
for research, conservation, and the management and protection of African and
Asian elephants and their habitats. Appropriations are authorized for $5.0 mil ion
annual y from FY2019 to FY2023.
 The Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Fund approves grants for other nations
and to CITES for programs assisting in direct and indirect conservation of
rhinoceroses and tigers in Asia and Africa. Further, it prohibits the sale, import,
and export of products derived from any rhinoceros and tiger species.
Appropriations are authorized for $10.0 mil ion annual y from FY2019 to
 The Great Ape Conservation Fund provides grants to foreign governments, the
CITES Secretariat, and NGOs for the conservation of great apes and their
habitats. Appropriations are authorized for $5.0 mil ion annual y from FY2019 to

53 Executive Order 13773, “Executive Order on Enforcing Federal Law with Respect to T ransnational Criminal
Organizations and Preventing International T rafficking,” 82 Federal Register 10691, February 14, 2017.
54 FWS, FY2021 Budget Justification.
55 Smriti Mallapaty, “Scientists call for pandemic investigations to focus on wildlife trade,” Nature, vol. 583, no. 344
(July 10, 2020). Hereafter Mallapaty, “Scientists call for pandemic investigations,” 202 0.
56 Mallapaty, “Scientists call for pandemic investigations,” 2020 .
57 For more on FWS and other agency law enforcement efforts to counter wildlife crimes, see CRS In Focus IF11605,
Wildlife Trafficking: International Law Enforcem ent Responses, by Katarina C. O'Regan.
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 The Marine Turtle Conservation Fund provides grants for the conservation of
marine turtles and their nesting habitats. It is authorized to receive $5.0 mil ion in
annual appropriations from FY2019 to FY2023 for conservation efforts.
Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Fund
The Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Fund (NMBCF) provides grants for the
conservation of hundreds of bird species that migrate among North America, South America, and
the Caribbean.58 The goal of the NMBCF is to foster and support initiatives that bolster
cooperation international y for the conservation of bird populations. The program provides
matching grants for neotropical migratory bird conservation projects throughout the Western
Hemisphere,59 with at least 75% of funding going to projects in foreign countries. Since 2002, the
NMBCA has provided nearly $75.0 mil ion in grants to support 628 projects in 36 countries.
These projects have addressed 5 mil ion acres of bird habitat and leveraged an additional $286.0
mil ion for conservation, according to FWS.60
U.S. Forest Service (Department of Agriculture)
The FS International Programs office promotes sustainable forest management and biodiversity
conservation international y. The office has three main units: (1) Technical Cooperation, (2)
Policy, and (3) Disaster Assistance Response. The office supports specific activities, including
managing protected areas; protecting migratory species; engaging in landscape-level forest
planning; providing fire management training; curbing invasive species; preventing il egal
logging; promoting forest certification; reducing the impacts of forest use; and developing non-
timber forest products. The office has activities and projects in Latin America, Asia, and Africa.
In addition, USAID occasional y partners with FS under an interagency agreement to support
sustainable landscape activities.
Issues for Congress
Congress may consider the following issues as it authorizes, appropriates funding for, and
continues oversight of U.S. international conservation activities.
Level of Funding for International Conservation
A perennial debate about U.S. international conservation assistance is how much, if any, funding
to provide—and implicitly, how to prioritize international conservation vis-à-vis other U.S.
foreign aid and policy priorities. Recently, congressional concerns over global conservation
efforts escalated in the wake of an IPBES report asserting a significant loss in biodiversity due to

58 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Leveraging Funds for Effective Conservation in the Americas: The Neotropical
Migratory Bird Conservation Act
, September 2018, at https://www.fws.gov/birds/grants/neotropical-migratory-bird-
59 T he program benefits approximately 386 bird species that breed in the Unit ed States or Canada and spend winter in
Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, or South America.
60 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act, July 21, 2020, at
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human interactions with natural resources.61 The decline in biodiversity al eged in the IPBES
report may raise questions about the efficacy and proper funding levels for biodiversity efforts.
In FY2019 and FY2020, Congress appropriated funds above the Trump Administration’s request
for biodiversity funding at USAID in FY2020, more than four times the Administration’s
request.62 In addition, the Trump Administration proposed to eliminate the FS International
Programs office to focus on several domestic forest activities, including improving conditions of
forests and grasslands, enhancing rural economies, and reducing wildland fire risk.63 Congress did
not approve the Administration’s request and provided $12.0 mil ion for the FS International
Programs for FY2020.
Some critics of foreign assistance as a whole have asserted that the United States provides
overseas development assistance to the detriment of domestic programs, and aid recipients or
private entities should do more to advance international assistance goals.64 This sentiment has
also been applied to international conservation activities. For example, some observers assert that
the United States should reduce conservation assistance funding and encourage recipient
countries to increase their contributions to conservation within their countries.65 Some
policymakers propose a different perspective, arguing that recipient countries justifiably focus
their domestic spending on other priorities, such as poverty al eviation, health care, and
infrastructure, leaving few resources for conservation. They argue that wealthier countries, such
as the United States, could fil in this shortage of funding for conservation—a key justification for
debt-for-nature exchanges, which Congress recently renewed.66 Results from a 2013 study
support this position.67 The study found that 40 of the most severely underfunded countries68 for
biodiversity conservation contain 32% of al threatened mammalian biodiversity. The authors
argued that modest increases in international conservation assistance for these countries could
lead to proportional y larger improvements in biodiversity.69
Advocates of U.S. international conservation funding often assert that preserving wildlife and
ecosystems in developing countries benefits the American people by sustaining global public
goods—for example, by preserving tropical forests that serve as natural carbon sinks; sustaining
biodiversity resources that sequester zoonotic diseases or provide natural substances for
pharmaceuticals; or protecting the intrinsic value of diverse species and ecosystems.70 However,

61 Díaz et al., Global Assessment on Biodiversity and Ecosystems Services, 2019.
62 T he Administration’s FY2020 request for biodiversity funding under USAID was $78.9 million; Congress
appropriated “not less than $315.0 million.”
63 USAID, U.S. Forest Service (FS), FY2020 Budget Justification, March 2019, at https://www.fs.fed.us/sites/default/
files/media_wysiwyg/usfs-fy-2020-budget -justification.pdf.
64 Angus Deaton, “T he U.S. Can No Longer Hide From Its Deep Poverty Problem,” New York Times, January 24, 2018.
65 James Roberts and Brett Schaefer, An Overhaul of America’s Foreign Assistance Programs Is Long Overdue, T he
Heritage Foundation, September 19, 2017, at https://www.heritage.org/global-politics/report/overhaul-americas-
66 Annie Haakenstad et al., “T he Financing Gaps Framework: Using Need, Potential Spending and Expected Spending
to Allocate Development Assistance for Health,” Health Policy Plan, vol. 33, no. 1 (2018).
67 Anthony Waldron et al., “T argeting Global Conservation Funding to Limit Immediate Biodiversity Declines,”
Proceedings of the National Academ y of Sciences, vol. 110, no. 29 (July 16, 2013), pp. 12144-12148. Hereafter
Waldron et al., “T argeting Global Conservation Funding,” 2013.
68 Underfunded countries are determined by comparing known current levels of spending with a model’s expectation of
69 Waldron et al., “T argeting Global Conservation Funding,” 2013, pp. 12144-12148.
70 For example, see Andrew Balmford et al., “Economic Reasons for Conserving Wild Nature,” Science, vol. 297, no.
5583 (August 9, 2002), pp. 950-953.
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some policymakers who advocate for reducing U.S. international conservation funding contend
that some recipient countries may reduce their own conservation spending in light of funding
gaps fil ed by international aid, resulting in a zero net benefit for conservation. To counter this
possibility, some suggest establishing conditions or assurances that countries would not reduce
domestic conservation budgets upon receiving conservation aid. These types of assurances are
embedded in some U.S. domestic conservation programs, such as the Great Lakes Restoration
Questions about how international conservation might benefit the United States sometimes arise
in congressional consideration of appropriations. Some policymakers contend there are few—if
any—benefits from U.S. international conservation efforts, an assertion that has been supported
by some academic and oversight studies.72 For example, the Government Accountability Office
(GAO) in 2017 conducted an audit of U.S. overseas activities to combat wildlife trafficking and
found that the results of such activities were unclear, in part because agencies administering the
programs had not set performance targets for their respective efforts.73 Other policymakers
counter that U.S. investments may leverage funding from private sector firms and other entities
within beneficiary countries to expand international conservation programs’ scales, thereby
increasing the potential benefits.74 For example, in FY2018, according to USAID, a partnership
between USAID and Coca-Cola, Natura, and the NGO Sitawi Finance for Good led to the
conservation of freshwater fish in the Amazon and yielded economic benefits for 6,150 families
in protected areas in the Brazilian state of Amazonas.75
Some stakeholders might also contend that foreign assistance for some international conservation
issues could address U.S. national security or global health concerns. For example, assistance for
addressing international wildlife trafficking might deprive foreign armed groups of financing or
lower imports of il egal y traded wildlife into the United States and thus prevent the entry of
zoonotic diseases that could be carried by il egal y traded wildlife and wildlife products. Some
critics may counter that the United States could bolster national security and health in other, more
direct ways.
Goals and Objectives of Foreign Conservation Assistance
Congress appropriates U.S. international conservation assistance funding to multiple federal
departments and agencies, and funds are spread out over many different programs. There is no
centralized plan or framework for distributing the funds or evaluating the success of al
conservation assistance to foreign countries. Certain agencies focus their funding according to
program goals and priorities, which range from protecting certain species (e.g., rhinoceroses and
elephants) to restoring landscapes (e.g., tropical forests). In some cases, interagency international
conservation efforts and criteria might not be aligned. For example, while USAID’s Biodiversity

71 See 33 U.S.C. §1268(c)(7)(F).
72 See, for example, one such study conducted using Madagascar as a test case. Patrick O. Waeber et al., “How
Effective Have T hirty Years of Internationally Driven Conservation and Development Efforts Been in Madagascar? ”
PLoS ONE vol. 11, no. 8 (August 2016).
73 U.S. Government Accountability Office, Combating Wildlife Trafficking: Agencies Are Taking a Range of Actions,
But Task Force Lacks Perform ance Targets for Assessing Progress
, GAO 16-717, September 2016.
74 Efforts to create investment models for private investment to deliver returns and conservation outcomes are the
objective of some conservation organizations. For example, see “ Meeting Global Conservation Challenges,” Nature
Clim ate Change
, vol. 6, no. 891 (September 28, 2016).
75 USAID, U.S. Agency for International Development Report to Congress on Programs in Forestry and the
Conservation of Biodiversity During Fiscal Year 2018: Results and Funding , at https://www.usaid.gov/sites/default/
files/documents/1865/USAID-Report -to-Congress-on-Forestry-and-Biodiversity_FY_2018.pdf.
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Code establishes a set of criteria for implementing biodiversity programs, the sustainable
landscapes sector under USAID programming does not appear to operate under similar criteria. In
the absence of a holistic program or initiative, agencies might group existing programs or projects
together to report progress toward an objective.
Some policymakers might contend that if al U.S. international conservation assistance were
organized and spent according to a set of whole-of-government priorities or an overarching
framework, this could lead to the development of conservation goals and focus U.S. funding
toward achieving those goals. This could enable greater congressional oversight of conservation
assistance and help measure progress on international conservation initiatives.
Some other policymakers might oppose this approach and argue that existing agency-led
conservation programs should be guided by their specific legislative authorities. For example,
several laws authorize international conservation activities with specific objectives that address
certain species or landscapes. Policymakers might argue that these laws and programs reflect the
wil of constituents and that conservation is too broad to be addressed under one plan. They might
argue that the effectiveness of addressing specific issues, such as wildlife trafficking, might be
diluted under an overarching plan or agenda.
This issue is exemplified by debates over the scope of the Tropical Forest Conservation Act and
debt-for-nature swaps. Some policymakers wanted to expand the use of debt-for-nature swaps
under the law to al forest and ocean resources.76 Others argued for keeping the law focused on
tropical forests, arguing that with limited funds, the most effective use of the law would be
conserving tropical forests. Ultimately, the law was amended in 2019 to address tropical forests
and coral reef ecosystems (see the “Tropical Forest Conservation Act” section, above).
Interagency Coordination
With international conservation assistance largely implemented by individual agencies, some
have questioned whether interagency coordination is possible and effective. For example, in
2017, GAO found that although U.S. government efforts to reduce wildlife trafficking in
Southeast Asia were making some progress, “disagreement on roles and responsibilities” had
proved chal enging. To address these chal enges, GAO recommended that State, DOI, and
USAID each clarify their respective roles and responsibilities related to wildlife trafficking
programs in Southeast Asia. Each agency agreed with, and reportedly implemented, the GAO
Congress may seek to understand how U.S. government entities are coordinating their
international conservation efforts and where there might be areas for greater efficiency and
effectiveness. Some policymakers might propose an interagency task force to coordinate
conservation activities in similar landscapes or countries. Further, some might contend that
sharing expertise among agencies or pooling resources and efforts could increase the efficiency
and effectiveness of implementing conservation programs. Other policymakers might argue that
disrupting the status quo may be detrimental. They might point to existing coordination, such as
FWS and State collaboration on addressing wildlife trafficking in foreign countries and the

76 Senator Rob Portman, “Portman, Bipartisan Senate Colleagues Introduce Legislation to Promote Conservation and
Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions,” press release, May 3, 2017, at https://www.portman.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/
77 U.S. Government Accountability Office, Combating Wildlife Trafficking: Agencies Are Taking Action to Reduce
Dem and but Could Im prove Collaboration in Southeast Asia
, GAO-18-7, October 12, 2017, at https://www.gao.gov/
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presence of FWS officers in certain U.S. embassies abroad to participate in international criminal
investigations of wildlife trafficking and wildlife enforcement networks.
The outbreak of COVID-19 and the potential emergence of zoonotic diseases global y have
stimulated these discussions. Some Members of Congress have introduced bil s that direct
interagency collaboration to identify zoonotic diseases and study factors that contribute to their
emergence. For example, under Section 6 of S. 3759, several federal agencies would coordinate
with the intention to address global zoonotic diseases and biodiversity, improve food security, and
minimize the human-wildlife interface by preventing the degradation and fragmentation of
ecosystems, among other actions.
Alignment with Host Country Priorities and Length of
Congressional oversight of international conservation activities may include questions about
whether federal programs and activities align with recipient countries’ conservation priorities.
Some stakeholders argue that foreign assistance programs meet their objectives only when they
align with recipient countries’ priorities.78 For example, one study found that if the needs of the
developing country were aligned with those of the conservation projects, then the probability of
success would increase, as the developing country can implement policies that would support the
project. The same study argues that biodiversity conservation can have policy and project goals
that may contradict a nation’s poverty reduction goals. If the nation’s poor were overhunting or
converting larger tracts of biodiverse land to farmland, then biodiversity policies may not
succeed, according to the study.79
Some policymakers contend that successful international conservation initiatives are implemented
through long-term rather than short-term efforts, implying that long-term commitments to
conservation aid might be a better approach. For example, some point to long-term aid to Brazil
for strengthening the structures for monitoring and managing reserves and forests as an effective
use of aid. Some stakeholders might counter this approach by suggesting that short-term
conservation actions are more effective when addressing dire environmental issues that emerge
quickly. For example, conservation actions to prevent a species from going extinct or save an
ecosystem from burning (e.g., forest fires in Australia) might be more effective if implemented by
short-term rather than long-term efforts.
Congress might consider these findings when deliberating international conservation assistance.
Members might view a holistic approach to conservation that would take into account
development goals and aspirations by recipient countries and focus on long-term conservation
initiatives. In contrast, Congress might focus on international conservation priorities that would
focus on specific species or ecosystems that have broad constituent support, such as African
elephant conservation or coral reefs.

78 For example, see Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness,
2005, at https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/docserver/9789264098084-en.pdf?expires=1597420266&id=id&accname=
ocid195520&checksum=6416CCB99F17932468962E5EB606C305 .
79 Zdenek Oprsal and Jaromir Harmacek, “Is Foreign Aid Responsive to Environmental Needs and Performance of
Developing Countries? Case Study of the Czech Republic,” Sustainability, vol. 11, no. 401 (2019), p. 10.
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Foreign Assistance for Conservation and Consequences for Human
Human rights advocates and organizations representing indigenous communities have
periodical y asserted that international conservation programs can result in forced displacement,
in security force abuses against local communities, or both. For example, a 2019 news article
al eged that people living near national parks in Nepal and near national parks in several central
African countries were abused as a result of counter-poaching operations by local park rangers.80
Al egations that Nepal park rangers had tortured and kil ed a suspected poacher near Chitwan
Forest in 2006 were central to the article. Other reports of human rights abuses associated with
conservation have surfaced throughout the world. For example, some observers al ege human
rights abuses by park rangers in Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park in the Republic of the Congo, and
some indigenous rights groups al ege that this park’s creation dispossessed local communities of
their lands without consent. Local government officials have denied these al egations.81
Some Members of Congress have expressed concern that U.S. international conservation aid has
been used to fund organizations implicated in human rights violations. In response to the article
mentioned above, Senator Patrick Leahy and Representative Eliot Engel cal ed for an
investigation into U.S. funding administered by FWS for the international conservation
organizations that support anti-poaching efforts in Nepal.82 In May 2019, Representative Raúl
Grijalva and Representative Rob Bishop requested a GAO review of U.S. efforts to combat
wildlife trafficking, with a focus on human rights abuses.83 In response to these issues, DOI is
withholding certain funds for international conservation pending an internal review.84 Other
donors (including the British and German parliaments) are also investigating al eged human
rights abuses as a result of conservation projects.85
Some U.S. agencies, including FWS, have human rights guidelines for grants that fund
international conservation. Congress might consider evaluating these guidelines to potential y
decide whether further oversight or legislation might be needed to, for example, impose
additional conditions on grant recipients (e.g., certification that recipients have internal
procedures for soliciting, tracking, and reporting information on abuses by their personnel or sub-
grantees). Congress might also examine the al egations in question to determine whether they are
credible and whether partner and agency responses were adequate or appropriate.

80 T om Warren and Katie Baker, “WWF Funds Guards Who Have T ortured and Killed People,” BuzzFeed News,
March 4, 2019.
81 See, for example, Inés Ayari and Simon Counsell, The Human Cost of Conservation in the Republic of Congo,
Rainforest Foundation UK, December 2017; Survival International, How Will We Survive? The destruction of Congo
Basin tribes in the nam e of conservation
, 2017. T he Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park (NNNP) is managed by the
Nouabalé-Ndoki Foundation, a public-private partnership between the Congolese government’s Ministry for Forest
Economy and the Wildlife Conservation Society, a nonprofit conservation organization. NNNP has received funding
from USAID, FWS, State, FS, and various private, international, and nongovernmental donors.
82 Michael Burke, “Lawmakers Call for Investigation into World Wildlife Fund,” The Hill, March 5, 2019.
83 Letter from Representative Raúl M. Grijalva, chair of the House Committee on Natural Resources, and
Representative Rob Bishop, ranking member of the House Committee on Natural Resources, to the Honorable Gene
Dodaro, comptroller general of the GAO, May 6, 2019.
84 Letter from Susan Combs, assistant secretary of Policy, Management, and Budget for the Department of the Interior,
to Representative Raúl Grijalva, chair of the House Committee on Natural Resources, September 19, 2019.
85 For example, see Karen McVeigh, “British Watchdog Launches Inquiry into WWF Abuse Allegations,” The
, April 4, 2019.
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Free, Prior, and Informed Consent of Indigenous Peoples
Areas of the world that are home to large concentrations of indigenous peoples and low-income
communities are often prone to the negative effects of climate change, biodiversity loss,
ecosystem degradation, and other conservation-related chal enges.86 Congress might consider
whether foreign assistance for conservation aids or hinders indigenous and low -income
communities in recipient countries. Some human rights advocates argue that efforts to conserve
habitats or sustainably manage lands could force indigenous peoples out of their ancestral
homelands and deprive them of their livelihoods.87 They argue that conservation assistance may
not address or mitigate externalities that affect the livelihoods of these populations.88 For
example, international efforts to shut down wildlife markets to prevent the spread of zoonotic
diseases and lower wildlife trafficking may have the unintended consequence of diminishing
protein options for indigenous or low-income people with little access to markets with meat from
domesticated animals. Some conservation advocates counter that conservation assistance and
activities can enhance the wel -being of indigenous people by involving them in securing the
sustainability and longevity of natural habitats and lands and by protecting the ecosystems they
depend on from destruction at the hands of local government, private sector initiatives, and
U.S. government entities involved in international conservation activities differ in their
approaches to involving indigenous peoples and other local communities as potential stakeholders
in conservation efforts. The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (recently reconstituted as
the U.S. Development Finance Corporation), for instance, maintained a policy to attain “consent”
of indigenous peoples for programs; State and Treasury suggest the need for “consultation.”90
USAID, in its new policy on indigenous peoples, encourages attaining free, prior, and informed
consent as a “best practice” but also refers to the U.S. Announcement of Support for the UN
Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a “cal for a process of meaningful
consultation with [traditional] leaders, but not necessarily the agreement of those leaders, before
the actions addressed in those consultations are taken.”91
Congress could seek to clarify the U.S. position on requirements for attaining the consent of
indigenous peoples in U.S. conservation programs, including by considering the establishment of
a U.S. government position on the matter. Congress could also consider policy mechanisms to
integrate conservation programs with the livelihoods of indigenous peoples.

86 Sandra Díaz et al., Summary for Policymakers of the Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem
Services of the Intergovernm ental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services
, IPBES, 2019, pp.
87 Jeremy Hance, “Conservation’s People Problem,” Mongabay, 2016. Hereafter Hance, “Conservation’s People
Problem,” 2016.
88 Hance, “Conservation’s People Problem,” 2016.
89 Claudia Sobrevila, The Role of Indigenous Peoples in Biodiversity Conservation: The Natural but Often Forgotten
, Working Paper no. 44300, T he World Bank, 2008.
90 USAID, Biodiversity and Development Handbook, 2015, p. 83.
91 USAID, Policy on Promoting the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, March 2020, p. 21.
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Appendix. Selected Appropriations for
International Conservation Activities

Table A-1. Enacted Appropriations for Selected Federal Programs That Address
International Conservation, FY2018 to FY2020
(in mil ions of U.S. dol ars)
FY2018 FY2019 FY2020
U.S. Agency for
Biodiversity conservation activities conducted by USAID
Not less
aim to help developing countries maintain biodiversity
and habitats and the environmental services they provide.
USAID funds projects and activities in approximately 60
countries throughout the world and emphasizes
sustainable development and community-based
conservation. Efforts began in the 1970s to address the
conservation of forests and expanded to address
biological diversity and tropical deforestation in the
1980s. Biodiversity conservation activities are broadly
authorized by §119 of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961
(22 U.S.C. §2151q).
USAID funds to
This category covers funding under several programs that
Not less
Not less
Not less
address wildlife
address wildlife trafficking. A portion of funds are
poaching and
appropriated to in-country programs in Africa and Asia.
Another portion of funding is appropriated to the
International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement
Program to develop criminal justice systems and
capabilities in foreign countries. Wildlife trafficking is one
of the il icit international crimes in the purview of this
This funding covers international treaties that address
conservation, including the Convention on International
Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora
(CITES); U.N. Convention to Combat Desertification;
RAMSAR Convention on Wetlands; Intergovernmental
Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services; U.N.
Forum on Forests; International Tropical Timber
Organization; and the Food and Agriculture
Organization’s National Forest Program Facility.
U.N. Environment
This funding goes towards the U.N. Environment
Program (UNEP), which promotes environmental
sustainability global y. UNEP works in themes related to
climate change, disasters, ecosystems, environmental
governance, chemicals and waste, resource efficiency, and
U.S. Department
The GEF is a multilateral environmental trust fund that
of the Treasury
supports projects with global environmental benefits
related to six areas: biodiversity, climate change,
international waters, the ozone layer, land degradation,
Facility (GEF)
and persistent organic pol utants. Al ocation of funding
across these six areas has varied by year. Established in
1991, the GEF has received funds from the United States
annual y since 1993.
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U.S. Support for International Conservation

FY2018 FY2019 FY2020
U.S. Department
The TFCA (22 U.S.C. §2431 et seq.) authorizes debt-for-
of the Treasury
nature transactions, where developing country debt is
Tropical Forest
exchanged for local funds to conserve tropical forests.
Conservation Act
U.S. Department
The Sustainable Landscapes program aims to reduce
No less
Not less
Not less
of State (State)
greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest
degradation. USAID and State draw funds for bilateral
and regional Sustainable Landscape programming from
larger accounts in their budgets, including Development
Assistance, Economic Support Fund, and International
Organizations and Programs.
U.S. Fish and
The MSCF supports conservation efforts benefitting
Wildlife Service
certain species, often in conjunction with efforts under
CITES (to which the United States is a party). The MSCF
provides funding to a range of countries for the
conservation of African and Asian elephants,
rhinoceroses, tigers, great apes, tortoises, freshwater
Fund (MSCF)
turtles, and marine turtles. This funding provides grants
that target species and address habitat conservation, law
enforcement, and technical assistance for conserving
species under the MSCF.
FWS Neotropical
This funding provides grants for the conservation of
Migratory Bird
hundreds of bird species that migrate among North
America, South America, and the Caribbean.
FWS International
The FWS International Affairs program addresses wildlife
Affairs Program
conservation, wildlife trade, and the implementation of
several U.S. wildlife laws. This office also coordinates
programs that address forest conservation indirectly by
supporting the conservation of species and ecosystems.
Program components include International Conservation
and International Wildlife Trade discussed below.

This program consists of species and regional programs
Conservation that provide technical and financial assistance to conserve
high-priority species and habitats.

This program is responsible for implementing CITES and
various domestic laws of the United States to ensure that
the international wildlife trade is not harmful to
endangered and threatened wildlife around the world.
U.S. Forest
The FS International Programs office promotes
Service (FS)
sustainable forest management and biodiversity
conservation international y. The office has three main
units: Technical Cooperation, Policy, and Disaster
Assistance Response. Specific activities include managing
protected areas, protecting migratory species, engaging in
landscape-level forest planning, providing fire
management training, curbing invasive species, preventing
il egal logging, promoting forest certification, reducing the
impacts of forest use, and the development of nontimber
forest products.
Sources: P.L. 116-94, P.L. 116-6, P.L. 115-141; accompanying committee reports for Interior, Environment, and
Related Agencies and for State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs; and FY2020 congressional budget
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U.S. Support for International Conservation

justifications for Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies and for State, Foreign Operations, and Related
Notes: FY2020 appropriations for biodiversity programs under USAID identify funding for some conservation
programs in the explanatory statement, including the Andean Amazon Program ($24.5 mil ion); Brazilian Amazon
Program ($11.0 mil ion); Central Africa Regional Program for the Environment ($43.0 mil ion); and Great Apes
Conservation ($40.0 mil ion); among others.

Author Information

Pervaze A. Sheikh
Katarina C. O'Regan
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy
Analyst in Foreign Policy

Nick M. Brown
Richard K. Lattanzio
Analyst in Foreign Assistance and Foreign Policy
Specialist in Environmental Policy

Emily M. Morgenstern

Analyst in Foreign Assistance and Foreign Policy

Lucas Bermejo, former research associate, authored and contributed to earlier versions of this work.

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