Wildlife Trafficking & President Obama’s FY16 budget request.
WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) applauded President Obama’s FY16 budget request for its conservation highlights, but cautioned that recent gains for wildlife trafficking could disappear unless Congress acts.
The budget lists gains for several important programs within the Department of the Interior and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and positive developments for combating wildlife trafficking in the Department of Justice request. However, the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Biodiversity Program is not represented as a line item within the State Department request, which is a major threat to the continuation of key programs. In addition, a dedicated fund for wildlife trafficking within the State Department’s International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Office (INL) and USAID has disappeared from the budget.
“WCS is pleased to see support for conservation and efforts against wildlife trafficking reflected in the President’s FY16 budget request,” said John Calvelli, WCS Executive Vice President of Public Affairs. “We look forward to working with Congress again to reinforce and augment these measures which benefit our national and economic security, especially wildlife trafficking within U.S. foreign assistance and the USAID Biodiversity Program.”
Within the request for the Department of the Interior, the Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) Office of Law Enforcement, responsible for investigating wildlife crimes and enforcing wildlife trade laws, saw a request for increase of $8.7 million over the 2015 level, nearly half of which going toward wildlife trafficking. The budget listed FWS’s Multinational Species Conservation Funds for $11.1 million, an increase of $2 million over 2015. The Land and Water Conservation Fund, State and Tribal Wildlife Grants, Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Fund, North American Wetlands Conservation Fund, and Cooperative Landscape Conservation all saw requests that are equal or higher than 2015 levels.
The request for the State Department and USAID rolls back gains for wildlife trafficking that were made in the FY15 appropriations for USAID’s Biodiversity Program, and there is no reference to the dedicated wildlife trafficking fund created last year and funded at $55 million for FY15. The request does recommend $168 million for the U.S. contribution to the Global Environment Facility, a key funder of international conservation, which fulfills the second annual installment and past unmet commitments.
Within the Department of Agriculture request, the U.S. Forest Service’s International Program saw a 50 percent cut from the FY 2015 Enacted Budget.
In December, Congress passed an FY15 omnibus appropriations bill to fund the U.S. government until September 2015 and the results were largely positive for conservation. Within the State and Foreign Operations appropriations, the USAID Biodiversity Program was funded at its highest level ever, along with $55 million for a dedicated fund to fight wildlife trafficking and $136.5 million for the U.S. contribution to the Global Environment Facility. Within the Interior appropriations, FWS’s Multinational Species Conservation Funds, which support anti-poaching efforts and conservation of elephants, rhinos, tigers, great apes and marine turtles, were funded at $9 million. Interior appropriations also dedicated $66.7 million to the FWS Office of Law Enforcement. Other portions of the omnibus bill, particularly Department of Justice, Department of Treasury, and Department of Defense appropriations, included report language that noted the national security implications of wildlife trafficking and advocated for continued efforts to protect elephants and other endangered wildlife from poaching.
Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Canada was incorporated as a conservation organization in Canada in 2004. The mission of WCS Canada is to conserve wildlife and wild places by understanding the issues, developing science-based solutions, and working with others to carry out conservation actions across Canada. WCS Canada is distinguished from other environmental organizations through our role in generating science through field and applied research, and by using our results to encourage collaboration among scientific communities, organizations and policy makers to achieve conservation results. WCS Canada is independently registered and managed, while retaining a strong collaborative working relationship with sister WCS programs in more than 55 countries. Visit: www.wcscanada.org