Fortenberry, Caucus Co-Chairs Introduce Bill for Okavango Conservation & Development

January 18, 2018
Fortenberry, Caucus Co-Chairs Introduce Bill for Okavango Conservation & Development

Representative Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), Co-Chair of the U.S. Congressional International Conservation Caucus, today introduced legislation aimed at promoting sustainable economic growth through trans-boundary conservation programs in the Okavango River Basin.

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The House Foreign Affairs Committee released a statement following the bills introduction this afternoon.

The bipartisan DELTA Act (Defending Economic Livelihoods and Threatened Animals Act) provides for the development of a coordinated strategy and the prioritization of international conservation resources to that end. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA), a founding Co-Chair of the International Conservation Caucus, and Representatives Henry Cuellar (D-TX) and Betty McCollum (D-MN), also Co-Chairs of the International Conservation Caucus, are original co-sponsors of the DELTA Act. The Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Representative Eliot Engel (D-NY), and a former chairperson of the committee, Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), are also original co-sponsors. Both are members of the International Conservation Caucus.

Representative Fortenberry is quoted saying, “This transnational conservation initiative marks a new approach to protecting majestic species such as the African elephant, and rhinoceros, while creating dynamic new benefits for the surrounding countries and indigenous people. Through innovation, creativity, and conservation, we can save and enhance one of the most beautiful and delicate ecosystems in the world.”

Chairman Royce also said of the bill, “Today the critical Okavango River Basin is near a breaking point. Unwise development and wildlife poaching and trafficking threatens to destroy this rare inland delta. To save this unique habitat, its iconic wildlife and the communities that rely on the responsible management of the watershed, we must strengthen coordination among governments in the region and leverage public-private partnerships. We’ve seen this work before, with the Congo Basin Forest Partnership. Opportunities like this only come once. Together, we can protect wildlife, promote sound development and help our national security.”

The Okavango River Basin is Africa’s most expansive inland water system, extending from its source in the highlands of Angola, through Zambia, and into the Okavango Delta in northern Botswana.

These waters support over one million Angolans, Botswanans, and Zambians, as well as Africa’s largest remaining population of elephants and a wealth biodiversity. The region is ripe with potential for development through ecotourism, which can be a sustainable source of revenue for local communities. Like other regions in Africa, increased levels of poaching and wildlife trafficking threaten elephant populations in the region and prospects for inclusive, sustainable growth.

The aim of the DELTA Act is to combat these threats and provide opportunities for growth by enhancing cooperation and coordination between governments, leveraging the experience and expertise of private sector and non-governmental stakeholders. Specifically, the DELTA Act:

  • directs responsible agencies to engage the governments of Angola, Botswana, and Namibia to develop a strategy in partnership with regional entities, multilateral institutions, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector to promote sustainable resource management, combat wildlife trafficking, and spur inclusive economic growth;
  • authorizes U.S. assistance programs to prioritize ongoing efforts to promote development through conservation, provide technical assistance, and build anti-poaching capacity;
  • and provides for U.S. government cooperation with private sector entities to support conservation projects in the region.

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