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House Panel Urged to Address Wildlife ‘Crisis’

Wildlife conservation advocates and the Bush administration today urged a House Natural Resources subcommittee to reauthorize laws that provide federal funds to preserve threatened wildlife across the globe.

Without reauthorization of the bills — which provide funds for conservation of endangered elephants, tigers and rhinoceros in Asia and Africa — “there is a chance that these magnificent species may become extinct within a generation,” said John Berry, director of the National Zoo, in testimony before the subcommittee on fisheries, wildlife and oceans this morning. “If these programs weren’t there, I shudder to think what would happen.”

Republican members of the committee, including ranking member Don Young (Alaska) and Rep. Jim Saxton (N.J.), are sponsoring two bills that would reauthorize the current laws. They are the Multinational Species Conservation Funds Reauthorization Act of 2007 (H.R. 50) and the Asian Elephant Conservation Reauthorization Act of 2007 (H.R. 465).

The bills extend authorization for federal funds for three conservation programs that are to be used for matching grants to non-governmental organizations. Dr. Joshua Ginsberg of the Wildlife Conservation Society told the panel that U.S. government support of the group’s efforts through the programs enables it to solicit additional private support for conservation efforts.

Lawmakers on the subcommittee, which is chaired by Del. Madeleine Bordallo (D-Guam), expressed support for the bills and their goals.

But the witnesses also told the panel that reauthorization of the laws was not sufficient for conservation efforts unless actual appropriations are received.

Sybille Klenzendorf of the World Wildlife Fund testified that only $4.4 million was appropriated for the programs, which are authorized at $20 million annually. “While reauthorization of these programs is critical, the authorization provides few on-the-ground benefits to these species if it is not followed by sufficient appropriations,” she told the panel.

Conservationist Michael Fay of the National Geographic Society contrasted federal conservation spending with funds spend on the war in Iraq.

“If I was seeking the solution to peace and security on Earth and had a choice between providing another 100 billion for Iraq, or to provide the same amount for conservation, especially with no strings attached, I would not have to think twice.”

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