Tropical forests sustain a greater diversity of life than any place else on Earth. Yet despite growing worldwide concern, tropical forests continue to disappear at a rate of more than 50 acres a minute -- an area the size of North Carolina each year.
To help curb this devastating loss, President Clinton and Vice President Gore are proposing a record $150 million in FY 2001 -- a $70 million increase -- for a new Greening the Globe initiative. This initiative will give developing countries tools and resources to strengthen their economies by protecting, not destroying, their irreplaceable forests.
A Global Resource at Risk. Tropical forests are the world^s richest ecosystems, supporting more than half the known species on earth. They play an important role in maintaining a stable climate, and are a vital source of medicines and new materials. Only half the tropical forests that stood in 1800 survive today. Every day, another 100 species are lost to tropical deforestation.
The leading causes of deforestation include illegal logging, subsidies that promote overlogging, and deliberate burning to clear land for agriculture. At present rates, most remaining tropical forests could be lost over the coming century, destroying priceless biological resources and limiting options for sustainable growth.
Promoting Prosperity through Conservation. The Clinton-Gore Administration has been a worldwide leader in the protection of tropical forests and biodiversity. From promoting forest conservation policies at the World Bank and other international lending agencies to negotiating strengthened international agreements on biodiversity and forest protection, the United States has sought effective solutions that couple conservation with economic growth. U.S. agencies also provide direct technical assistance and financing to protect the world?s most important tropical forests.
Through the Greening the Globe initiative, the Administration seeks to dramatically increase U.S. investment in forest and biodiversity conservation worldwide in FY 2001. The proposed funding, an 88 percent increase over FY 2000, would provide additional training and technical assistance to developing countries; support debt-for-nature swaps that preserve forests while relieving poor nations of crippling debt; protect endangered tropical species; and help build the first complete set of satellite imagery tracking forest loss worldwide.
Greening the Globe priorities total $150 million and include:
Targeted Conservation Investments -- $100 million in FY 2001 (up from $62 million in FY 2000) for tropical forest and biodiversity conservation programs through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). This funding will help over 60 developing countries across Latin America, Africa and Asia address the causes of deforestation and build their capacity for forest conservation and park protection activities. Funding would be targeted to areas especially rich in biological diversity that face significant threats. Projects include:
In Southeast Asia: Indonesia is the world^s leading exporter of tropical timber. Its forests face tremendous threats from destructive logging, the conversion of natural forests to palm oil plantations, and unchecked slash-and-burn agriculture. USAID will work to improve management of the country^s vast but rapidly dwindling tropical forests, which are home to over 10 percent of the world^s primate species and among of the most biologically diverse in the world. This initiative will enable USAID to expand its support of local forest management efforts, and will promote forest-friendly policies and agricultural practices.
In South America: Bolivia^s Madidi National Park is considered by some to be the world^s most biologically diverse national park, with 1,200 species of birds, nearly twice the total bird species breeding in the continental United States. USAID will expand efforts to conserve national parks like Madidi in the Amazon. This initiative will allow USAID to work with conservation organizations, local park managers, and communities in many of these parks to address the serious threat posed by deforestation.
In East Africa: With 79 percent of the 150 most widely used prescription drugs coming from nature, it is essential to address the staggering rate of species loss in tropical forests. For example, Madagascar is home to the Rosy Periwinkle, a plant from which medicine used to successfully treat childhood leukemia was developed. USAID will enhance its partnerships with key conservation organizations and governments to help African countries strengthen their national protected areas systems and promote sustainable conservation-based economic development to protect the unknown life-saving potential locked in the tropical forests.
Debt-for-Nature Swaps -- $37 million, almost three times current funding, to save threatened forests while relieving developing country debt. Under the Tropical Forest Conservation Act (TFCA), the United States can grant reduction of debt owed by developing countries when they commit to invest local currency in conservation of tropical forests and promote economic reform. Under the TFCA, debt can be reduced through debt buybacks, swaps, and debt cancellation. Interest payments on the remaining debt will be channeled into local currency funds supporting tropical forest conservation programs. Priority countries for these innovative debt-for-nature swaps could include countries such as Bangladesh, Peru, and the Philippines.
Protection of Endangered Species -- $3 million, a 50 percent increase, for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service International Biodiversity Conservation programs that help other countries conserve wildlife and protect global biodiversity. The budget includes an increase in funding for:
Implementation of the African Elephant Conservation Act, Asian Elephant Conservation Act, and Rhino/Tiger Conservation Act. Each of these laws establishes a fund for assistance to African and Asian countries that harbor these species, to be matched by contributions from other governments and private organizations. Projects will include activities such as providing anti-poaching patrols in national parks and reserves, developing community outreach programs to involve local villagers in conservation, and conducting monitoring programs for populations of elephants, rhinos, and tigers.
Expanded Research and Wildlife Protections -- $10 million, more than three times current funding, for the International Programs Office of the Forest Service to give additional technical assistance for sustainable forest management and tropical forest conservation. Programs will focus on:
Promoting the establishment and preservation of protected areas in tropical forests, including boundary demarcation, skills training, monitoring site status and management effectiveness, and buffer zone management; Working with domestic and international partners to restore and maintain critical habitat areas for the protection of migratory species; and Expanding research on the causes and prevention of wild forest fires, such as those that devastated parts of Mexico, Brazil, and Indonesia over the last several years.
Monitoring Forest Loss from Space -- A new program led by NASA and USAID to use satellite imagery to compile the first comprehensive maps of the world?s tropical forests. These agencies will work with national and international partners, including the Forest Service and the U.S. Geological Survey, to provide the tools for regularly monitoring and reporting on future changes in forest cover. This new effort will provide governments, scientists and conservationists accurate information for maximizing forest protection investments and safeguarding these unique and valuable ecosystems for future generations.