WASHINGTON, D.C.  (February 15, 2010) – The following statement was released today by John Calvelli, the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Executive Vice President for Public Affairs:

“Any effort to eliminate funding for the U.S. Forest Service International Programs (FSIP) is short-sighted and would have a negative effect on America’s national security and economic security.

“Today, lawmakers in the House of Representatives will attempt to de-fund an office that provides technical assistance in forest management in some of the world’s most unstable regions.  However, the benefits of this work far outweigh the costs.  The work of FSIP allows vital natural resources to be managed more effectively which reduces the chances of conflict.  As the politics stabilize, economic development increases in these regions and they become more suitable as U.S. international trade markets.

“An example of this is occurring now in the Republic of Tajikistan.  The fragile ecosystems of Central Asia are suffering from degradation of arable land and pasture, deforestation and forest degradation, water scarcity and inefficient water use.  FSIP is working with WCS to help re-start a long-standing effort to create a transboundary protected area initiative in the Pamir Mountains between Tajikistan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and China to promote sustainable livelihoods and protect the landscape through a science-based approach to joint management and conservation.  The stability of this area, particularly considering the significant resources invested in nearby Afghanistan and Pakistan, should be a priority for U.S. national security and this type of ‘diplomacy through science’ can be a key part of the effort to build dialogue and ease tensions in this complex political – and environmental – landscape.

“The Wildlife Conservation Society stands firmly against harmful cuts to beneficial programs like the Forest Service International Programs that serve to provide positive impacts to America with their work abroad.”

Chip Weiskotten: (202-624-8172; cweiskotten@wcs.org)
Mary Dixon: (347-840-1242; mdixon@wcs.org)

The Wildlife Conservation Society saves wildlife and wild places worldwide. We do so through science, global conservation, education and the management of the world's largest system of urban wildlife parks, led by the flagship Bronx Zoo. Together these activities change attitudes towards nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in harmony. WCS is committed to this mission because it is essential to the integrity of life on Earth.