Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) Recognized as “Champion of the Forests”

World Forestry Day Commemorates the Importance and Benefits of Forests

WASHINGTON (March 22, 2012) – Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Executive Vice President of Public Affairs John F. Calvelli advocated for greater protection of the world’s forests by funding the U.S. Forest Service Office of International Programs (FSIP) during testimony before the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee. In a celebration of World Forestry Day, WCS also recognized Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) as a “Champion of the Forests.”

In addition to FSIP, the testimony also pushed for full funding of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Multinational Species Conservation Funds (MSCF), which are key bipartisan programs that are effective, targeted investments in global priority species such as tigers, elephants, rhinoceros, great apes and sea turtles. Calvelli spoke of how U.S. investment in global conservation, through these programs specifically, is helping improve local governance around the world and conserve our planet’s natural wealth.

The illegal trade in wildlife and timber products is booming across Africa and Asia. Criminalized syndicates – often also trading in narcotics and weapons –are systematically capturing and killing wildlife to sell on the black market. Illegal timber trade is also directly impacting American economic interests. For example, industry reports estimate that U.S. roundwood, sawnwood and panel exports could increase by approximately $460 million each year if illegal logging was eliminated.

Calvelli said, “Essential programs like the U.S. Forest Service International Programs are instrumental in conserving our planet’s forests and protecting American forestry trade and timber interests. WCS has a long history of working to preserve our world’s forests for the long-term conservation of species and human livelihoods, and we are lucky to have bipartisan support for this effort. We urge the full funding of these vital investments.”

World Forestry Day has been celebrated on March 21st for 30 years to remind communities of the importance of forests and the many benefits which we gain from them, including water quality maintenance, air pollution mitigation, erosion protection, and economic opportunities. This year, WCS recognized Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) as a “Champion of the Forests” for her work as a powerful advocate both for smart forest conservation and management and for the U.S. timber industry.

Rep. McCollum said, “Whether it’s a forest in Minnesota, Manitoba, or Madagascar, these irreplaceable economic, ecological and environmental treasures must be protected and sustainably managed for future generations. The Forest Service International Programs does incredible work around the world that benefits not only some of the world’s most beloved animal species, but the economic interests of American logging, hunting and fishing industries. I am very proud to receive this award on behalf of the world’s forests.”

Rep. McCollum and Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID) have been key supporters of the U.S. Forest Service International Programs in Congress. WCS is recommending maintaining FY12 enacted levels for FSIP and supports the Administration’s FY13 request for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s MSCF program. WCS steers coalitions supporting both of these programs, representing dozens of business and industry groups, academic institutions, outdoor recreation and conservation organizations, zoos and aquariums, and others who see the value in safeguarding international conservation investments.

Chip Weiskotten: 1-202-624-8172;
 Mary Dixon: 1-347-840-1242;

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 toward 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.