Portman, Bipartisan Colleagues Applaud Unanimous House Passage of Conservation Legislation to Protect Tropical Forests & Coral Reef Ecosystems

April 22, 2021 | Press Releases

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), along with Senators Chris Coons (D-CT), Richard Burr (R-NC), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Brian Schatz (D-HI), applauded the U.S. House of Representatives for unanimously passing his bipartisan legislation, the Tropical Forest and Coral Reef Conservation Reauthorization Act of 2021. U.S. Representatives Steve Chabot (R-OH) and Brad Sherman (D-CA) led the companion legislation in the House.

This legislation reauthorizes the Tropical Forest Conservation Act (TFCA) program for five years, from FY 2022 through FY 2026, at $20 million per year. The TFCA program is a debt-for-nature-swap, allowing developing countries that meet eligibility criteria related to economic management, democracy, and human rights to be relieved of certain concessional debt owed to the United States in exchange for protecting and preserving tropical forests and coral reefs. Since the program was created in 1998, it has helped protect more than 67 million acres of tropical forest, which has not only preserved native wildlife and ecosystems, but has also helped protect the environment by sequestering over 50 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, which is the equivalent of taking more than 11 million cars off the road. 

“I applaud the House for unanimously passing this bipartisan legislation, which takes significant strides towards safeguarding key natural resources and protecting our tropical forests and coral reefs,” said Senator Portman, Co-Chair of the International Conservation Caucus. “This is a common-sense and proven approach that has protected millions of acres of tropical forest from deforestation, while at the same time helping developing countries improve their balance sheets and reduce our carbon footprint without risking U.S. jobs. This program will continue to safeguard essential natural resources, while strengthening ties with countries that could become significant economic and national security partners with the United States.”

“I’m pleased to join this bipartisan effort to preserve delicate ecosystems, protect wildlife, and keep our planet livable. This program has helped sequester tens of millions of tons of carbon pollution over its lifetime, and improved America’s clout abroad. I’m excited to see legislation to update the program advance through the House,” said Senator Whitehouse.

“I applaud the House’s recent passage of this vital, bipartisan legislation, which takes a significant step in preserving and protecting some of the most important natural landscapes around the globe,” said Senator Burr. “I urge my colleagues in the Senate to take similar action so that tropical forests and coral reef ecosystems will be protected for future generations to enjoy.”

“I applaud Representatives Chabot and Sherman for their leadership of the Tropical Forest and Coral Reef Conservation Reauthorization Act and congratulate the House for passing it unanimously,” said Senator Coons. “This is an important step toward protecting our world’s tropical forests and coral reefs, which play a critical role in sustaining life and fighting climate change. I’m grateful to Senator Portman for his decades of leadership on this practical, proven program, and I look forward to taking swift action in the Senate to pass this bipartisan legislation into law.” 

NOTE: Portman first introduced the TFCA as a member of the House of Representatives, which was signed into law in 1998. According to the Congressional Research Service, since 1998, $233.4 million has been used under the program to restructure loan agreements with 14 countries (20 transactions), and over $339 million will be generated for tropical forest conservation at the conclusion of these agreements. In January 2019, President Trump signed into law legislation introduced by Portman, Udall, Burr, Schatz, and Whitehouse to reauthorize the TFCA program for FY 2019 and FY 2020 and, for the first time, expand the program to include protection of coral reef ecosystems. Most recently, Portman worked to secure $15 million for the program in the end-of-year FY 2021 spending bill. This new legislation would reauthorize the program for an additional five years, for FY 2022 through FY 2026, at $20 million per year.