Portman, Coons Introduce Bipartisan, Bicameral Bill to Reauthorize Wildlife Trafficking Law

Bipartisan Legislation Seeks to Build on 2016 Law to Address Wildlife Trafficking Crisis that Threatens Global Security

November 18, 2021 | Press Releases

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Chris Coons (D-DE), members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, introduced bipartisan legislation to combat international wildlife trafficking and strengthen interagency efforts to tackle the issue. Wildlife trafficking remains a serious transnational crime and threatens the conservation of vulnerable wildlife, regional security, and economic opportunity. It has also been linked to other organized criminal activities, including trafficking in narcotics, weapons, and people. The Eliminate, Neutralize, and Disrupt (END) Wildlife Trafficking Reauthorization and Improvements Act of 2021 would reauthorize legislation that was signed into law in 2016, expand the responsibilities of the Presidential Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking, and enhance law enforcement authorities for the Fish and Wildlife Service to better combat wildlife trafficking. Companion legislation was introduced in the House by U.S. Representatives Grace Meng (D-NY) and Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE).

“As a co-chair of the International Conservation Caucus, I am pleased to join Senator Coons in introducing the END Wildlife Trafficking Reauthorization and Improvements Act to help prevent the trafficking and poaching of the world’s most threatened species. Wildlife trafficking is not only a matter of conservation but also national security and international stability, as billions in profits from the illegal wildlife trade are used to finance other illicit and terrorist activity,” said Senator Portman. “By reauthorizing and expanding the responsibilities of the Presidential Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking and enhancing existing law enforcement authorities, this bill strengthens the tools the U.S. government has to help combat trafficking around the globe. I urge my colleagues to join us in supporting this important bipartisan legislation.”

“Wildlife trafficking is not just a critical conservation issue; it also threatens the security of the United States and our international partners,” said Senator Chris Coons. “The Presidential Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking has done outstanding work, but the threats posed by wildlife poaching and trafficking are constantly evolving. I am proud to introduce this bipartisan bill with my fellow co-chair of the International Conservation Caucus, Senator Portman.”

“Wildlife trafficking is a despicable practice and heinous crime that endangers conservation, our nation’s security, and many other crucial concerns,” said Congresswoman Meng. “We must continue our efforts to combat the problem and passing the END Wildlife Trafficking Reauthorization and Improvements Act is essential to helping ensure that we continue to make progress in this fight. I am pleased to join Rep. Fortenberry and Senators Coons and Portman in working to address this critical issue in a bipartisan, bicameral manner, and I look forward to the legislation being approved both houses of Congress.” 

“The sad nexus of wildlife trafficking, environmental degradation, and resulting destabilization lends itself to terrorism financing and a host of other dangers,” said Congressman Fortenberry. “The END Act is an important initiative to stop poaching and prevent funds from going to corrupt regimes.”

The End Wildlife Trafficking and Reauthorization and Improvements Act of 2021 is endorsed by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, Humane Society Legislative Fund, Defenders, Conservation International, International Fund for Animal Welfare, International Conservation Caucus Foundation, African Wildlife Foundation, Natural Resources Defense Council, Wildlife Conservation Society, World Wildlife Foundation, and The Nature Conservancy.

“Wildlife trafficking has menacing implications for animal welfare, conservation, public health, and national security, and to stop this global war on wildlife, we need to place the nation on a wartime footing,” said Sara Amundson, President of Humane Society Legislative Fund. “Through their leadership, Senators Coons and Portman, and Representatives Fortenberry and Meng, have added more bite to existing programs, strengthening the government’s emphasis on technology to improve anti-poaching and anti-trafficking efforts, and confront the increasing reliance of bad actors on digital currency and payment platforms for their illicit commerce.”

“Wildlife trafficking poses grave threats for human health, global security, and sustainable development. I applaud Senators Coons and Portman, Representatives Fortenberry and Meng, and other leaders of the House & Senate International Conservation Caucus for their continued strong leadership on this issue,” said David H. Barron, Chairman of the ICCF Group.

“The END Wildlife Trafficking Act has played a key role in guiding and enhancing U.S. Government efforts to stop illegal wildlife trade globally. It is also helping to address one of the root causes of the spillover of wildlife-borne diseases that can lead to pandemics, such as COVID-19. Wildlife trafficking not only drives the extinction of species but is also linked to corruption, instability, and financing for transnational criminal networks that threaten local communities and U.S. security interests alike,” said Ginette Hemley, World Wildlife Fund Senior Vice President for Wildlife Conservation“Reauthorizing and strengthening this law is vitally important, given the critical role that well-coordinated U.S. technical and financial assistance plays in supporting international cooperation to end wildlife trafficking. We thank the champions of this legislation for continuing to demonstrate their leadership on this issue, which has had strong and consistent bipartisan support.”

“The biodiversity crisis we're currently facing threatens more than a million species with extinction, while also compromising the life support systems we humans depend on. To effectively address this, we must tackle the direct exploitation of species, which is a leading driver of species loss and, resulting, ecosystem collapse,” said Zak Smith, Director, International Wildlife Conservation at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “Reauthorizing this law—and focusing on the scourge of wildlife trafficking that jeopardizes species around the world and undermines ecosystem health—is an important step for saving species and ourselves.”

Since it was passed into law in 2016, the END Wildlife Trafficking Act has aided in the arrest of members of wildlife trafficking networks and supported interagency efforts to tackle the issue globally through country-specific and regional initiatives. The END Wildlife Reauthorization and Improvements Act reauthorizes the duties of the Presidential Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking and related reports on major wildlife trafficking countries, expands the role of technology in anti-trafficking efforts, provides additional legal authorities for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to prosecute wildlife trafficking cases, and prevents funds from benefitting security forces that commit human rights violations. 

Bill text is available here; a one-pager is available here; a section by section is available here.