Portman, Coons, Whitehouse Applaud Finalized Conservation Agreement Between U.S. and El Salvador

January 18, 2022 | Press Releases

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), along with Senators Chris Coons (D-DE), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) applauded the finalization of the Tropical Forest Conservation Act (TFCA) agreement between the U.S. Government and the Republic of El Salvador. This bilateral agreement will redirect approximately $20 million in concessional debt owed by El Salvador to a conservation fund over a period of 10 years. 

The TFCA program was established in 1998 to offer eligible developing countries options to relieve certain official debt owed the U.S., while at the same time, generating funds to support local conservation activities for tropical forests and coral reefs. This agreement with El Salvador is the first TFCA agreement since 2014, for a total of 21 agreements with 14 countries implemented since the program was created, and the second agreement with El Salvador through the TFCA program. Through the first TFCA agreement, which entered into force in 2001, El Salvador has used conservation funding to preserve and restore tropical forests, such as mangrove ecosystems.

“El Salvador is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world. I am pleased that this conservation agreement will build off the successes of the United States’ existing TFCA agreement with El Salvador by redirecting $20 million in concessional debt to help protect and restore the country’s tropical forestlands and coral reefs,” said Portman, co-chair of the International Conservation Caucus. “TFCA is a results-driven program.  I look forward to continuing to work with the Department of the Treasury and the Department of State to finalize additional TFCA agreements with other countries around the world and with my colleagues in Congress to reauthorize the program for another five years.”

“Conservation of our world’s tropical forests and coral reefs helps to protect wildlife, maintain healthy ecosystems, and combat emissions that contribute to climate change,” said Coons, co-chair of the International Conservation Caucus. “I’m proud to be working with Senator Portman to reauthorize TFCA and pleased that the United States and El Salvador have agreed to redirect debt to support critical conservation activities in the heart of Central America.”

“With bipartisan support, the Tropical Forest and Coral Reef Conservation Program has saved millions of acres of tropical forest worldwide and helped sequester tens of millions of tons of planet-warming carbon dioxide,” said Whitehouse. “The Biden administration’s new agreement with El Salvador is the first of its kind in years, and marks another step toward preserving some of the world’s extraordinary natural treasures.”

“The Tropical Forest Conservation and Coral Reef Conservation Act (TFCCA) has made the United States a world leader in using debt-for-nature swaps to protect some of the most important landscapes and seascapes in the developing world. World Wildlife Fund commends the administration for reactivating this powerful tool, which has proven highly effective in securing the long-term conservation of tropical forests and other critical ecosystems while also benefiting local communities and helping to slow climate change. We also call on Congress to do the same. The House has already passed legislation to reauthorize this critically important program for an additional five years. We urge the Senate to pass it as well and ensure that the TFCCA can continue yielding its multitude of benefits for both people and nature.” Kerry Cesareo, Senior Vice President, Forests, World Wildlife Fund.

“The Tropical Forest and Coral Reef Conservation Act has saved more than 67 million acres of tropical forest since enactment in 1998. This new agreement with El Salvador, a country with critical ecosystems from mangroves to gallery forests, continues the success of the program. Conservation International applauds the Biden Administration for its work to finalize this deal, and thanks Senators Portman and Coons, and other Congressional leaders who have worked across multiple administrations to conserve tropical forests around the world.” James Roth, Senior Vice President Global Policy and Government Affairs, Conservation International.

"This new agreement with El Salvador is the latest in a long line of success for the Tropical Forest and Coral Reef Conservation Act. Since its enactment over 20 years ago, the act has been vital to helping countries in the region and across the globe both reduce their national debts and conserve vital ecosystems. Restructuring this amount of debt is significant for El Salvador, one of the most environmentally degraded and deforested countries in Latin America. It will provide critical resources for conservation and reforestation that are not currently available to the country's Ministry of Environment. We commend Sen. Portman for his continued leadership on this act and El Salvador and the Treasury Department for working together to secure this important win for nature and the region.” Andrew Deutz, Director of Global Policy, Institutions and Conservation Finance, The Nature Conservancy.

NOTE: Portman first introduced the TFCA as a member of the House of Representatives, and it was signed into law in 1998 (P.L. 105-214).  Since its inception, this program has helped protect more than 67 million acres of tropical forests, which has preserved native wildlife and ecosystems and protected the environment by sequestering more than 55 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. In January 2019, President Trump signed into law legislation introduced by Senators 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. Senator Portman led the introduction new legislation in February 2021 with Senators Coons, Burr, Schatz, and Whitehouse to reauthorize the program through FY 2026 at $20 million per year. Additionally, the FY 2021 spending bill (P.L. 116-260) provided $15 million for the program after Portman worked to secure $15 million in the FY 2020 spending bill (P.L. 116-93), which was used to finance this debt agreement with El Salvador.