President Signs Into Law Portman, Senate Colleagues’ Tropical Forest Conservation Reauthorization Act

January 15, 2019 | Press Releases

Bipartisan Legislation Will Promote Conservation & Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), along with Senators Tom Udall (D-NM), Richard Burr (R-NC), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Brian Schatz (D-HI), announced that President Trump has signed into law their bipartisan Tropical Forest Conservation Reauthorization Act (TFCA). This law reauthorizes a program that has saved more than 67 million acres of tropical forest by allowing developing countries that meet certain criteria to be relieved of debt owed to the United States in exchange for their conservation efforts.  In addition, this legislation expands these efforts to coral reef ecosystems. To date, the TFCA program has sequestered 56 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, which is the equivalent of taking 11.8 million cars off the road. 

“This bipartisan measure takes significant strides toward building stronger relationships with countries around the world while ensuring our natural resources are protected and preserved for the next generation,” said Senator Portman co-chair of the International Conservation Caucus. “Since 1998, this common-sense and proven approach has protected millions of acres of tropical forest from deforestation—a leading cause of greenhouse gas emissions. I’m pleased that this important, bipartisan legislation has been signed into law by the president.” 

“This bipartisan legislation is simply smart policy: it helps preserve and protect precious eco-systems all while strengthening the United States’ economic and security relationships around the world,” Senator Udall said. “I am glad that the Tropical Forest Conservation Act has been enacted into law, because it represents the sensible and creative approach to policy-making that we need to take if we want to confront the increasingly grave threats to our planet and global stability.” 

“I believe that conservation is one of the greatest gifts we can give to future generations, and that we have a responsibility to preserve and pass down the incredible natural wonders we’ve inherited,” Senator Burr stated. “I’m proud to be a part of this bipartisan effort to help protect tropical forests and coral reef systems.” 

“Carbon pollution and other human activity is driving dramatic changes in our oceans, on land, and in the atmosphere. That’s why it’s more important than ever to protect beautiful but fragile places like tropical forests and coral reefs. This bipartisan bill will help American allies preserve these habitats for threatened species and reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere to fight climate change,” said Senator Whitehouse.  

“This program has already saved enough tropical forests to fill the entire state of Colorado, and with our update, we can start protecting coral reefs too,” Senator Schatz said. 

“The Tropical Forest Conservation Act is a program with proven results, having protected millions of acres of forests while strengthening America’s partnerships with developing nations,” said Kerry Cesareo, Vice President for Forests at World Wildlife Fund (WWF). "We commend Congress for reauthorizing this innovative program and expanding it to include coral reef ecosystems. The Administration can now build on past successes to encourage our partners to continue protecting these irreplaceable natural treasures, including the ‘rainforests of the sea.’ This bipartisan legislation will help to drive economic prosperity both at home and abroad. It's a triple win for people, wildlife, and nature."  

“The president’s signature on the Tropical Forest Conservation Act is a tremendous victory for forests, the earth’s climate and communities across the globe—and also for America,” said Lynn Scarlett, Vice President for Public Policy and Government Relations at The Nature Conservancy. “Strengthening international conservation benefits wildlife and people abroad and contributes to our own country’s national security and economy. Plus, by protecting tropical forests—which store carbon—we’re helping to combat climate change by reducing the amount of harmful carbon emissions in the atmosphere. We applaud Congress—especially Sens. Portman, Udall, Burr, Whitehouse and Schatz—for supporting this bill and the United States’ investment in international conservation.” 

“U.S. government leadership on international conservation strategies such as debt-for-nature swaps is respected globally.  Protecting intact forests, coral reefs and the communities that rely upon these natural resources can strengthen governance structures and our natural security,” said Kelly Keenan Aylward, Washington Office Director for the Wildlife Conservation Society.  “Thanks to Senators Portman, Udall, Burr, Whitehouse, Schatz and Reps. Royce, Chabot, Chris Smith, Fortenberry, Sherman, Engel, McCollum and Grijalva who have shepherded the Tropical Forest Conservation Act through Congress, the U.S. government’s continued ability to negotiate debt-for-nature swaps with foreign countries remains intact.” 

“Conservation International commends the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives for passing the Tropical Forest Conservation Reauthorization Act. The Tropical Forest Conservation Act (TFCA) is already a highly successful program that has saved more than 67 million acres of tropical forest since the program was first enacted in 1998. Today’s reauthorization significantly expands the TFCA to protect coral reef ecosystems, enabling the protection of some of the world's most biologically diverse areas.  We applaud the leadership of Senators Portman and Udall as well as Representatives Chabot, Royce, and Engle,” said James Roth, SVP of Global Policy for Conservation International. 

“International Paper is pleased to support the Tropical Forests Conservation Act, legislation consistent with our core principle of supporting sustainable forests around the globe,” said Sophie Beckham, Senior Manager, Natural Capital Stewardship, International Paper.  

NOTE: Portman first introduced the TFCA in 1998 as a member of the House of Representatives.  According to the Congressional Research Service, since 1998, 20 TFCA agreements have been completed with 14 countries, raising more than $339 million for tropical forest conservation.