WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, 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 the introduction of the Tropical Forest Conservation Reauthorization Act (TFCA). This legislation 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 cover non-tropical forests and coral reef eco-systems. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 1.22 metric tons of CO2 are sequestered annually per square acre of forest.

“This bipartisan legislation takes significant strides to protect our natural resources for the next generation while strengthening ties with countries that could become significant economic and national security partners with the United States,” said 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 – one of the leading causes of greenhouse gas emissions.”

“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,” Udall said. “The Tropical Forest Conservation Act 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,” 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 Whitehouse. 

“There’s a reason this law has been around for almost 20 years—it’s good diplomacy, good stewardship, and good climate policy,” said Senator Schatz. “Whether you care about international affairs, climate change, bird-watching, eco-tourism, or the rainforest, this bill gets a lot of good things done.”

“There is a direct connection between international conservation and America’s economic and national security interests. For nearly two decades, the TFCA has demonstrated a transformative approach to conservation finance. Projects under the Act have protected vast areas of tropical forests in partnership with key American allies including Costa Rica, Colombia, Indonesia, and Peru. The investment by the United States has leveraged hundreds of millions of dollars in additional funding from other governments and the private sector. We commend Senator Portman, along with Senators Burr, Udall, Whitehouse, and Schatz, for introducing this important legislation,” said Peter Seligmann, Chairman and CEO of Conservation International.

"When we protect our planet's forests, we protect the biodiversity and natural resources that support hundreds of millions of people around the world," said Kerry Cesareo, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) vice president for forests. "While helping the US government catalyze global forest conservation efforts, the Tropical Forest Conservation Act also strengthens our relationships with likeminded nations, driving economic prosperity here and abroad. By broadening the TFCA to include non-tropical forests and coral reefs, Senator Portman's legislation also expands the TFCA's legacy to protect our planet's vital forest and ocean ecosystems."

The Wildlife Conservation Society applauds the Senate introduction of legislation to reauthorize the Tropical Forest Conservation Act (TFCA), ensuring the continuance of a highly successful and cost-effective mechanism to conserve some of the world’s most biodiverse places,” said John Calvelli, the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Executive Vice President of Public Affairs. “By conducting the “debt-for-nature swaps” made possible by TFCA, U.S. economic and national security interests are served through the encouragement of good governance and stable democracy in the developing world while sustainably managing important ecosystems. I thank Sen. Portman, along with Sens. Burr, Whitehouse, Udall and Schatz, for their leadership and commitment to saving wildlife and wild places by supporting the TFCA.”

NOTE: Portman first introduced the TFCA in 1998 as a member of the House of Representatives.  According to the Congressional Research Service, since 1998, $233.4 million has been used under the TFCA to restructure loan agreements in 14 countries (20 transactions), and over $339 million will be generated for tropical forest conservation at the conclusion of these agreements.