07.19.22

Chair Grijalva, Ranking Member Westerman Cheer House Passage of Bipartisan Legislation to Address Human Rights Abuses in International Conservation, Eight Other Bills

Washington, D.C. – House Natural Resources Committee Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Ranking Member Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) today issued the following joint statement on House passage of  H.R. 7025, the Advancing Human Rights-Centered International Conservation Act, by a bipartisan vote of 379-43. This legislation, led by the two lawmakers, will strengthen human rights standards for the U.S. Department of the Interior’s international conservation grants. 

“The U.S. and its partners should lead the way in carrying out international wildlife conservation while still upholding the highest standards of respect for every human life, recognizing the rights of Indigenous peoples and local communities, and embracing their leadership on the issues affecting their homes and livelihoods. The U.S. does not tolerate human rights abuses in the name of conservation, and we must make that abundantly clear. We’re proud to see so much bipartisan support for passing this bill and we hope that the renewed focus on human rights, accountability, and oversight in this legislation will be a model for international conservation across the globe. We urge the Senate to act on this bill quickly,” said Chair Grijalva and Ranking Member Westerman.

The Advancing Human Rights-Centered International Conservation Act addresses findings of a bipartisan Committee investigation into alleged human rights abuses at the hands of park rangers and “eco-guards” at conservation reserves around the world. The Committee launched its investigation in 2019 after investigative reporting by Buzzfeed News found that park rangers at multiple World Wildlife Fund-supported parks had committed severe human rights abuses—including murder, rape, and torture—against Indigenous peoples and local community members. 

The Committee’s investigation specifically examined whether federal funding, namely U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) grants, had supported the alleged abuses and whether their funding processes have sufficient safeguards in place to protect local and Indigenous community members. The investigation identified several deficiencies indicating the need for federal legislation. 

The Advancing Human Rights-Centered International Conservation Act elevates the importance of human rights standards in federal grant funding for international conservation. It ensures that U.S. government funds do not go to recipients that have committed violations of human rights and that recipients’ programs and policies adhere to the highest human rights standards. The legislation specifically directs FWS, in conjunction with its partners at the U.S. State Department, to:

  • Enhance vetting of international conservation projects to protect human rights;
  • Elevate standards for the treatment of Indigenous People and local communities; 
  • Investigate, report on, and respond to human rights abuses with transparency, suspending or terminating grants if necessary; and
  • Frequently audit high-risk projects and incorporate human rights standards in the audits.

Chair Grijalva and Ranking Member Westerman also commended the bipartisan House passage of eight other Natural Resources Committee-passed bills: 

  • Passed en bloc 365-57: 
    • H.R. 1286 (Clyburn) Southern Campaign of the Revolution National Heritage Corridor Act of 2021
    • H.R. 2024 (Hoyer) Southern Maryland National Heritage Area Act
    • H.R. 3222 (Sewell) Alabama Black Belt National Heritage Area Act
    • H.R. 6337 (Neguse) Biking on Long-Distance Trails Act
    • H.R. 7002 (Wagner) Gateway Solidarity Act
  • S. 144 (Sen. Feinstein) Desert Sage Youth Wellness Center Access Improvement Act, passed 379-41.
  • H.R. 4404 (Soto) Kissimmee River Wild and Scenic River Act, passed 377-45. 
  • H.R. 7693 (Westerman) National Park Foundation Reauthorization Act of 2022, passed 397-22.

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