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Press Release

Bishop Applauds Department of the Interior’s Decision to Address Human Rights Abuses

WASHINGTON, D.C., September 30, 2020 | Committee Press Office (202-225-2761)

Today, Ranking Republican Rob Bishop (R-Utah) released the following statement on the new Department of the Interior (DOI) decision memorandum addressing allegations that taxpayer dollars were being used to support human rights abuses.  Following a bipartisan Committee investigation, DOI initiated an internal, programmatic review of international conservation grants. The memorandum concludes that DOI has remaining oversight concerns and that larger, systemic issues exists within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) International Conservation Grant Program.    

“I applaud the Trump Administration and the Interior Department for prioritizing conservation while ensuring our taxpayer dollars are not used to support human rights abuses. It is clear that international conservation grant programs need increased oversight and accountability. This is why it’s imperative that my bill, H.R. 5493, should receive immediate consideration, and I look forward to continued efforts with the Administration.”

The memorandum determined that additional controls are needed before further funds are awarded, to ensure grants are executed “responsibly and consistently with all laws, rules, and regulations . . . .”.  H.R. 5493 is legislation that will provide necessary enhancements to oversight mechanisms at DOI and would prohibit FWS from awarding international conservation grants to entities that fund or support gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.

Read the bill text HERE.

Investigation Timeline:

May 6, 2019 – Bishop and Grijalva send letter to Government Accountability Office (GAO) requesting review on federal funding of anti-poaching efforts that were in support of human rights abuses.

July 1, 2019 – Bishop and Grijalva expand probe on human rights abuses with letter to WWF CEO and President, Carter Roberts.

July 23, 2019 – Bishop and Grijalva continue investigation on human rights abuses with letter to Department of the Interior Secretary Bernhardt.

September 17, 2019 – DOI sends letter to House Committee on Natural Resources detailing its own internal review of international conservation grants and the actions being taken to ensure these grants are not supporting international human rights abuses.

December 19, 2019 – Bishop introduces H.R. 5493 to ensure international conservation grants are not award to conservation entities that support or fund violations of human rights.

December 20, 2019 – Bishop sends a letter and calls on Chairman Grijalva to immediately hold hearings related to the ongoing bipartisan investigation into human rights violations associated with DOI’s international conservation grants.

June 10, 2020 – GAO provides bipartisan briefing to Committee staff on the status of May 6, 2019 request for audit.

August 14, 2020 – GAO provides Committee draft report on human rights abuse allegations in overseas conservation programs.

September 18, 2020 – DOI issues memorandum detailing the findings of their internal, programmatic investigation,  and prohibiting further funding until deficiencies are corrected.