December 20, 2018

Whitehouse, Portman, Udall, Burr, and Coons Praise Senate Passage of DELTA Act to Protect the Okavango River Delta

Washington, DC – U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Rob Portman (R-OH), Tom Udall (D-NM), Richard Burr (R-NC), and Chris Coons (D-DE) today praised the Senate passage, by unanimous consent, of the Defending Economic Livelihoods and Threatened Animals (DELTA) Act, legislation that encourages the U.S. to develop a strategy to protect the Okavango River Delta in southern Africa. The House of Representatives passed the bipartisan bill earlier this year. The legislation will now head to the president’s desk to be signed into law.

“As a co-chair of the International Conservation Caucus, I believe we must confront the threats to wildlife and natural resources around the world, and I’m pleased the Senate has unanimously approved this legislation to encourage the U.S. to develop a strategy to protect the Okavango River Delta in southern Africa,” said Senator Portman.  “The Okavango Delta is a precious water resource that is home to more than one million people and serves as a critical habitat to some of the world’s most endangered species that continue to face a variety of threats from wildlife traffickers, poachers, and others. I am proud to protect this important resource and the people, wildlife, and ecosystems that depend on it, and I urge the president to sign this legislation into law as soon as possible.”

“The Okavango River Delta is an unspoiled wilderness – a delicate region of deep ecological, cultural, and economic importance to surrounding nations and to the world,” said Senator Udall. “It is home to some of the world’s most iconic species and serves as a vital lifeline and watershed for over one million people throughout the region. But this diverse ecosystem is being threatened by industrial development and wildlife traffickers. I’m proud the Senate passed the DELTA Act today, bipartisan legislation to leverage key partnerships that would help safeguard this precious wetland by promoting long-term conservation efforts, economic growth, and greater stability. Together, we can preserve this priceless intact ecosystem for generations to come.”  

“I’m pleased to see the Senate unanimously approve the DELTA Act today, which furthers important conservation efforts in southern Africa’s Okavango River watershed and around the globe,” said Senator Burr. “As a co-chair of the International Conservation Caucus, I appreciate the importance of preserving national treasures for future generations. I look forward to improved cooperation and information sharing with local authorities in the region to protect these lands and habitats for years to come.”

“I am pleased to see the DELTA Act pass the Senate,” said Senator Coons. “This is a great win for wildlife, water, and habitat in the Okavango Delta region in southern Africa.  I look forward to continuing to work with U.S. agencies and our partners in the region to combat wildlife poaching and promote conservation as a key component of economic development.”

“The DELTA Act is an important piece of bipartisan legislation that will help preserve the Okavango River Basin and the communities and unique wildlife that depend on it for survival,” said Senator Whitehouse. “This region boasts one of the world’s most diverse ecosystems and serves as an imperative water resource, yet it currently faces grave threats from wildlife traffickers and unsustainable development. I was proud to cosponsor this bill and work with my colleagues on a bipartisan basis to promote international conservation efforts.”

“By passing the DELTA Act, the Senate has voted its confidence in the countries of Southern Africa and their ability to build a prosperous future through conservation. These countries have demonstrated vision and leadership through the creation of the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area, or KAZA, home to half of Africa’s remaining elephants, incredible natural wonders such as Victoria Falls and the Okavango Delta, and some of the most successful community-based conservation programs in the world. The DELTA Act will direct greater attention to the management and conservation of the Okavango River basin, helping to protect a globally-significant region and building on existing efforts to ensure thriving wildlife populations and prosperous communities. We look forward to the president signing this legislation, which demonstrates yet again that global conservation is an issue that both Republican and Democratic leaders can embrace,” said Nik Sekhran, Chief Conservation Officer, World Wildlife Fund.

“The DELTA Act will help to improve the livelihoods of the communities who live in the greater delta region through better resource management, while also protecting the natural biodiversity and wildlife of the delta region for future generations. We applaud the leadership of Senators Portman, Udall, Burr, Coons, and Whitehouse on the DELTA Act and the U.S. Senate for supporting the passage of this important international conservation work,” said Dawson Hunter, Senior Director U.S. Government Policy, Conservation International.

“The ‘Jewel of the Kalahari’, the Okavango Delta, is one of the most magnificent ecosystems in the world. Thanks to the leadership of the International Conservation Caucus in the House and Senate, the United States will now have a mandate to work with the governments of Botswana and others in the region to assure that future generations can appreciate this biodiverse gem while its local good stewards optimize the economic benefits of  managing it well,” said David H. Barron Founder, International Conservation Caucus Foundation.

“We appreciate Senator Portman’s leadership and efforts toward protecting critical habitat and encouraging conservation internationally in the DELTA Act. Protecting wildlife species and encouraging cooperation between all stakeholders knows no national boundaries” said Bill Stanley, Executive Director for The Nature Conservancy in Ohio.  “Measures in this important piece of legislation will really make a positive difference in the critically important Okavango River basin which faces many conservation-related challenges.”

NOTE: Senators Portman and Udall – along with Senators Burr, Coons, and Whitehouse as original cosponsors – introduced the DELTA Act earlier this year. This legislation would encourage the U.S. to work with the governments of Angola, Botswana, Namibia, and neighboring countries Zambia and Zimbabwe, as well as nongovernmental organizations to facilitate transboundary cooperation, improve water and natural resources management, and protect threatened wildlife species that depend on the Okavango River Basin as a critical habitat. The bill authorizes the Secretary of State and the Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to provide technical assistance to governments and local communities for water and natural resource management, and to build the capacity of local law enforcement, park rangers, and community leaders to combat illegal poaching and wildlife trafficking. The bill requires State and USAID to provide Congress a report within one year on the progress of the strategy.


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