Recently, isolationist international policies have gained traction in the US Congress as more Tea Party candidates have been elected. Rand Paul, while stating again and again that he is not an isolationist has voted against international funding. But why does wildlife funding stay part of the US Budget?
The simple answer is that animals and plants do not have borders. Treasured wildlife and habitat span regions and countries, with acknowledging the lines governments have drawn. The USFWS has stated that conservation is “of strategic importance to the US national security and economic interests because a degraded environment destabilizes communities thus putting people’s livelihoods at risk. This sets the stage for political instability and conflict.” With that philosophy and promise, the USFWS has continued to fund its Wildlife Without Borders program.
The program works to reduce human-wildlife conflict, the spread of wildlife disease (which is especially relevant as it was recently discovered that patient zero for Ebola was bit by a bat), invasive species, bushmeat and other threats. It works with nations at all levels, from grassroots to top government officials to improve conservation.
But, what is wildlife conservation? How is it supported? It requires funding to keep habitats viable, government policies to stop trafficking and poaching, and education so that citizens know why wildlife is important, and not just a nice picture.
To promote international conservation, the Wildlife Without Borders program is divided into six branches. Global Branch: This branch focuses on issues that affect wildlife worldwide, creating multilateral partnerships to align goals for conservation.
Latin America and Caribbean, Mexico, Near East, South Asia, and Africa, Russia and East Asia Branches : The regional branches focus on aligning political goals with conservation efforts while also teaching and working toward specific species conservation.
Policy and Partnerships Branch: This branch coordinates grants and partnerships to support the financial needs of conservation. Their leveraged funding programs, such as the sale of the postage stamp that gets matching support from philanthropic agencies, are also housed in this branch.
While the United States remains in the name of this government organization, it has a global focus that promotes conservation worldwide. While the politics might be trending towards isolationism, wildlife doesn’t isolate. The mission of the USFWS needs to remain the same to continue to support global wildlife and stay true to what it means to conserve our environment.