Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, February 4, 2022

Contact:

Brett Hartl, (202) 817-8121, bhartl@biologicaldiversity.org

America COMPETES Act Includes Big Wins for Wildlife, Pandemic Prevention

WASHINGTON— The America COMPETES Act passed today by the U.S. House of Representatives contains several provisions that would help prevent future pandemics.

The bill, which is aimed at spurring innovation and economic competitiveness, would also strengthen the country’s ability to combat the illegal wildlife trade and the reckless exploitation of wildlife — the likely root causes of the COVID-19 pandemic.

H.R. 4521 would adopt a precautionary approach to the wildlife trade by implementing a presumptive ban on importing certain wild animals, with limited exceptions. This bipartisan provision represents a major shift in policy and would stem activities that result in the spread of diseases from wild animals.

“By adopting a proactive approach to the wildlife trade, this bill will curb the risk of another pandemic and improve our relationship with the natural world,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “As we’ve seen, the cost of allowing the reckless destruction of the natural world can run into the trillions of dollars, so it’s vital that any economic competitiveness bill address this fundamental threat.”

H.R. 4521 would also provide critical resources to federal agencies like the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which would receive $150 million per year to increase the number of law enforcement attachés — highly trained officers who specialize in combating global wildlife trafficking, improving capacity building and strengthening global enforcement of wildlife laws.

Additional resources would also go to the Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Agency for International Development to advance national wildlife anti-trafficking priorities and build global cooperation on conservation. The bill would bolster current efforts to work with other countries to shut down wildlife markets and assist developing nations that rely on the consumption of wildlife for food security to develop and transition to alternative sources of protein.

“We’re thankful Congress is finally investing in true pandemic prevention after more than two years of this global disaster,” said Hartl. “With a COVID-like event predicted every decade, we need to act now to protect public health, our economy and our natural heritage.”

The America COMPETES Act also includes provisions that would:

  • Prohibit U.S. imports, exports, possession, trade and sale of shark fins,
  • Reauthorize the Eliminate, Neutralize, and Disrupt (END) Wildlife Trafficking Act to ensure the State Department and other agencies like the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have the funding they need to carry out critical anti-wildlife trafficking activities,
  • And reauthorize the Coral Reef Conservation Act to protect, conserve and restore the nation’s coral reefs by maintaining healthy ecosystem function.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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