Neo-conservation: Ways and means

House of Representatives, Subcommittee on Africa, Committee on International Relations, Washington, DC. The Subcommittee met, pursuant to call, at 2:30 p.m. in Room 2172, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Edward R. Royce, [Chairman of the Subcommittee] presiding.

Mr. ROYCE: This hearing of the Subcommittee on Africa will come to order. The tropical forests of Central Africa’s Congo Basin are second in size only to those in the Amazon Basin. Now, that is nearly seven times the size of California. They are an important economic resource for an estimated 20 million people in this region. These forests also play a critical role in sustaining the environment—absorbing carbon dioxide and cleansing the water and holding soil. The Congo Basin contains the most diverse grouping of plants and animals in Africa, including rare and endangered species such as the eastern lowland gorilla, mountain gorilla, chimpanzee and the white rhino. These plants and animals are invaluable for so many reasons, including their genetic and biochemical information, which could spark advances in medical, agricultural and industrial technology...Last September, Secretary of State Colin Powell launched the Congo Basin Forest Partnership (CBFP) in Johannesburg. The partnership, involving governments, international organizations and businesses, is focused on 11 key landscapes in Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and the Republic of Congo. It aims to support a network of national parks and protected areas and well-managed forestry concessions...The Congo Basin Forest Partnership, building upon previous U.S. efforts, is working to combat illegal logging and poaching and other unsustainable practices and to give local populations an economic stake in the preservation of the forests, including through the development of ecotourism. This initiative has received widespread applause, including from leading conservationists...Now, there are three non-governmental organizations that I want to mention — Conservation International, the World Conservation Society (sic), and the World Wildlife Fund. They deserve recognition for their early financial contributions to this effort...In 1997, this Subcommittee held a hearing on managing Africa’s natural resources. At that hearing I said, ‘‘As much as some would like it to be, Africa cannot be one big preserve.’’ With that hearing, we featured the U.S. backed CAMPFIRE program, designed to give southern Africans an economic incentive to manage well their natural resources. Too many conservation efforts, cooked up far away, ignore the interests of average Africans. That day we heard from a witness who brings this kind of pragmatism to his work and who has done more than anyone else to bring attention to the stakes we all have in conserving the Congo Basin forests, and that is Michael Fay. Among his many activities publicizing these magnificent forests and the threats they face has been his 440 day trek through the Congo Basin in 1999 and 2000, fully documented by National Geographic. Michael Fay recently worked with President Bongo to help bring about his landmark declaration of a new national park system. Especially for young people watching today, Michael Fay is a testament to the great difference in the world that one determined person can make. I will now turn to the Ranking Member, Mr. Payne, for any opening statement he may wish to make.

Mr. PAYNE: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Let me commend you for calling this very important hearing, Saving The Congo Basin: The Stakes, The Plan. It is good to see Assistant Secretary Kansteiner and Assistant Secretary Turner and Assistant Administrator Newman and Dr. Fay, who we will hear from later. Let me just commend our representatives from State Department for the outstanding work that they continually do to try to keep the issues of Africa before the Congress...More commonly, Africa is known for its great wealth and beauty even today, even though we see abject poverty and a lot of problems because of perhaps neglect or other priorities during the past decades, but the wealth and beauty is still there. As we know, it has the largest concentration of natural resources, the abundance of diamonds, a wide variety of gems, minerals like coltan, plants with extraordinary healing properties that are often used in pharmaceuticals, although rarely attributed about where the source of these drugs come from, many right from this Congo Basin...The continent is also famous for its wildlife, as we know, including the gorillas, as we have heard, and elephants and zebras and hippopotamus and so forth. We certainly are hoping that this initiative will help preserve the wildlife that had in the past been in great abundance, but, as we see, a trend in the wrong direction...Too often, we hear about exploitations of these precious natural resources in Africa, so the discussion about a new partnership which will work to preserve and protect precious wildlife and raw materials is certainly a welcome one and one that is certainly overdue. In that vein, I commend the Administration and Secretary Powell for the leadership shown on the issue and the commitment to give $12 million a year to the partnership totaling $53 million by the year 2005. The partnership is between NGOs, industry and governments who have put forth a sustained effort toward thwarting deforestation in the Congo Basin and in 11 priority landscapes. The money will go toward the establishment of, as we have heard already, new national parks which will serve as a haven for floral and fauna, whose survival is so key to the environmental climate and the communities which live among them and toward the strengthening of government forest authorities and providing opportunities for sustainable development. I am encouraged by this progressive move, and we hope that the intent of the initiative is carried out and will be implemented properly, and we hope that even with some of the new initiatives some of the African new initiatives like NEPAD and with the potential MCA here, the Millennium Challenge Account, that all of these can be used to shore up and assist the continent as it tries to work its way back...I would now like to turn it over to John Turner and to Connie Newman. The three of us are enjoying kind of a new triumvirate where we are learning to pull various bureaus in the State Department, as well as AID, together in behalf of these efforts, and we are kind of forging new pathways as we go along. But the three of us are committed to this partnership, and we are going to see it through. Thank you very much.

Mr. TURNER: Mr. Chairman, Members of the Committee, I join Walter and Connie in thanking you for the opportunity to appear before you today...I think, as you opened the hearing with, that we need to remind ourselves of the immensity of this region, some 700,000 square miles of opportunity. If my calculations are right, that is a size that is equivalent to the five states of California, Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. I believe the partnership promises to be the most ambitious conservation project in the history of Africa. Working together, we have the potential to positively impact over 75 million acres of one of the largest intact tropical forests left anywhere in the world, including the establishment and making reality some 27 national parks. It is a great opportunity for the United States to build on the impressive efforts and existing cooperation that is already ongoing in the Basin between the governments there, between the non-profit community and the private sector. Of course, that great work is exemplified by Michael Fay, who is with us here today, whose mega transect of 1,200 miles captured the imaginations of Americans and people all over the world over this special place and the need to protect it...I am very pleased that President Bush indeed has committed $53 million for the partnership through 2005. These resources we hope to leverage against the resources from other public and private partners. I think the President’s support for the Congo Basin reflects the leadership that he has given to protect tropical forests out around the world..It was mentioned the recognition of the outstanding partnerships that we have, now. The Wildlife Conservation Society, Conservation International, World Wildlife Fund were mentioned...I am pleased to note that folks from our American forest industry are joining us. The American Forest and Paper Association, as well as the Society of American Foresters, are bringing their expertise and management experience. We have a large team of interagency participants—the National Forest Service, the National Park Service, Soil & Conservation Society, Fish & Wildlife Service, Department of Commerce, NASA, USGS and OPEC to name a few. Of course, our main partners are the six African countries that are represented here today, and we are also joined by the U.K., South Africa, Japan, Germany, France, Canada and Belgium...I think we all realize that this magical region of Africa is indeed at a critical crossroads in its history. I believe that U.S. leadership, resources and experience, in tandem with all other partners, can contribute significantly to economic development, alleviation of poverty and suffering, and the improvement of the overall governance through workable conservation and a resource management program.

Mr. ROYCE: That is very forthright of you, Constance. Thank you very much...Let me ask a few questions. I will start with Assistant Secretary Turner. Several Members of Congress have written Republic of C0ngo Pres1dent Sass0u-Nguess0 asking for his cooperation on various environmental initiatives, including on the issue of trying to do something to combat the poaching of elephants. As far as I know, we have not received an answer. I was going to ask, Assistant Secretary Turner, is the Republic of C0ngo fully on board with this initiative, or are there areas of concern?

Mr. TURNER: Mr. Chairman, I had the opportunity to meet with Pres1dent Sass0u and express the interest of the United States to help build capacity and governance to help bring training opportunities and capacity building to the Republic of the C0ngo. I think we have to note that that country committed itself to parks many years ago, so it is a challenge for the United States to work with that country to show that better practices are in the best interest of their economy, developing tourism and sustaining the wonderful wildlife and tourism opportunities. The minister for their parks and forestry is coming to Washington soon, Minister Djomb0, and I hope to meet with him. We have had meetings in the past. We did have our interagency needs assessment team recently in Brazzaville to look at specific training and monitoring and accountability, so I think it is an opportunity for us to work positively with Pres1dent Sass0u and his administration.

Mr. ROYCE: Well, we will look forward to conversing with you on that after that meeting takes place here...

Mr. ROYCE: Thank you, Congressman Payne. Without objection, we will submit for the record testimony from the World Wildlife Fund. At this time we will go to our second panel. I thank each of you for testifying here today. [Pause.] This Committee will come to order, and we will now go to our second panel. Dr. Michael Fay is an ecologist at the Wildlife Conservation Society of New York, and he is a conservation fellow at the National Geographic Society...In 1984, he went to work at the Missouri Botanical Garden. His first assignment was a study of a mountain range on Sudan’s western border, eventually leading to his doctorate on the western lowland gorillas...From 1999 to 2000, he walked the entire corridor, more than 1,800 miles, systematically surveying trees, wildlife and human impacts on uninhabited forest areas. Fay is now analyzing data from this expedition, which was funded by the National Geographic Society’s Expeditions Council and the Wildlife Conservation Society. This trek was a catalyst for Gabon’s landmark national park effort. Michael testified to this Subcommittee in March 1997 on a hearing, ‘‘Economic Development of Africa’s Natural Resources.’’...We are pleased to again have him with us.

Mr. FAY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I would like to thank Chairman Ed Royce and Congressman Donald Payne for having us here today to talk about sustainable development in Africa and the Congo Basin Forest Partnership. I would also like to thank in particular Assistant Secretaries of State Kansteiner and Turner for their leadership in the Congo Basin Forest Partnership. Certainly I do not think if we had not been meeting, you know, kind of around town here over the last several months talking about the forests of Central Africa and the problems, the solutions, none of this would have ever happened, so I am really happy that we have folks like Mr. Kansteiner and Turner in office...

I believe that Teddy Roosevelt had it right. In 1907, when the United States was at the stage in its development not dissimilar to the Congo Basin today, he said, ‘‘In utilizing and conserving natural resources of the nation, the one characteristic more essential than any other is foresight. The conservation of our natural resources and their proper use constitute the fundamental problem which underlies almost every other problem of our national life.’’ President Roosevelt, with Congress, made the creation of 230 million acres of protected areas the cornerstone of that foresight...I think that when you look at what Roosevelt did, that is what he did. He brought that debate to the United States, and it has been very important in every land use decision made in this country for over a century.

My work in the Congo Basin has been basically to try to bring this U.S. model to Africa. People think well, you know, that is this, that is that, but I do not see that there is any great difference in the United States’ development over the last 150 years and what is currently happening in Africa almost throughout—resource exploitation, people occupying the landscape. That is what is happening everywhere.

The model starts with the identification of large landscapes where land use management systems can be put in place before the arrival of industrial resource use and human expansion. This model does not call for the curtailment of resource use, only for well-reasoned land use and resource management. It requires, I think, a ground up plan that includes the creation and management of core national parks to protect the biodiversity mother lode, integrated with land use management in exploitation zones in the surrounding landscapes that maximizes benefits for local people. We find that parks quickly become national treasures, but they also become the cornerstones in a process where logging companies and other resource users change wasteful practices, local people change land use practices, and governments change policies. Other development objectives that help people like poverty alleviation, health, education and private investment are also facilitated in these landscapes. It goes right up to the national level...

[The prepared statement of Mr. Fay follows:]

..As part of our model we put in place management programs in the logging concessions surrounding parks. These programs work closely with logging company employees to reduce bushmeat exploitation, limit human settlement in the permanent forest domain, eliminate illegal and wasteful practices, and improve livelihoods for local people. Over the past 20 years, a number of US NGOs in association with the US Government have gained considerable experience in projects that change the course of natural resource management and development in large landscapes in Congo Basin countries...An example: In 1985, an idea to create a large, tri-national forest management area in the Central African Republic (CAR), Congo, and Cameroon was born by Richard Carroll and myself. The objective was to create three national parks and management systems in the landscapes around the parks, in particular in logging concessions where there was no history of land-use management. This initiative grew, and by the year 2000, with funding from USAID, GEF, ITTO, GTZ, World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), and other private investment, we had the following outputs:
• 350,000 acre Dzanga-Sangha National Park in CAR,
• 1,000,000 acre Nouabale-Ndoki National Park in Congo,
• 600,000 acre Lac Lobeke National Park in Cameroon,
• Significant, permanent management infrastructure in seven main camps,
• A large force (>350) of trained local and government management personnel,
• Wildlife management implemented with villages surrounding the parks,
• Forestry management projects with logging companies covering ca. 4,000,000 acres.
• Declaration of the first trans-border reserve to be created by three national governments.

The benefits go far beyond the local impacts, they are:
• Vastly improved forest management capacity at a national level in three countries,
• Significantly increased national contribution to operations,
• Shift in the logging industry from pure exploitation to the notion of management in logged forests,
• Shift in land-use practices of local people,
• Shift in government policies and laws governing forest management.

How do we propose to replicate this model elsewhere and how much is it going to cost? There are currently many organizations, American and European, working with national governments on projects that seek to implement the landscape model in places like Odzala, Nouabale-Ndoki, Minkebe, Lope, Loango and many others. These initiatives have strong national government support and the three major US conservation NGOs working on the ground in the Congo Basin (WWF, WCS and Conservation International) are united in the belief that these ground-up projects should be the basis for sustainable development. The Congo Basin Forest Partnership Some months ago a number of NGOs, the US State Dept. and USAID developed a plan that is now called the Congo Basin Forest Partnership. This plan calls to extend an existing USAID project, called the Central African Regional Program for the Environment (CARPE), which has been learning about resource management in the Congo Basin for seven years. The new plan shifts the focus to the ground, starting with a network of national parks in six Congo Basin countries that would span out to logging concessions, other resource extraction zones and local communities in geographical landscapes. This plan would attempt to get all regional governments on board, expand the number of NGO partners, and increase assistance from several Departments of the US Government. In more formal meetings with USAID the logic of the landscape concept was understood but the questions were: how much is it going to cost and how were we going to pull it off? In particular how could we be assured there was the political will to create parks and manage forests in Congo Basin countries? I estimated, if we included 11 endangered landscapes in six countries, that we would need 15 million dollars a year from USAID. Other international partners, American NGOs and national governments would match this.

What I ask of Congress today is to assure the following:

1) Appropriation of $15 million a year for the CBFP program to be funded for a period of ten years;

2) Funds allocated exclusively to US NGO partners of the Congo Basin Forest Partnership with substantial diplomatic and technical assistance provided by the Departments of State, Agriculture and Interior;

3) Matching funds be required of NGOs who receive a grant from USAID for these activities;

4) US Government funding should be restricted to on-the-ground conservation that directly supports protected area and land-use management projects in the 11 designated landscapes such that we avoid top down, expensive and ineffective programs;

5) Nations benefiting from the CBFP should agree to address a number of objective deliverables that are judged to be essential to the program.

6) Funding should be dependant on progress such that nations who take the risks to enact such a process also reap the maximum benefits;

è) USAID should not use a competitive bidding process between partners to fund disparate actions, but rather a collaborative process that will result in a comprehensive program for the 11 landscapes that demonstrates buy-in from partners and a clear ground-up approach.

I don’t think that Teddy Roosevelt could have ever imagined that over 300 million people would enter the national parks in the United States in 2003. This is a tribute to his vision. I believe that, if we get it right, the CBFP will be one of the most successful programs ever undertaken by USAID in our search for a model of sustainable development. Land-use and resource management must be at the core. Please support this program. Thank you.’’

Mr. Royce: Thank you, Dr. Fay.

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