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Republicans Urge Further Scrutiny of Conservation Grants Tied to Human Rights Abuses
World Wildlife Fund and Taxpayer Dollars Linked to Human Rights Abuses

WASHINGTON, D.C., October 23, 2019 -

Today, Ranking Republican of the House Committee on Natural Resources Rob Bishop (R-Utah), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), Representative Tom McClintock (R-Calif.), Representative Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), Representative Jody Hice (R-Ga.), and Representative James Comer (R-Ky.) sent a letter to the Department of the Interior (DOI) Secretary David Bernhardt applauding actions taken in response to continuing reports of taxpayer-funded conservation grants and human rights abuse overseas. 

On September 17, 2019, DOI sent a letter to the Committee on Natural Resources stating the need for an internal review of grants to ensure that taxpayer dollars distributed through international conservation grants are allocated properly and not used to support human rights violations. The Department’s concerns led to the withholding of $12.3 million in Fiscal Year 2018 funds for specific grants based on inadequate accountability mechanisms to prevent further cases of torture, sexual assault, and extrajudicial killings. Today’s letter emphasizes the importance of DOI’s continued review of grants until sufficient oversight mechanisms are in place. Recently, the Committee on Natural Resources received more than 400 e-mails from Americans expressing their support for this investigation and outrage that their taxpayer money could be used to violate indigenous peoples’ human rights.

“Members of the Committee on Natural Resources and the Committee on Oversight and Reform are deeply concerned about various reports of torture, sexual assault, and extra- judicial killings committed by eco-guard forces abroad funded in part by U.S. government-issued grants.

“While we are encouraged by the Department’s recent in-depth evaluation of grants prior to their award, further scrutiny is warranted. The Department must take additional steps to ensure that taxpayer dollars are not supporting human rights abuses. . . Until the Department has appropriate accountability mechanisms in place, a moratorium on funds being distributed to high-risk areas, especially for law enforcement related activities, will help minimize the risk for U.S. taxpayer-funded human rights abuses.”

Investigation Timeline:

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

June 6, 2019 – Bishop and Grijalva request briefing from the Department of the Interior about international conservation grants with concerns about 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 probe 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 steps being taken to ensure taxpayer funded conservation grants are not associated with international human rights abuses.  


Contact: Committee Press Office 202-225-2761

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