Committee on International Relations
U.S. House of Representatives
Henry J. Hyde, Chairman

CONTACT: Sam Stratman, (202) 226-7875, February 3, 2004

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Royce Champions Congo Basin Forest Partnership
Legislation clears House-Senate; Ready for President’s OK;
Africa has lost at least 10 percent of its forested area since 1980

(WASHINGTON) - Legislation to protect dwindling forests of the Congo River basin in Africa cleared its final legislative hurdle on Tuesday and will be signed by President Bush, its chief author U.S. Rep. Edward Royce (R-CA) said today.

Royce, chairman of the Subcommittee on Africa, has taken the lead in passing the Congo Basin Forest Partnership (CFBP) [H.R. 2264], which unanimously passed the House in October 2003. After being amended and passed by the Senate, the bill passed the House again today with strong, bipartisan support. It now heads to the President's desk.

"Congo basin forests are coming under growing pressures. Ten years ago, these forests were virtually untouched,” Royce said, adding, “Today, logging operations are shrinking these forests. One estimate has logging taking out Congo basin forest areas at a rate of twice the size of Rhode Island every year," said Royce, who recently co-founded the International Conservation Caucus in the House to support the CFBP and other international efforts to promote conservation.

Launched in 2002, by Secretary of State Powell, the CFBP is focused on eleven key landscapes in six countries. It aims to support a network of national parks and protected areas and well-managed forestry concessions.

"Sadly, the construction of logging roads is putting intense hunting pressure on wildlife. At current levels, unless we act, most species of apes, large antelope, and elephants will disappear from the Congo basin, with some becoming extinct," said Royce.

The CFBP 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 eco-tourism, which has great development potential for Africans.

"Conservation isn't easy. America led the world in establishing our tremendous national park system; it took great foresight and political commitment to make this a reality, which is often taken for granted," said Royce. "It will be a major challenge to establish and maintain effective regimes to control logging and hunting in the Congo basin, but it’s a challenge that could be met with the unique experience and talents that the United States can provide

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