Washington, D.C. – Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) and Ranking Member Eliot L. Engel (D-NY) today introduced H.R. 4819, the Defending Economic Livelihoods and Threatened Animals (DELTA) Act. The bipartisan bill promotes sustainable economic development and combats wildlife trafficking in Africa’s critical Okavango River Basin, which supports more than one million people in Angola, Botswana and Namibia and is home to several threatened wildlife species, including the largest remaining elephant population in the world.

Rep. Fortenberry on the bill: “This transnational conservation initiative marks a new approach to protecting majestic species such as the African elephant, and rhinoceros, while creating dynamic new benefits for the surrounding countries and indigenous people.

“Through innovation, creativity, and conservation, we can save and enhance one of the most beautiful and delicate ecosystems in the world.”

Chairman Royce on the bill: “Today the critical Okavango River Basin is near a breaking point. Unwise development and wildlife poaching and trafficking threatens to destroy this rare inland delta. To save this unique habitat, its iconic wildlife and the communities that rely on the responsible management of the watershed, we must strengthen coordination among governments in the region and leverage public-private partnerships. We’ve seen this work before, with the Congo Basin Forest Partnership.

“Opportunities like this only come once. Together, we can protect wildlife, promote sound development and help our national security.”

Ranking Member Engel on the bill: “Closer collaboration with our partners in Angola, Namibia, and Botswana will help support both the people and the wildlife living in the greater Okavango River Basin. Working together in a spirit of mutual respect, we can help promote sustainable development, prevent wildlife trafficking, and preserve this unique and irreplaceable ecosystem. That’s what this bill aims to do, and I’m glad to join with Representative Fortenberry and Chairman Royce in this bipartisan effort.”

The DELTA Act (H.R. 4819):

  • Protects the vital Okavango River Basin by strengthening coordination between the U.S., Angola, Botswana and Namibia, and leveraging partnerships with the private sector, non-governmental organizations and regional bodies;
  • Prioritizes wildlife trafficking and anti-poaching programs in the greater Okavango River Basin to protect threatened species and prevent a critical source of criminal and terror financing;
  • Promotes sustainable economic growth for local communities through responsible natural resource management; and
  • Helps stop the extinction of majestic elephants and other endangered species.

Other original cosponsors include Chairman Emeritus Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations Ranking Member Karen Bass (D-CA), Reps. Betty McCollum (D-MN), Henry Cuellar (D-TX), Robin Kelly (D-IL) and Brenda Lawrence (D-MI).