Washington, D.C. – The House today passed the Defending Economic Livelihoods and Threatened Animals (DELTA) Act, H.R. 4819. The bipartisan legislation promotes sustainable economic development and conservation across Africa’s critical Okavango River Basin, which supports more than one million Angolans, Botswanans and Namibians, as well as the largest remaining elephant population in the world.

On the House floor prior to the vote, Chairman Royce delivered the following remarks (as prepared for delivery):

“The Okavango Delta supports the economic livelihoods of over a million people and is home to the largest remaining elephant population in the world. This ecosystem spans three countries – the Delta’s water starting in the highlands of Angola and flowing through Namibia and Botswana.

Like other regions across Africa, poaching and trafficking of threatened species in the Okavango Delta is increasing. I have seen firsthand the devastating impact of poachers and organized criminal networks across the continent. Wildlife trafficking and profits from poaching provide a key funding source for international criminal networks and terrorists. These deadly groups undermine regional stability by spreading violence, disrupting local governance and devastating key economic opportunities for community members.

H.R. 4819, the Defending Economic Livelihoods and Threatened Animals Act of 2018, is an opportunity to be proactive by protecting this area before it’s too late.

This act strengthens coordination among the governments of the U.S., Angola, Botswana and Namibia to address poaching threats and support local communities in the greater Okavango River Basin.

A few months ago, I led a bipartisan delegation to the region and saw the critical need for these countries to work together to preserve and protect this magnificent landscape. Angola has emerged from years of civil war and unrest, and is now looking to the international community for partnership and support. With Angola’s immense natural resources, we are already seeing China and other nations push unwise development that threatens to siphon off this critical water source and devastate the greater Okavango River Basin. That is why we must act now to protect the animals and communities that call this region home.

Animals and poachers know no borders. In order for conservation efforts to be successful, we must take a transboundary approach. I was proud to be the author of the Congo Basin Forest Partnership Act of 2004. With that act, we saw that increased coordination across national borders can be successful in protecting critical landscapes and combating poaching threats. The DELTA Act looks to build on these proven successes.

This legislation strengthens coordination among the governments of the U.S., Angola, Botswana and Namibia and leverages partnerships with the private sector, non-governmental organizations and regional bodies. It prioritizes wildlife trafficking and anti-poaching programs in the greater Okavango River Basin and promotes responsible economic growth for local communities through responsible natural resource management.

I want to thank the bill’s author, Rep. Fortenberry, and our fellow co-chairs of the House International Conservation Caucus, Reps. McCollum and Cuellar, for their leadership and steadfast efforts to keep conservation and anti-poaching initiatives a priority here in Congress. I also want to think Ranking Member Engel for his work on this legislation.”