CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
H.R. 388 is being considered on the floor under suspension of the rules, requiring a two-thirds majority vote for passage, on April 21, 2009. This legislation was introduced by Rep. Baldwin (D-WI) on January 9, 2009. The bill was referred to the Committee on Natural Resources, which has taken no official action.
H.R. 388 would establish the Crane Conservation Fund within the Multinational Species Conservation Fund (MSCF). The bill authorizes $5 million annually from Fiscal Year 2010 through Fiscal Year 2014 for the Crane Conservation Fund. The bill stipulates that at least 80 percent of the total funding must be used for crane conservation programs outside of North America. All of the funds appropriated for the Crane Conservation Fund would remain available until expended.
The bill authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to provide financial assistance for "projects relating to the conservation of cranes," pending approval by the Secretary. In order to be approved, each project must include a statement of purpose, a description of those conducting the project, a description of the methods used to carry out the project, the estimated cost of the project, and evidence that the government where the program takes place supports the project. The Secretary would be given 180 days to approve or disapprove of a proposal. The Secretary is required to give priority consideration to projects that receive matching funds.
The bill would also authorize the Secretary to establish and convene an advisory group consisting of individuals representing public and private organizations actively involved in the conservation of cranes to assist the Secretary in carrying out this legislation. H.R. 388 would allow the Secretary to accept and expend donations to the Crane Conservation Fund.
The Multinational Species Conservation Fund (MSCF) is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and provides funding for international conservation efforts for distinct species groups. There are currently six MSCF species funds: the African elephants fund, the tiger and rhinos fund, the Asian elephants fund, the great apes fund, the marine turtle fund, and the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Fund. H.R. 388 would add a new fund for the 15 species of cranes located within the African, Asian, European, or North American range of a species of crane. According to the FWS, eleven of the world's fifteen species of cranes are endangered. The North American whooping crane is the most endangered and the population has been rebuilding since reaching a low of 21 birds in 1941. Today, whooping crane populations are on the rise, and currently the FWS estimates that there are 485 whooping cranes in existence today, with 145 living in captivity.
Similar legislation (H.R. 1771) was considered in the 110th Congress, and passed the House under a suspension of the rules by a vote of 304 - 118. At the time, some Members expressed concerns that the bill would create a new MSCF conservation fund and authorize the appropriation of $25 million over five years to provide funds support for international crane conservation. Some Members were concerned that animal protection efforts should be funded by private organizations, or by the government of the country wherein they take place, rather than taxpayers.
A CBO score for H.R. 388 was not available at press time. However, a CBO score for H.R. 1771 (an almost identical bill considered in the 110th Congress) estimated that the bill would cost $19 million over five years.