CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
H.R. 509 is being considered on the floor under a suspension of the rules, requiring a two-thirds majority vote for passage on Monday, July 27, 2009. This legislation was introduced by Rep. Henry Brown (R-SC) on January 14, 2009. The bill was referred to the Committee on Natural Resources, which held a mark up and reported the bill, as amended, by unanimous consent on June 10, 2009.
H.R. 509 would amend and reauthorize conservation activities undertaken by the Marine Turtle Conservation Fund. The bill would provide an authorization of $5 million annually for the fund from FY 2009 through FY 2014.
In addition, the legislation would increase the limit on amounts from the fund that would be available for administrative expenses from $80,000 to $150,000. The bill would also impose a new cap on the amount of funds that could be used for marine turtle conservancy activities. Under the legislation, not more than 20 percent of the amounts made available from the Marine Turtle Conservation Fund could be used for projects relating to the conservation of marine turtles in the U.S.
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 elephant's 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. The Marine Turtle Conservation Fund was created as a new MSCF in 2004, and authorized an appropriated funding level of $5 million annually.
According to Committee Report 111-200, the FWS awarded 24 grant projects internationally in FY 2008 through the Marine Turtle Fund. Programs funded through the fund are meant to focus on mapping turtle nesting, monitoring the sale of turtle products, use of satellites to track the movement of marine turtles, assistance to support law enforcement efforts to stop poaching, and educational outreach for those communities that have nesting habitat.
In the 111th Congress, the House has already passed two bills to expand the MSCF by adding new funds for international conservation programs. H.R. 388 authorized the Crane Conservation Fund, and H.R. 411 established a new MSCF for Great Cats and Rare Canids. Both new funds received $5 million in annual authorizations. Some Members were concerned that these international animal protection efforts should be primarily funded by private organizations, or by the government of the country wherein they take place, rather than taxpayers.
According to CBO, H.R. 509 would authorize $25 million over the FY 2010 through FY 2014 period. CBO estimates that outlays for the fund would cost about $24 million over the five-year period.