Debt-for-Nature Swaps

WHEREAS, the vast majority of the Earth's tropical rain forests (as well as its biological diversity) lie within the borders of countries that are in severe debt to the world's banks; and

WHEREAS, debt in these countries exceeds $1.2 trillion, most of these countries have difficulty paying the interest on their debt let alone the principal, and these countries fell behind another $5 billion in interest payments in 1989; and

WHEREAS, the debt problem compounds renewable resource degradation problems in these countries through their attempt to obtain hard currency by increasing production of export commodities, such as harvesting tropical forest timber, farming plantations for cash crops and expanding pasture lands for cattle, putting additional pressure on already marginal lands and deteriorating renewable resources; and

WHEREAS, these policies to generate short-term income and hard currency, along with the burgeoning human populations in these countries, lead to severe environmental impacts that deplete renewable resources and undermine sustainable production, threatening long-term economic, social and political stability; and

WHEREAS, it is generally recognized that, at the present rate of rainforest destruction, which is about 100 acres per minute, the tropical rainforests may be completely destroyed within anywhere from 20-50 years; and

WHEREAS, only five debtor nations to date have agreed to debt-for-nature swaps since the idea was put forth in 1984, and only $21 million of their debt has been bought; and

WHEREAS, realizing that about 1% of the total debt is traded or sold on the secondary market, there is at least $12 billion in debt currently available on the secondary market; and

WHEREAS, debt-for-nature swaps, although not a solution to the international debt or the tropical deforestation crises, are a creative and concrete attempt to alleviate a small portion of a country's debt burden while at the same time freeing funds for much needed conservation programs and sustainable development policies;

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the American Society of Mammalogists meeting at Frostburg State University, Frostburg, Maryland, 9-13 June 1990, commends the initial debt-for-nature swaps and all of the parties involved for their farsightedness and cooperation with each other, and, while realizing that the whole process is difficult and time consuming, strongly recommend that these swaps continue at an increased pace, whenever feasible, and we call on more of the deeply indebted, tropical rain forest-rich countries to participate in these beneficial swaps.