ANCA-Backed Armenia Environmental Legislation Rewards Reforestation with Debt Forgiveness
Senate Assistant Democratic Leader Richard Durbin and Rep. Katherine Clark introduce Parallel Measures in the Senate and House
WASHINGTON—Senate Assistant Democratic Leader Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA) introduced legislation Wednesday aimed at reversing the rapid deforestation of Armenia and Haiti, seeking to restore Armenia’s native forests to their pre-1990 level within 10 years, reported the Armenian National Committee of America.
“We would like to thank Rep. Clark for her leadership in introducing forward-leaning legislation to promote a constructive U.S.-Armenia partnership for healthy, sustainable forest growth in Armenia,” said ANC Eastern Massachusetts Chair, Dr. Aram Kaligian. “We look forward to working closely with the Massachusetts Delegation and our community allies and coalition partners to secure the adoption of this common-sense measure.”
“We thank Senator Durbin, who was the first U.S. legislator to support sustainable Armenian and Haitian reforestation, including through the use of debt-forgiveness incentives to promote the growth of forest cover in both of these nations,” said ANC Illinois Chair Maral Vartanian Abrahamian. “The Haiti and Armenia Reforestation Act of 2018 – now introduced in both the Senate and House – sets clear timetables and establishes key benchmarks for progress toward vital reforestation initiatives in Armenia.”
- The Haiti and Armenia Reforestation Act would assist the two countries in developing proposals that:
- Encompass widely-accepted environmentally sustainable forestry and agricultural practices;
- Improve forest governance in ways that engage and protect local communities and groups;
- Enhance coordination among relevant Haitian and Armenian ministries and private organizations; and
- Develop short- and long-term performance metrics to measure results, to include technology to monitor the results of conservation efforts.
“Forests play a crucial role in a country’s fiscal and environment health by providing shelter, food, water, and jobs,” said Representative Clark. “This legislation will help rejuvenate Haiti and Armenia’s natural resources and in turn, support their long-term economic vitality.”
The bill also authorizes grants and debt-for-nature swaps for both nations. Under this mechanism, a nongovernmental conservation group would work with the Haitian and Armenian governments and international creditors to trade debt for commitments and plans to reforest and protect key tracts of land.
“Continued deforestation will result in disastrous long-term environmental, health, and economic impacts in Haiti and Armenia,” said Senator Durbin. “This bill supports the market-based sustainable restoration and rebuild of critical ecosystems to improve the overall vitality and quality of life in these countries. I have seen first-hand the impacts of deforestation in Haiti. We need to take action now to ensure people can make a livelihood while preventing future harm to the environment and global climate.”
Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), an original cosponsor of the legislation concurred, noting, “a healthy environment is directly tied to the public health of a community and a stable economy. This legislation empowers Haitians and Armenians to rebuild their forests and develop long-term economic opportunities.”
Archeological data indicates that approximately 35 percent of present-day Armenia was originally forested. Less than 12 percent of Armenia’s territory was covered in forest in 1990, with that figure down to 6% in 2016. The Haiti and Armenia Reforestation Act of 2018 would help develop and implement policies to reduce deforestation and forest degradation, improve forest management and natural regeneration, and increase annual rates of afforestation and reforestation, with the goal reaching the pre-1990 levels of 12% forestation in 10 years.
The legislation also promotes the participation of local communities by helping create jobs establishing, protecting, and managing forests and cooperating on conservation, clean water, and sustainable agroforestry.