1998 Scorecard Vote
Tropical forests contain half of the world's known species of plants and animals, harbor the potential for life-saving new medicines, and help slow global climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide. Increasingly, however, these vital resources are succumbing to logging and slash-and-burn agriculture. Some 30 million to 40 million acres are currently being lost each year and, since 1950, half the world's tropical forests have disappeared.
The past two decades have witnessed the emergence of an innovative tool for conserving tropical forests and other imperiled habitats--the "debt for nature swap," by which countries with precious undeveloped resources can reduce their national debt burden by buying back some of their debt. In exchange, they agree to spend a portion of the resulting proceeds on conservation projects. Debt for nature swaps formed the heart of President Bush's Enterprise for the Americas Initiative, which reduced debt owed by Latin American nations to U.S. commercial banks while generating $154 million in funds for the environment.
Building on that earlier initiative, H.R. 2870, the Tropical Forest Conservation Act of 1998, sponsored by Reps. Rob Portman (R-OH), Lee Hamilton (D-IN), and John Kasich (R-OH), would authorize $325 million over three years to restructure developing country debt around the world. In exchange, eligible countries would place local currencies in trust funds specifically earmarked for conserving each country's tropical forests.
On March 19, 1998, the House passed its version, 356 - 61. YES is the pro-environment vote. On July 15, the Senate passed an amended version by unanimous consent (without a recorded vote). On July 15, the House agreed to the Senate version without objection. President Clinton signed the bill into law on July 29, 1998.