The future well-being of the U.S. in part depends on making the world more stable, safe, and secure. But rising natural resource scarcity and biodiversity loss increases the risk of conflict and instability in many regions, including some of strategic importance to the U.S. As a result, our national and economic security interests depend on the integrity of our planet’s wildlife and natural resources, which sustain societies and economies around the world.

By investing in proven international conservation programs that help less-developed countries better manage their natural resources and protect their forests, fisheries, and wildlife from bad actors and natural disasters, the U.S. protects its own national and economic security.

The following programs exemplify the critical role international conservation efforts play in U.S. foreign policy. Promoting “natural security” boosts America’s national security.


The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) delivers the majority of U.S. international conservation assistance on the ground. In partnership with foreign governments, civil society, the private sector, and local communities, its programs help protect some of the largest, most at-risk natural landscapes and species. By maintaining and restoring the natural resources that supply fertile soil, clean water, food, and medicine and tackling global challenges such as wildlife trafficking, USAID biodiversity programs aid millions of people, strengthening local economic growth, stability, democracy-building, health, and security.

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The illegal trade of wildlife and wildlife products is a transnational organized crime, generating billions of dollars annually. These profits finance criminal syndicates and extremist groups—including those with ties to terrorism—that threaten U.S. security interests. Combatting Wildlife Trafficking programs help to improve wildlife law enforcement, combat poaching, disrupt trafficking rings, and reduce demand for illegal wildlife and wildlife products. As of 2017, 65 projects in 25 countries have strengthened international law enforcement, local judicial systems, and rule of law, leading to the disruption of transport hubs and the seizure of more than 4.4 tons of illegal ivory and rhino horns.
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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) manages programs that conserve our planet’s rich wildlife diversity, protecting habitats, fighting illegal wildlife trade, and building capacity for wildlife conservation. The International Wildlife Trade program provides oversight of domestic laws and international treaties that promote the long-term conservation of plant and animal species. The Multinational Species Conservation Fund works to conserve iconic species like elephants, rhinos, tigers, great apes, and marine turtles. The FWS regional programs support grassroots, on-the-ground conservation work that addresses global threats to endangered species and other wildlife.

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The Global Environment Facility (GEF) is an independent global financial institution that provides grants to support sustainable use and improved management of natural resources, uniting countries with corporations and non-profit organizations. With more than 4,500 projects in 170 countries, the GEF is the largest single financier of conservation. Every U.S. dollar contributed to the GEF generates significant return through strategic investments that bring together governments, civil society, the private sector, and other partners to tackle the planet’s biggest issues, including preventing tropical deforestation, combating wildlife trafficking, protecting global fish stocks, and promoting sustainable economic growth in the developing world.