House committee asks Interior to detail grants to wildlife organizations accused of abuse

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House committee asks Interior to detail grants to wildlife organizations accused of abuse
© Greg Nash

Leaders on the House Natural Resources Committee want the Interior Department to provide more information on grants it has given to organizations that have been accused of human rights abuses. 

The letter comes after BuzzFeed News reported in March that local rangers and other groups associated with the World Wide Fund for Nature in nations in Africa and Asia had been involved in human rights abuses against indigenous communities while carrying out conservation efforts. 

In the letter dated Thursday to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and ranking member (R-Utah) said their panel is reviewing allegations that organizations backed by the U.S. government have “played a role in funding and equipping forces abroad that have committed a range of human rights violations.”

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The letter does not mention the World Wide Fund for Nature.

The two lawmakers asked Bernhardt to provide a briefing on the international conservation grants awarded and overseen by the Department of the Interior and the agencies under its jurisdiction. 

“Among the victims of these alleged abuses are indigenous peoples living near protected areas,” they wrote. “Despite the importance of protecting wildlife and endangered species from extinction, the United States must not be party to violations of basic human rights.”

The World Wide Fund for Nature has since started an independent review after the allegations were detailed in the BuzzFeed story.

“We see it as our urgent responsibility to get to the bottom of the allegations BuzzFeed has made, and we recognize the importance of such scrutiny,” the charity said in a statement to BuzzFeed as part of the March story. 

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