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On March 2nd, the International Conservation Caucus Foundation (ICCF) and Oceans Caucus Foundation (OCF) held their annual Conservation Council Luncheon, at which the Co-Chairs of the U.S. Congressional International Conservation Caucus (ICC) and Oceans Caucus (OC) joined with Conservation Council representatives to discuss the upcoming year's priorities for both the caucuses and our partners.

The mission of ICCF is to serve as the nucleus for Congressional leadership for U.S. international conservation, in concert with the protection of U.S. business and national security interests worldwide. It is the goal of the ICCF and OCF for the United States to lead the way in the formation of public-private international partnerships to provide stewardship of natural resources for habitat and biodiversity protection, poverty reduction, economic development, and regional security. The ICCF/OCF and our partners are pro-business, pro-development, and pro-environment.

Co-Chairs who joined the lunch and spoke on behalf of the Caucus included Senators Rob Portman, Richard Burr, Tom Udall, and Sheldon Whitehouse, as well as Representatives Chairman Ed Royce and Sam Farr. ICC Member Representative Chris Stewart was also in attendance to show his support.

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Topics discussed by Co-Chairs included the importance of addressing issues such as wildlife trafficking, IUU fishing, and marine debris. All Co-Chairs praised the bi-partisan nature of the caucus and foundation, which have allowed both parties to work together on issues and see results, such as passage by the House of H.R. 2494, the Global Anti-Poaching Act; passage by the Senate of four international fishing treaties; and signing into law of H.R.774, Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing Enforcement Act of 2015 (implementing legislation for one of the Senate treaties). Co-Chairs also discussed the introduction of the Tropical Forest Conservation Reauthorization Act of 2015, co-sponsored by ICC Co-Chairs Senators Rob Portman, Tom Udall, Sheldon Whitehouse, and Richard Burr.

The ICCF/OCF Conservation Council plays a key role by partnering with government in conservation and development initiatives, and the Conservation Council luncheon offered an opportunity for members to learn about the initiatives and interests of the Congressional Co-Chairs and how they can be more involved. Council members represent NGOs, corporations, and government entities, and possess very diverse experience and skill sets. Some offer the latest science; others share practical knowledge of how to build community-based conservation projects through public-private partnerships. These organizations share a common desire to implement conservation projects safeguarding wildlife and biodiversity, protecting and restoring habitats, and generating economic opportunities and social benefits for surrounding communities who are necessarily the long-term stewards of local natural resources.

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