is strong evidence of this trend. This support will help stimulate our development efforts.
USAID has been defining an action plan that has grown out of the Strategy on Biological Diversity submitted to Congress in 1985. Our draft action plan focuses on seven areas and is based on the critical assumption that in the final analysis, conservation of biological diversity in the developing countries is the responsibility of the governments and people in those countries (USAID, 1986).
In summary, the major themes for action are:
policy dialog and strengthening national policies;
public awareness and education, building the capacity of indigenous environmental organizations;
strengthening natural resource management institutions and training host-country people;
research on ecosystem dynamics and inventories of plant and animal species; and
natural resource management programs such as those in Peru and Panama.
Our draft action plan builds on the USAID’s institutional strengths, which lie mainly in the area of technical assistance as opposed to large capital investment projects, and seeks innovative ways to increase or leverage our investments in the limited number of countries in which we work.
I will be recommending the following actions to improve our approach:
Priority countries should be identified in each of the three geographic regions (Africa, Asia and the Near East, and Latin America) in which USAID works. The guidance of the scientific and nongovernment communities represented here would be helpful in this process.
Within the high-priority countries, the most responsive interventions should be identified and supported, interventions that could be any of the theme areas mentioned above.
We should improve present methods of economic analysis to better address the real costs of natural resource depletion and the economic benefits of investments in maintaining ecosystem processes and conserving wildlands. (One of the most pressing practical needs is to back up investments in these areas by national governments and donor organizations. The economic costs of watershed deterioration and the loss of tropical forests and wildlife are subjects of wide speculation but have rarely been quantified in relation to national economic and development budgets. For example, rough estimates by some economists indicate that unsustainable forest depletions by major tropical hardwood exporting countries could be costing the countries more than they gain by the sale of the wood.)
We should expand our research efforts to help us understand biological diversity and the means for maintaining it. Biological and physical science studies will be complemented by social science research, since after all, human activity is largely responsible for the loss of natural habitats.