Reps. Young, Lowenthal Lead Colleagues on Letter Calling for COVID Relief Funds for Zoos And Aquariums Such as the Alaska Sealife Center
Washington, D.C. – Yesterday, Congressman Don Young (AK-At Large) and Congressman Alan Lowenthal (CA-47) led 77 of their House colleagues in calling on House leadership and appropriators to include COVID-19 relief funding for zoos and aquariums to maintain essential care for hundreds of thousands of animals during the pandemic.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted businesses and organizations across the country,” Congressman Young said. “Sadly, this virus has not spared our nation's zoos, aquariums, and wildlife centers. In Alaska, we know that marine life is central to our culture, and the Alaska Sealife Center does important work protecting our vulnerable marine life and ecosystems, in addition to educating the public about ocean wildlife. This uniquely Alaskan institution typically welcomes over 160,000 visitors each year, but COVID-19 has deeply affected tourism and reduced the Sealife Center's revenue. We must ensure that the next COVID-19 relief package includes funding for the institutions working on behalf of wildlife. I am proud to join my friend, Congressman Alan Lowenthal, on this important effort to ensure that zoos and aquariums across our country can continue protecting animals and enriching our communities. These institutions are invaluable to both conservation and education; in Congress, I will always be their outspoken advocate."
The Members point out in their letter that the nation’s accredited zoos and aquariums are facing an unprecedented economic crisis and many of these important institutions are at risk of closing permanently. Despite being shuttered during the pandemic, zoos and aquariums continue to incur significant costs, in some cases millions of dollars per institution per month, to maintain appropriate round-the-clock care and feeding of animals. Many of these facilities are also shouldering the costs of caring for, rescuing, and relocating endangered, threatened and protected species, many of which are the responsibility of, or owned by, the federal government. These staggering costs continue to mount while zoos and aquariums have little to no opportunity to generate revenue.
“From the California Academy of Sciences, Monterey Bay Aquarium, San Diego Zoo, to our own Aquarium of the Pacific here in Long Beach, California is home to some of the most iconic institutions dedicated to the education, study, and care of flora and fauna both on land and at sea,” Congressman Lowenthal said. “We must do everything that we can to ensure that these important institutions will continue long after the COVID-19 pandemic so that we can see, and animals can benefit from, their work. It is for this reason why I am honored to join with my friend and colleague, Representative Don Young, to try to secure critically needed resource for zoos and aquariums across the country.”
Congress has provided several mechanisms through the CARES Act and subsequent legislation to stabilize businesses and small nonprofits. However, these have not addressed the unique needs of zoos and aquariums, specifically, animal care costs have not been considered and many zoos and aquariums are not eligible for relief loans, or the loans require institutions to take on additional debt as they continue to lose money each day.
The Members request $250 million to be administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) to provide emergency operating grants for accredited zoos and aquariums with an established record of partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and/or National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in conserving endangered, threatened and other federally protected species.
The letter concludes by stating, “Nationwide zoos and aquariums are economic drivers in our communities and are trusted sources of innovative education, scientific research, and wildlife conservation. These institutions are critical partners with the federal government in caring for protected species and supporting conservation. The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in major economic hardship, and we request that you include targeted relief for zoos and aquariums in the next COVID-19 legislative package.”
Click here to read the full text of the letter.