Portman has been a strong advocate for wildlife conservation

For the past 30 years, the Cincinnati Zoo has presented its Wildlife Conservation Award to world-renowned field biologists and thought leaders in conservation. International luminaries such as Jane Goodall, Roger Tori Peterson, George Schaller and Nobel Laureate Wangari Mathai are past recipients of this award.

This year, we are proud to present the 2022 Cincinnati Zoo Wildlife Conservation Award to Senator Rob Portman, in honor of his more than 30-year career in Washington. During this time, Portman consistently pushed through important bipartisan legislation in favor of the forest, wild lands, national parks, and wildlife conservation.

As a young congressman in the 1990s, he drafted the now famous Rainforest Conservation Act, which has been called one of the most effective habitat protection laws ever passed. The support raised by this program, also known as “debt for nature”, uses common sense methods to good effect, having protected more than 69,000,000 acres of rainforest to date.

U.S. Senator Rob Portman surveys a site in need of repair along the Ohio and Erie Canal towpath during a visit to Cuyahoga Valley National Park on Wednesday.

In 2020, his bipartisan Restore the Parks Act was signed into law, providing $12 billion in funding for infrastructure improvements in our national parks. And in 2021, he introduced the Eliminate, Neutralize and Disrupt (END) Wildlife Trafficking Reauthorization and Enhancement Act to combat the illegal trade in wild plants and animals.

Key to Portman’s work effectiveness has long been his reach across the aisle to create bipartisan support for legislation that helps all Americans.

Rob Portman is an ideal candidate for an award from the Cincinnati Zoo, where our greatest strength is that we are a park for everyone in the Tristate. Everyone who goes to the grocery store comes to the zoo. And just as he proved that bipartisan collaboration is the best way to pass long-standing legislation, at the zoo we know that conservation is not a left-wing thing or a right-wing effort. Conservation is important to people around the world.

Chris Wilkinson, site manager of the First Ladies National Historic Site, speaks Monday with U.S. Senator Rob Portman, R-Ohio, outside the historic Ida Saxton McKinley House in downtown Canton.  On August 4, President Donald Trump signed into law Portman's Restore Our Parks Act to provide funding for long-delayed maintenance projects at National Park Service sites like First Ladies.

Getting off carbon and protecting the natural systems that allow people to thrive are the two great challenges of the 21st century. Getting smart people working on these issues and trying to find win-win solutions is the way to go. The Cincinnati Zoo serves as the gateway to conservation, inviting our members and guests from all walks of life to get involved and help.

Thane Maynard is director of the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden.

Thane Maynard, director of the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden

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