Memorandum by Mr. Robert F. Woodward of the Division of the American Republics 26

In a letter of May 6, 1939, to the President signed by Mr. Welles,27 it was stated that the Department understood that …the President favored a joint international arrangement for administering the Islands as a wild life reserve. The President endorsed this understanding, which incidentally contemplated the possibility of constant vigilance on the Islands by an international joint patrol.

With a view to going forward with this project on a somewhat modified basis, three meetings have recently been held between Dr. Wetmore of the Smithsonian Institution and officers of the Department concerning the practicability of the financing, constructing and staffing by this Government of a wild life preservation station and zoological laboratory on the Galápagos Islands. Dr. Wetmore has indicated that he believes scientists in general would concede that the project would serve a very commendable purpose, well worth the expenditures which he estimated would be required—approximately $40,000 initial expenditure and approximately $22,000 annual expenditures. Dr. Wetmore believes these funds might be included in the regular budget of the Smithsonian Institution, subject to the approval of the Budget Bureau and the Congress.

The discussions with Dr. Wetmore have coincided with plans for a meeting of an International Committee for the Preservation of Wild Life, to be held in Washington in May, 1940 at the same time as the Scientific Congress.28 This Committee is to discuss the terms of a proposed general Inter-American Wild Life Convention. It was suggested, in the course of the conversations, that a convenient approach to arrangements with the Ecuadoran Government concerning the matter might be effected through inclusion in the Wild Life Convention mention of a general clause providing for agreements between any two or more countries for the mutual preservation of certain species.

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The conversations with Dr. Wetmore have also included mention of possible cooperation from the United States Naval base at Panama in furnishing transportation of personnel and supplies to the Islands, periodic medical service, two-way radio communication, and possibly the use of an airplane for observation of widely separated regions where infractions of the Ecuadoran preservation regulations may occur. Any mention of such naval cooperation would, of course, depend upon Ecuadoran reaction to the general plan.

It is now considered advisable to await the meeting of the Committee for Preservation of Wild Life, at which time the United States Delegation would suggest the inclusion of the general clause mentioned without reference to the particular project of the Galápagos. The whole program presupposes a cooperative attitude on the part of the Government of Ecuador, and it will be essential for a complete understanding to exist between the two Governments. The matter has not yet been discussed with any representatives of the Government of Ecuador, but it would seem that this should be done soon, if the program is approved. Possibly the best time would be shortly after the Meeting of Experts scheduled for May 13–16.

  1. Addressed to the Secretary of State and the Under Secretary of State (Welles).
  2. Foreign Relations, 1939, vol. v, p. 633.
  3. Eighth American Scientific Congress, held in Washington, May 10–18, 1940.