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HRF welcomes new Director of Sustainable Development

]HRF is pleased to announce that Maureen A. DeCoursey, MFSc has joined the staff as Director of Sustainable Development. DeCoursey is a forester and ethnobotanist with a wealth of international and domestic experience in forest management and enterprise development, biodiversity conservation, and community organizing. Her addition to HRF's Division of Sustainable Development will enable the foundation to take a more integrated and field-tested approach to development projects and to work more closely with conservation and land management agencies, such as the World Wildlife Fund and the US Forest Service.

DeCoursey has a Master's degree in Forest Science from Yale University and has worked on conservation and development projects in more than 15 countries around the world, from the mountains of Nepal to the jungles of the Amazon. Her 17 years of experience encompass projects that run the gamut from forest-based enterprise development in the Balkans to research on the 2,000 year-old Himalayan medicinal plant trade. She takes a practical approach to bridging the gaps between policy, science, and field projects. "I'm very applied and results-oriented," she explains. "I like to keep abreast of academic theories on rural development and vegetation ecology, but reality often dictates a different course of action."

DeCoursey emphasizes community participation in all aspects of her work. Her approach emphasizes stakeholder involvement in researching, planning, executing, monitoring, and evaluating project activities. "This gives people a sense of ownership in the project, builds local capacity, and increases the likelihood that the project will succeed, " she asserts. In return for their participation, forest users are provided with secure access to the resources on which they depend and a greater share of the benefits from sustainable commercial use.

"One of my main goals at HRF is to work closely with industry buyers to position producers of sustainably harvested raw materials at the forefront of the marketplace," said DeCoursey. "The overall objective is to help the 'good guys' overtake the 'bad guys'-those who do not employ socially and environmentally responsible business practices. Unfortunately, this group currently dominates the raw materials supply in many developing countries."

Historically, DeCoursey says, there has been an emphasis on technology to solve conservation and development problems "That's actually the easy part," she commented. "But technology won't solve the problems unless one takes into account the larger forces at play. Who has the power in the community? How much freedom do the people have to carry out the recommendations you make? Unless you acknowledge the social, environmental, and political context in which you are working, your recommendations may be meaningless."-Evelyn Leigh

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