After attending the first Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, I came away inspired to create an environmental conservation organization that did things differently. Together with my friend and co-founder Russell Byers, we established EcoLogic as an organization that put collaboration with local people at the center of our approach to conservation in diverse and threatened habitats. These communities, often poor and marginalized, had the greatest stake in the maintenance and recovery of their natural resources and would be the people who could best identify and prioritize the natural resource needs where they lived. We committed ourselves to work with the local communities, side-by-side, and help put in place the solutions needed that would serve both nature and people.
I’m pleased to say that for nearly twenty years we have been doing just that—working with communities and partners on the ground to protect and restore the natural places and ecosystems they rely on. So it is with sadness but also with pride and a deep sense of accomplishment that I write to share with you that I am moving on from EcoLogic. I do so knowing that I am leaving a strong and effective organization that will continue and build upon this good work. I am thankful to the many wonderful people I have worked with over the years and to the communities we have served. I am grateful to the generous donors and many, many friends who have supported Ecologic’s successes.
I’ve never forgotten a site visit to a village in the remote highlands of Guatemala in 2000 where I met a Mayan farmer named Ramon Cuc, who said to me, “God will bless you for what you have done here.” What had we done? We had come to this remote place and asked, “How can we support protecting your forests?” What evolved was a long collaboration that resulted in tree nurseries, forest guards, agroforestry projects, watershed reforestation, trainings in organic agriculture, and natural resource management plans. And all of that meant hope. Hope and the chance for real and sustained change. Cuc and his community are living that change still.
Today, EcoLogic is an organization that has made tangible change possible for thousands of people and millions of acres. I leave the organization with a highly engaged Board of Directors and staff. Barbara Vallarino, who has been an integral part of EcoLogic for more than eight years now, and who has most recently served as our director of development, now steps into the role of interim executive director. Barbara is a dedicated and focused individual who comes to this position with an abundance of leadership experience. It has been a pleasure to work with her, and I am happy to have such an able former protégé to whom I can pass the torch of leadership.