CREE is locally powered conservation. We are a conservation model that is built on belief in the ability of local people and communities. We see long-term investment in local leadership and capacity as the best long-term strategy for achieving natural resource conservation. Since our founding in 2007, we have achieved positive outcomes for both environment and livelihoods due to the dedication and creativity of CREE’s Project Managers, the local leaders CREE supports globally. Our projects take inspiration from the founder of ecology, Aldo Leopold, and his Land Ethic. Therefore, we cultivate individual and community pride in natural resource stewardship and our goal is local responsibility for the conservation and resilience of an ecosystem that supports both wildlife and economy.
How we work
CREE invests first in the environmental leader and not a project, wildlife species, or landscape. Through championing local environmental heroes, we prioritize people and relationship first in order to achieve on the ground project objectives later. Therefore, a country’s project and focus is what the CREE Project Manager sees as the answer to the most pressing natural resource management issue in his or her community. Idea conception comes from the community itself, as does leadership. In this sense CREE is able to work with minimal financial resources and achieve much on the ground success because the dedication of our staff goes beyond a paycheck and the project focus addresses core community needs for a sustainable and bright future.
Where we work
CREE works where we have a history and trusted relationship with a CREE Project Director. Cultivating community relationships takes time and resources, therefore, we only work where we know a local environmental leader and we let this relationship dictate the global span of our projects as opposed to a bio-geographical prioritization scheme. This is why we work in Cameroon but not the Congo, or Guyana and not Brazil for instance. CREE projects do not work in protected areas, rather we focus on buffer zones near national parks or other protected areas, as well as human-occupied lands rich in biodiversity that serve human health and well-being.
What holds projects together?
A triple bottom line of of livelihoods, respect for human rights, and the environment. CREE is a unique environmental NGO because of its human rights and poverty alleviation focus, making it a leader in the environmental field in addressing problems traditionally tackled only by humanitarian organizations. Since its inception, CREE has worked on projects in Guyana, Cameroon, Kenya, Tanzania, Sri Lanka and the Philippines. Projects are diverse in scope and include livelihoods generation, eco-tourism, improved agricultural techniques, climate change adaptation, ecosystem resiliency and human-wildlife conflict minimization. Being a grassroots organization, we look to change peoples lives for the better at the village level long-term. Our principle goal is to channel human and financial resources from industrialized economies directly into the hands of capable conservation leaders from the developing world. This gives them the ability to design, direct, and ultimately evolve their conservation projects for the benefit of local livelihoods in ways they see fit, given the socioeconomic realities surrounding them.
Rights-Based Approaches to Conservation
CREE practices ‘rights-based conservation’, which is conservation that doesn’t violate human rights and takes human needs into account in natural resource management. However, we go beyond evaluating socioeconomic and cultural parameters in our work and holding consultation meetings with communities. For CREE, rights-based conservation is founded upon a belief in the need for local people to not only minimize economic costs of conservation, but to create new processes, institutions, and power structures which empower communities.
CREE is a registered 501(c)(3) tax-deductible nonprofit charity.
CREE was founded in 2007 by Mike Skuja. Since then, our Board of Directors has grown, as has the scope and impact of our work. CREE’s locally driven rights-based conservation approach has been supported by such diverse funders as the MacArthur Foundation, Disney, Royal Caribbean Cruiselines, Google, the United Nations, New England Biolabs Foundation and the Ocean Park Conservation Foundation. CREE’s work has been commended on National Public Radio’s Worldview, which is dedicated to the power of global activism.