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In 1998, my late husband, Jeff Harbers, and I made a sizeable strategic contribution to Conservation International to preserve some of the most remote, ancient and pristine wilderness on the planet. We chose to focus on Suriname and we called it the Central Suriname Nature Reserve (CSNR). Comprised of more than 1.6 hectares (about 4 million acres) of tropical forest, covering about 12% of Suriname’s land mass, the reserve protects the watershed of Suriname’s most important river systems as well as a host of mostly undiscovered plant and animal species. The CSNR also connects three of Suriname’s most important existing nature reserves.


After Jeff’s untimely death, I went to Suriname with a team that included Russ Mittermeier, of Conservation International, and board members from my foundation, to see first-hand what kind of impact we had made. Along with an amazing array of plant and animal species, we saw mile after mile of clean rivers and a tree canopy as far as the eye can see. We also met with indigenous Trio Indians and Maroon communities (who are descendants of African slaves) to talk about plans for protecting their natural resources that would also secure their economic future.


Much of the CNSR is still unexplored and the full extent of the area’s biodiversity is unknown. That makes it all the more important to continue to protect this extraordinary forest that is so vital to biodiversity, fresh water and a healthy planet.

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