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International Environmental Law Project (IELP)

Sarah Ferguson ’03

Sarah Ferguson ’03 is the Director of TRAFFIC in Hanoi, Vietnam and leads a team working on combatting wildlife trafficking through behavior change, capacity building for law enforcement and judiciary, and supporting local communities.

Sarah especially enjoys the projects which bring her to the field to see the results of her work. “A lot of life as a lawyer is sitting behind a desk and for a long time, I didn’t get to see the on the ground results of my work. Now that I am in Vietnam, I get to visit the field more and see what is at the other end of my work,” she stated.

Recently, Sarah  has been working to reduce demand for rhino horn in Vietnam, “A big driver of demand for rhino horn is for traditional medicine purposes, and so, in addition to changing the buying and use behavior, we’ve been working with local communities to harvest medicinal plants for traditional medicine to support sustainable harvesting methods that work against climate change vulnerabilities. The work helps improve harvesters’ business acumen to increase financial gains at the lower end of the value chain. We work with the traditional medicine community to support sustainable and legal alternatives to rhino horn. In this way, rather than just saying “you can’t do that” we are saying “here’s what you can do.” This multi-sectoral way of looking at combatting illegal trade has gained a lot of in-country support and has shown very positive results,” Sarah explained. 

Sarah has also worked for the Washington State Department of Ecology, the CITES Secretariat, including as the Capacity Building Officer and as coordinator for the ITTO-CITES Programme, the International Trade Center (ITC) in Geneva, and was Head of the Secretariat for the Hanoi Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade, before becoming Director of TRAFFIC.

Sarah found that the International Environmental Law Project (IELP) was the most helpful experience she received at Lewis & Clark Law School. “In IELP, I learned a lot about international regulations and conventions that govern the transboundary movement of resources and wildlife,” Sarah stated. “I have attended meetings and Conferences of CITES, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA), and others, and having a foundational understanding of UN Conventions and international treaties has helped me to understand and participate in proceedings and to prepare my delegation ahead of time.”

“I have the good fortune to reconnect with other Lewis and Clark alumni at various UN meetings, which brings me a piece of home when my career has brought me so far away,” Sarah said.