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Preservation of the biological diversity and ecosystems in protected areas can be achieved through projects linking conservation of the protected areas with improved standards of living for resident peoples within surrounding buffer zones. This is the hypothetical claim of the integrated conservation and development project (ICDP) approach to protected area management. This paper, based on several years of experience with the Ranomafana National Park Project in Madagascar, questions the major assumptions of this approach from ethical and practical perspectives. The four basic strategies available to ICDPs – protected areas, buffer zones, compensation, and economic development – are analyzed and shown to be deficient or untested in the case of Ranomafana. Recommendations are made to explore conservation models other than the western conception of the national park, to modify the notion of a buffer zone outside the protected area, to redistribute money or other resources directly to the poor people living in and around the protected areas, and to eliminate the middle men in the development business. An appeal is made to focus on local education, organization and discipline in order to promote self-determination and self-reliance among resident peoples of protected areas. The paper argues that a public works program, similar to the Roosevelt administration's Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s, funded through a hard-currency endowment or other innovative financing mechanism, should be tried as a replacement for the currently questionable ICDP approach at Ranomafana.