Help Protect the Osa Peninsula

According to the Arborea Foundation, Costa Rica has the highest deforestation rates in Latin America. The country's Osa Peninsula contains the most biodiverse forests in Central America, and so it is encouraging to see that a three-month moratorium on further destruction in the region was imposed in August. The following Action Request comes from Costa Rica's Arborea Project Foundation.

After denouncing by all available means the fast and extensive deforestation in progress in the Osa Peninsula, the local ecologic organisations have seen their many years' efforts and sacrifices rewarded by a measure that, though incomplete and inadequate, sanctions the government's new awareness of the actual situation. The destruction of the rainforest and of the relevant ecosystems is the normal practice in Costa Rica, a nation that holds the lamentable record of being the Latin-American country with the highest rate of deforestation.

Deforestation in the Osa Peninsula is a particularly serious course of action because it affects an area blessed with the highest biodiversity in the whole of Central America. The suspension of any felling, handling and transportation of trees throughout the Osa Conservation Area for a period of three months as from August 16 1997 is once again an insufficient and strongly demagogic measure, aimed at securing the approval of the conservation organisations in view of the forthcoming elections (February 1998). At the same time, such measure is an attempt to give an ecological tinge to an administration which, in the past four years, has certainly not distinguished itself for sensitivity and efficiency in the domain of conservation.

The temporary stop to deforestation has the declared purpose of enabling the forces in the field to define an integral development program of the area, capable of reconciling the necessity of maintaining this natural heritage (unique in the world) with a reasonable degree of exploitation in favour of sustainable development of the civilian community. The best idea emerged during the preliminary debates has been the setting up of a sawmill run by a consortium of forest owners, thus enabling them to multiply their profits resulting from the felling of trees.

Knowing, as we do, the Costaricans, we can only figure out that the above arrangement will result in a double felling = double earning equation.

The Instituto Tecnologico de Costa Rica, called upon to assess the parameters regulating the felling of trees, has made an amazing show of demagogic shortsightedness by fixing a minimum diameter of 60 centimetres for all 500 species of trees existing in the area. Not less ludicrous has been the method used for establishing such a parameter. Mr Juvenal Valerio of the Instituto Tecnologico de Costa Rica, the forest engineer charged with the above task, when questioned about the method, candidly replied "It's a size pulled out of my hat!!" So much for the extensive, time-consuming and expensive (for society) research implemented by the illustrious institute! Once again we are faced with a demagogic decision that covers up big manipulations and schemes devised for ensuring high profits to the 270 sawmills of the country, with the purpose of authorising a disorderly, wild exploitation of an irreplaceable natural resource, with no consideration given to the times required for regenerating the arboreal canopy, the whole epiphyte system (such as orchids and brolelias), and of an endemic wildlife typical of the rainforest upper belt.

What You Can do

We are giving you this report because we need your help which you can give us in the following manners:

1. Copying the letter below on your letterhead paper and sending it by mail and/or fax to Dr Rene Castro Salazar, Ministro de Ambiente y Energia (MINAE) Fax: Fax: +506 257 06 97

2. Informing your partners/subscribers of the above situation and suggesting to them they send the same letter and/or fax to the minister.

3. Donating office equipment such as computers, fax machines, photocopiers, receiver-transmitter radios, fixed and mobile telephones, etc.

4. Financial help. The money will be used for field laboratory research capable of supplying actual data (not pulled out of somebody's hat) enabling us to work out a plausible proposal for a rational exploitation of the rainforest.

5. Informative material about prospects of natural growth and regeneration of the rainforest, influence exerted by deforestation on the hydrogeologic conditions in tropical areas exposed to heavy rainfall (5,000 - 10,000mm/yr), growth and regeneration times of epiphyte species in the second growth forest.

6. Assisting us in finding voluntary researchers for the implementation of a plan for handling forest resources and identifying the relevant parameters (forest engineers, botanists, biologists, geologists, hydrologists, cartographers, zoologists, etc).

Including into your internet pages the above requests and a link to our page.

Thanking you very much for your attention and looking forward to your further advises, we remain, in best regards,

yours sincerely,

Arborea Foundation

Source: Guiseppina Montanara - Guilio Ranalli
Arborea Project Foundation
Boca Taboga, Peninsula de Osa
Costa Rica
tel: +506 786 65 65
fax: +506 786 63 58

Postal address: Ap 65 - 8150 Palmar Norte de Osa, Peninsula de Osa, Costa Rica
Italian address: fax: Mr. D. Cuppini +39 11 901 80 55


SAMPLE LETTER ( Adapted by Rainforest Information Centre)

Al Senor Ministro de Ambiente y Energia
Dr Rene Castro Salazar
S. Jose de Costarica
Fax: +506 257 06 97

Your Excellency,

I am greatly encouraged by the news, given to me by the Arborea Foundation, that you have placed a moratorium on the destruction of forests in the Osa Peninsula. I congratulate you on this courageous and farsighted move.

However, a three-month moratorium is by no means adequate to achieve lasting preservation of what will become an increasingly attractive tourist destination. Moreover, I view with some concern the decision that trees as small as 60 centimetres in diameter may be felled in future. This decision needs to be reviewed as a matter of urgency.

In view of your commitment to the preservation of this area, I wish you success in the upcoming elections and hope that you are able to continue protecting the Osa Peninsula in the future.

Yours sincerely,

Note: For another action alert concerning Costa Rica see WRR37: COSTA RICA: Gold miners threaten environment, human rights