The Undying Lands

Corcovado Rainforest Trail

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While poking around for a blog topic today, I found an advertisement that sparked my interest. In order to protect a patch of rainforest bordering Corcovado National Park from development, a couple bought the land and are now selling it into parcels for sustainable houses that will be part of a nature preserve. With human habitat included in the development plan, the reserve will restore migration paths and habitats for the native species. This couple devised sustainable development plan to raise the funding for a nature preserve.

Sustainable development is a term growing in popularity these days but what does it mean? The United Nations defined it in Our Common Future as follows:

“Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It contains within it two key concepts: the concept of needs, in particular the essential needs of the world’s poor, to which overriding priority should be given; and the idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment’s ability to meet present and future needs.”

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Here in the Osa Peninsula lies the rich treasured mystical rainforest that meets the sea. It is the largest remaining primary forest in Central America; a place of such intensity and raw beauty that it captivates you immediately. The remoteness of its location coupled with Costa Rica’s commitment to sustainable development has kept must developers and transnational corporations out up till now. But preserving this area was not without a few challenges.

Rainforest Meets the Ocean

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In the mid-1930s, the rise of banana plantations spawned the initial development of this region. Hunters venturing into the forests discovered gold nuggets along several of the rivers in Corcovado. The discovery of gold caused a second economic boom attracting fortune-seekers to the area.

In the 70s, homesteading, threat of a large-scale logging operation by an international lumbering consortium that held a title to much of the area’s land, and excessive hunting caused the region to become an area of great concern among locals, scientists and naturalists. A group of international scientists petitioned the Costa Rica government to declare the area a national park. The government agreed and established Corcovado National Park.

Initially when the park was created, the miners were permitted to stay since they were seen as beneficial to the national economy. However, the increase in mining caused damage to the ecosystems and larger species of wildlife that became unmanageable. In 1986, the park was closed for several months while rangers and rural policemen combed the park kicking out the miners. Today, incidents of illegal gold mining are drastically reduced. However, the need for some trade and economic development is essential, and working towards balancing the protection of the environment and natural resources is not without challenges.

Giant Roots

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In 2005, the Corcovado Foundation partnered up with the Rainforest Alliance “to promote the best management practices for sustainable tourism.” Corcovado is a local conservation group that initiates education and conservation programs and promotes ecotourism. Ecotourism provides a development model that enables local people to make a living that does not rely on the exploitation of natural resources. Costa Rica provides a development model for other emerging economies struggling with the balance between development and protecting their natural resources.