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Environmental Protection Laws

Today's modern Costa Rica is regarded highly for it's strong position on preserving the wildlife and protecting it's forests, but this was not always the case. In the 1960's and 1970's there was massive deforestation, mainly in the name of creating pasture for cattle. In the past two decades, Costa Rica opened it's eyes to the problems incurred by this deforestation, and has vowed to become a prominent leader in eco-preservation for both flora and fauna, in the ocean and on land.

One tactic taken by the government, was instituting a Payment for Environmental Services plan, which they dubbed "PSA's."  The concept behind this effort, is to pay landowners to preserve the forests on their property.  Though the payments have not always come through according to plan, the idea is sound, and a stronger Costa Rican economy promises to help supply the funding.   Also, in recently, the country has the ability to report forest preservation areas in exchange for Carbon Credits on the world market.  The results to this program have been scrutinized and seem to have mix results.  The amount of deforestation has decreased since the 1990's, but some say argue it is for other reasons such as National protected lands, the decrease in demand for the land for other uses, and the deforestation rates were dropping rapidly anyhow, prior to the plan.

One government agency that has gained some ground is SETENA, which is the Costa Rican National Environmental Office.  This agency's goal is to evaluate environmental impact from developments and building.  With the rapid growth of real estate development, SETENA has the tedious job of continuing to allow the growth of the real estate sector to thrive, without thwarting the ecology around the new developments.  However, this agency provides a checks and balance system for developers, categorizing their impact and determining how to prevent, mitigate, and/or compensate accordingly for environmental effects.

Other efforts involve more specific laws regarding specific trees, wildlife, both on land in the water.  For example, one more recent law, prohibits the cutting of the Almendro Amarillo tree.  This slow going, hardwood tree is in high demand by lumber companies.  However due to the trees' high branches, and production of food (nuts), this tree is crucial to the the Green Macaw.  In fact, the birds have almost isolated this tree as their main nesting choice.

Costa Rica is also looking at several other issues to address as well.  Land crabs have been a popular topic for conservationists.  The crabs play a significant role in the ecosystem and many scientists are focusing on making their preservation a priority.  Another topic of discussion is the preservation of the sea turtles and Las Baulas National Park.  Oscar Arias (former President) brought up the issue, claiming the land is too expensive for the government, so some of the park would have to be downsized.

Needless to say Costa Rica is paying attention to its ecosystem.  This responsible awareness may cost real money and unrealized money, however, it will pay off in the long run.  So long as the trend continues in Costa Rica, both people and animals will be able to enjoy the incredible landscapes for a long time ahead.



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