An historic debt relief agreement with the United States frees up tens of millions of dollars to protect Costa Rica’s lush tropical landscape.
Under the U.S. Tropical Forest Conservation Act, the United States agreed to forgive $26 million of Costa Rica’s debt in return for the Central American nation’s commitment to redirect that money toward conservation inside its borders. The U.S. government appropriated $12.6 million for the effort. Both Conservation International (CI) and The Nature Conservancy each gave $1.26 million to the debt purchase at a discounted rate.
“This is how modern conservation works, with dynamic partnerships involving all stakeholders to protect ecosystems that sustain life on Earth,” says CI Chairman and CEO Peter Seligmann.
The swap brings much-needed relief and attention to areas teeming with wildlife in the Mesoamerica Biodiversity Hotspot. Where the rain forest meets the sea on the Osa Peninsula, jaguars (Panthera onca) and Central American squirrel monkeys (Saimiri oerstedii) co-exist with nearly 400 species of birds. La Amistad National Park, containing Costa Rica’s largest untouched tract of rain forest and some of the only known populations of the threatened frog, Oedipina grandis, is surrounded by local indigenous communities who are working with CI and The Nature Conservancy to pursue sustainable livelihoods.
Other landscapes that stand to benefit from the arrangement include Tortuguero’s fragile habitat near the Caribbean Sea, the Maquenque wetlands and lagoons in the north, Rincon de la Vieja Volcano’s dry forests, and the central dry forests of Nicoya Peninsula.
With support from the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund and other partners, our scientific research helped identify all of these sites as gaps in Costa Rica’s conservation planning and in critical need of conservation dollars.
“The Costa Rican tropical forests are home to a rich variety of life and provide the natural resources people in the region depend on,” says Seligmann. “These forests also are globally important for the role they play absorbing and storing carbon from the atmosphere, slowing global warming.”
Deforestation accounts for a fifth of total greenhouse gas emissions – more than the world’s cars, trucks, trains and planes combined. After losing almost 80 percent of its original forest cover, Costa Rica’s restoration efforts have brought new forests to half the country. By protecting them from activities that cause deforestation, Costa Rica is leading the global effort to mitigate climate change.