I recently had the pleasure of spending hours with my hands in the dirt, planting trees to help regenerate a patch of Costa Rican rainforest. It was a great day. It was also a great testament to how NRDC members are making a concrete difference in this beautiful and rugged region.
Thanks to their support, the NRDC Members Rainforest on the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica is transitioning back from degraded land to a thriving forest filled with native trees.
This project is also helping the nation achieve two critical goals.
Scientists say that the most important conservation priority in Costa Rica right now is creating connectivity between wild landscapes. The country is home to impressive stretches of national parks and vibrant rainforests, but to truly maintain biodiversity, these untamed islands must be connected by wild corridors. Animals and plants must be able to travel between reserves in order thrive.
The NRDC Members Rainforest in the Osa Peninsula is helping to add one more link in the wilderness chain. It rests in a critical buffer zone next to the Corcovado National Park, and provides more undeveloped terrain for local wildlife such as jaguars, monkeys, and migratory birds to travel within.
It will also help the country meet another impressive goal: in 2007, Costa Rica declared that it plans to become the first carbon neutral country by 2021. The nation already has a very clean electric grid, and NRDC and our local partners are working to realize its energy efficiency potential and improve its transportation sector.
But to achieve full carbon neutrality, Costa Rica must also protect the Osa forests—which store large amounts of carbon—from being destroyed by looming threats, including massive tourism infrastructure and a proposed international airport.
This is why NRDC has designated Costa Rica a Biogem, and has launched a series of reforestation projects, including the NRDC Members’ Rainforest.
Our project is located in a 1,500-acre stretch of land owned by our local partner Osa Conservation (formerly known as Friends of the Osa). The land used to be home to dense primary forest and vibrant wildlife. Thirty years ago, it was clear cut and turned into a cattle ranch, then it was used as tree plantation for exotic species.
Despite one owner’s efforts to set the land aside through a conservation easement, a subsequent owner attempted to build a lodge on the land. Fortunately Osa Conservation stepped in, bought the land for conservation, and has been working to restore it. Now, thanks to NRDC’s dedicated members, we are helping Osa Conservation plant up to 50 species of native plants and trees here.
The years of mismanagement and degradation mean it would be extremely difficult and slow for natural regeneration to occur. Native tree species have a difficult time re-establishing themselves in soil that has been compacted by years of cattle grazing and where they must compete against exotic tree species. Given the pressures looming over the Osa Peninsula and its endangered wildlife, we don’t have that much time. The replanting work will accelerate the process of recreating a healthy, native forest in this critical habitat.
And for that, we have NRDC’s members to thank.