La Fortunta Costa Rica Reforestation Project

Reforestation project seems to be a big hit with visitors

EDITOR’S NOTE: A reforestation project near La Fortuna has received international recognition in environmental circles. The story below first appeared at http://www.ecoworld.com and it is printed here with permission.

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Just over a year ago, Steve and Debbie Legg, owners of Leaves and Lizards Arenal Volcano Cabin Retreat, purchased a 26-acre dairy farm in Monterrey, Costa Rica. They built three cabins and opened to guests in January 2007. A vacation at Leaves and Lizards is an ecological and cultural experience. Guests may learn about the Meso-American Biological Corridor, the consequences of deforestation, spend the day with a Costa Rica family, become informed about the circle of life in the rainforest by their expert guides and eat food cooked with methane gas produced from the manure of their pigs and cows.

Many of the guests inquire about reforesting opportunities. Some have even purchased farms in need of reforesting. Others just want to do something to help reverse deforestation.

Proper reforestation takes planning and follow through. These are the steps necessary for a successful reforestation plan:

1. Clean-up and soil preparation — if the farm has natural grass, clean-up is done once before planting. If the farm has exotic grasses like Brazilian or gigante, it will take several clean-ups. These invasive grasses have been planted as pasture grass on cattle farms. They choke out and kill baby trees or other native grasses and plants.

2. Designing the new forest, ordering and careful transport of trees to the planting location. The design includes a variety of native trees. Teak, not native to Costa Rica, is commonly used as the pioneer forest. It grows rapidly, has large leaves that provide shade that the native trees need to grow. The teak can be harvested later to provide additional funding for future projects.

3. Making sticks for tree supports, digging holes, planting and organic fertilizing of trees. In the San Carlos area of Costa Rica tree planting season is in May and November. These are the rainiest months.

4. Eliminating weed competition and pruning once a month for the next 24 months. It is possible to just let the land go back to nature, however, that takes longer and the new forest will have less biodiversity.

Biodiversity is short for biological + diversity, defined as the number of organisms in an ecosystem, region or environment. Rainforests are highly biodiverse; they cover only about 2 percent of the land mass on the earth, but contain 50 percent of all life on the planet. In 2.5 acres of primary rainforest there may be as many as 480 different species of trees. Brazil has the highest level of biodiversity in the world with 59,851 known different species of plants and animals. Sadly, they also have the world’s highest deforestation rate. Brazil is responsible for 27 percent of the earth’s yearly deforestation. The earth suffers 80,000 acres of deforestation daily.

A good reforestation plan includes ways for the new forest to support itself. For example, two trees are growing side by side, but in nature only one of those trees will reach old age. The less dominate one will eventually be crowded out by the larger tree. The smaller tree can be harvested and the wood used to provide funding for the farm upkeep, and further reforestation projects. Another tree is planted in its place. This is growing what Fred Morgan at Finca Leola (www.fincaleola.com) calls a perpetual forest.

The reforestation project at Leaves and Lizards offers people a chance to buy trees for reforestation as a gift, memorial or as part of a vacation package. One package gives the supporter the opportunity to plant and care for the baby trees. Supporters receive yearly photographs, documenting the growth of the trees they sponsored. The Legg’s work with Hector Ramirez from Reforest Costa Rica (www.reforestcostarica.com).

His knowledge and expertise of the local flora and fauna, as well as the connections he has in the community, prove to make this program a great success. Local farmers trust him and he is educating farmers about the need to protect their remaining forests and reforest to protect water sources.

As an ecologically and socially responsible resort, community involvement is the philosophy of Leaves and Lizards. Monterrey is a tiny, close knit community, perched in the mountains above La Fortuna. La Fortuna sits in the shadow of the Arenal Volcano and has experienced rapid growth as numerous tourists flock to the area hoping to get a glimpse of one of the most active volcanoes in the world. The community of Monterrey has watched Fortuna outgrow its resources and since the opening of Leaves and Lizards, Monterrey has looked to the Leggs for guidance in planning for future tourism.

Steve and Debbie Legg believe tourism should be a support to the community, remain in the background and not take over the community. Local leaders are taking proactive measures to ensure the preservation and continuation of the quality of life in this tranquil hamlet. The first meeting of the city association took place in February. The association facilitates community improvements including road repair, handling of garbage, recycling and water usage.

Many of the tours offered at Leaves and Lizards promote rural tourism. Farmers and other locals show off their farms, waterfalls and forests to the guests at Leaves and Lizards.

Residents of Monterrey have helped plant native trees and plants that produce fruit to attract wildlife to the resort for guests to enjoy.

Funds raised by Leaves and Lizards will help pay for farmers and individuals who are buying land to reforest to plant trees. This program may indeed be the seed of a thousand forests.

For more information contact Eco Interactive Tours 

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