Can we learn how to manage our forests from Costa Rica?



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    Costa Rica’s experience provides a lot of good lessons in environmental stewardship, but what works in one country won’t necessarily work in another. In 1990, in response to various economic and social problems linked to unsustainable forest practices, the government of Costa Rica created the COSEFORMA project (an acronym of the Spanish words for “Cooperation in the Forestry and Wood Sector”). COSEFORMA was a pilot project designed to protect woodlands in the northern part of the country and to create a self-sustaining forestry sector that would not only reduce the degradation of forest resources, but also provide jobs and economic stimulus to the mostly-poor residents there. It was quite successful by the time it ended in 2001. The government of Costa Rica has also provided significant tax breaks to companies or individuals who come to the country and invest and participate in reforestation programs. These incentives have had dramatic affects, such as the preservation of the Rara Avis rainforest. The main point of these measures is to create an economic and regulatory environment where conservation and sustaintable forest practices become not only environmentally responsible choices, but economically profitable ones as well. This same approach is being utilized in many countries other than Costa Rica, by governments as well as private businesses who are realizing that sustainable forest practices are a better long-term investment than unsustainable harvesting. Today most large timber companies in the United States, Canada and Europe follow sustainable forest practices.

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