More from the Costa Rican Rainforest

I recently posted a short piece about the wonderful work being done by an organization called Rainforest of the Austrians to save what’s left of Costa Rica’s rainforest.

After posting the piece, I sent it to Michael Schnitzler, the man behind the herculean campaign to raise the money needed to buy much of the remaining rainforest and to donate it to Costa Rica’s national park system for protection from logging.

Mr. Schnitzler sent me a reply that seemed worthy of sharing here.  So, with his permission, I am posting it below.  And for those who missed the original piece, I have pasted it below Mr. Schnitzler’s comments.–April Moore

Hello April,

Thank you so much for your beautifully written report about Esquinas and the Rainforest of the Austrians. As you probably noticed, most of our guests come from German-speaking countries and we seldom receive such nice comments in English. I hope you don’t mind if I place a link to your blog on our Facebook page and quote some of your your comments on our website.
You are right that Esquinas is a special spot, and I have sworn to keep it that way. Many eco-lodges in Costa Rica have given in to the temptation to expand by constructing more and more cabins, thus ruining the original concept. With only 16 rooms and a buffer of 4000 acres of rainforest directly surrounding the lodge, we are convinced that our impact on the surrounding forest is minimal. The best way to help us and our projects is to recommend Esquinas to friends and acquaintances.
It might interest you to know that Rainforest of the Austrians has redone its website www.regenwald.at,. I have updated the English-language version and included a new 24-minute slide lecture about our projects.
I like the Earth Connection website and I will certainly read some more of the reports when I have time. Thank you for addressing nature lovers and sharing your thoughts, I think it is a great idea.
Kind regards from Austria,
Michael Schnitzler
My original piece about the Costa Rican rainforest:
EARTH–AS IT’S MEANT TO BE

It took my breath away ! The natural world around us at Costa Rica’s Esquinas Rainforest Lodge was so healthy, so intact!   From the smallest plants to the tallest trees, all the leaves shone a vibrant, vivid green.

Simply sitting in front of our cabin and looking for a minute or two yielded one thrill after another:  a brilliant red and black Cherrie’s tanager flitting about;  a green heron standing stock still in the pond waiting for lunch to appear;  a foot-long lizard first pushing rapidly along, then stopping, utterly  motionless;  an army of leaf-cutter ants marching along their trail, each holding aloft a piece of green leaf.

All this and so much more.  The big, colorful toucan using its gargantuan beak to pluck fruits from high in a tree and then tossing them down the hatch.  Other giant birds I’d never heard of–much less observed–thriving in their natural habitat:  a small group of crested guans moving languidly in a treetop;  and a great curassow, with its ornate black crest,  ambling about.

And the water, flowing past the lodge in a clear stream, was so pure that no treatment at all was needed before it was piped into the lodge and cabins for drinking.

I felt moved by the vibrant health of my surroundings.  I couldn’t remember ever being in a place where the earth felt so clean and alive, so completely undamaged!

The contrast between this verdant Costa Rican rainforest and so much of the rest of the planet made me very sad.  Even though I normally spend a great deal of time enjoying nature, nearly every place I have been, including my beloved forest around our house, has been degraded to some extent.

But there is a bright side to this stark contrast.

The reason the Esquinas Rainforest is so beautifully intact is not that humans have simply left it alone.  Not at all.

In the late 1980s, it appeared that this area would succumb to logging, as had most of the rest of the lowland tropical  forest on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast.  Then an Austrian musician, Michael Schnitzler, who had visited Costa Rica and fallen in love with its remaining rainforest, decided to act to protect it.  He founded an organization called Rainforest of the Austrians, and set about to raise money to purchase parcels of Esquinas rainforest to protect it and its biodiversity.

Rainforest of the Austrians raised millions of dollars, including donations from children at 250 schools in Austria.  The Austrian government also jumped in to help, making protection of Costa Rica’s last remaining rainforest a focus of its Third World aid program.  Other environmental protection organizations like the Nature Conservancy and the Rainforest Alliance also joined the effort.

Over the last 20 years, funds raised from many sources have been used to purchase–and protect–10,000 acres of rainforest land.  The land has been donated to the Costa Rican National Park Service for inclusion in Costa Rica’s Piedras Blancas National Park.  And efforts are underway to expand the protected acreage.  Former farms that border the national park have recently been purchased and are being reforested with native tree species.  And plans are underway to create biological corridors between isolated patches of rainforest outside the national park.

At Esquinas, conservation is combined with climate protection, as each planted tree absorbs 750 kilograms of carbon dioxide during its lifetime.

Rainforest of the Austrians and its partner organizations have worked hard to ensure that the people of La Gamba, the small town near the Esquinas Rainforest, benefit from rainforest conservation efforts.   The Esquinas Rainforest Lodge has become the area’s main employer of local people, and Schnitzler created the La Gamba Fund to support public welfare projects to improve the quality of life in the village.  The Fund has invested $200,000 in projects proposed by local residents, such as secondary school education for young people, renovation of the town school and community hall, and the restoration of a potable water system for 70 houses.

Not only are such efforts on behalf of local people the right thing to do, but these efforts have made conservation efforts more effective.  After all, when people benefit economically and in other ways from protecting the rainforest, they are far more likely to support conservation over the short-term jobs created by forest destruction.  The people of La Gamba are invested in rainforest conservation.

I salute Michael Schnitzler, Rainforest of the Austrians, and the Austrian government for their dedication to protecting such an important geographic area, its biodiversity, and the well-being of local people.  I can think of no better way to invest money and time.–April Moore

a male Cherries tanager

a male Cherrie’s tanager

3 Responses to “More from the Costa Rican Rainforest”

  1. Katharine Layton Says:

    Thank you April, I feel priviledged to have received such in depth information about this beautiful place. Who knows if some day I might have the occasion to visit. This is certainly a place and organization I would support!

  2. Elizabeth Cottrell Says:

    This is why I’m such a strong proponent of note and letter writing (electronic or otherwise). People really appreciate it when you write nice things (albeit true) and then let them know. I can only imagine how much Mr. Schnitzler appreciated your effort.

  3. 2013 at 14:37 Says:

    I need to to thank you for this great read!! I definitely enjoyed every little bit of it.
    I have you bookmarked to look at new things you post…

    Feel free to surf to my page: 2013 at 14:37

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