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
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‚Äôs 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‚Äôd never heard of‚Äďmuch less observed‚Äďthriving 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‚Äôt 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‚Äôs 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‚Äôs 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‚Äďand protect‚Äď10,000 acres of rainforest land.¬†¬†The land has been donated to¬†the Costa Rican National Park Service for inclusion in¬†Costa Rica‚Äôs¬†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‚Äôs¬†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.‚ÄďApril Moore