Another international conservationist speaks out against the Costa Rican government’s plan to downgrade Las Baulas Marine Park, home to the critically endangered Leatherback sea turtle. Julian Bakker is a retired Dutch lawyer who has spent the last ten years on environmental conservation projects in Colombia and later in Costa Rica. He represents the Environmental Association for Latin America, EALA, which works at times with APREFLOFAS, APS Domincal, and other Costa Rican environmental ngo’s. As EALA is duly registered in Costa Rica, it is able to present, and has done so on various occasions, charges against perpetrators of environmental law violations and/or authorities that fail to take action against them..
In addition to involvement with Leatherback preservation, the English web site of EALA is dedicated to informing foreigners about current environmental challenges in Costa Rica such as the new airport in Sierpe, the Golfito Marina, the open-pit gold mining projects of Bellavista and Las Crucitas, and the risks from large scale pineapple and oil palm cultivation, They also own a 30 hectare nature reserve at La Gamba, near Golfito.
What follows is the English translation of a letter EALA wrote to the Costa Rican Ambassador to the Netherlands:
His Excellency the Ambassador of Costa Rica
in The Netherlands
Amsterdam, 2 September 2009
Dear Mr. Ambassador,
Recently, the Government of President Oscar Arias has proposed to convert the National Park Las Baulas into a national wildlife refuge. In the current parliamentary session, the proposal is being studied by the Environmental Commission under nr. 17.383.
We are deeply concerned about this proposal. The present park is of vital importance for the Leatherback turtles, the biggest turtles in the world, to lay their eggs. The Leatherback turtle is in serious danger of extinction due to the destruction of its habitat and the large-scale fishing on the high seas.
The majority of the lots situated in the National Park Las Baulas belong to private companies and persons, many of whom are foreigners. Several of these companies and persons have acquired their lots with the knowledge that they were located within the park and that development would be prohibited, thus at their own risk. Under these circumstances the values of these lots are low and the cost of expropriation for the Government of Costa Rica is not very high.
If the Government should not clear the lots and should allow construction in the area with direct influence to the nesting beaches, there are great risks of destruction of nesting areas and removal of eggs while illumination of future houses will have a catastrophic effect on the orientation of the turtles at sea. Moreover, the gardens, swimming pools, septic tanks, pavements, streets, the passing of vehicles, etc. will change the ecosystem and negatively affect the aquifer underneath the park.
The Attorney General of the Republic has determined that the Government can expropriate the lots within the park. A few months ago, the Constitutional Court ordered the Government to suspend the granting of construction permits and urged the authorities to continue the expropriation procedures.
It would be a very negative signal to international tourism and for the reputation of Costa Rica to conserve its valuable natural resources if the Government should degrade the National Park Las Baulas to a mixed wildlife refuge just to please some national and foreign investors.
Julian T. Bakker
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
La Gamba, Costa Rica